The Hinchliffe Family Name

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This document is organised into the following sections.

Description of the Hinchliffe Coat of arms
My Notes on the Source of the Document on the Hinchliffe name
Document on the name Hinchliffe?

The Hinchliffe Coat of Arms

The Hinchliffe Coat of Arms as illustrated is Officially Documented in Burke's General Armoury. The Original Description of the Arms (Shield) is as Follows:
"Or, A wivern between Three Fleurs-de-lis vert"

When translated the blazon also describes the original colours of the Hinchliffe Arms as "Gold; A Green Wivern Between Three Green Fleurs-de-lis"

My notes on the following document on Hinchliffe's

The following document was purchase by my Grandfather Hubert Hinchliffe (b 28th January 1899 in Dunsley, Holmfirth) when the author sent out copies to Hinchliffe's in the Local area or possibly because he answered a newspaper add. The document cost about £2 at the time. I have since been in touch with the Author and although he holds the copyright he isn't too concerned that I have put it on the Internet. Apparently he has had people trying to sell him photocopies of his on Papers!

George Redmonds (Pictured) has been researching Surnames for many years. In 1970 he was award a Ph.D. for his work on Yorkshire Surnames. He works as a freelance historian and have published several books and booklets. He is also a well known lecturer at International courses

Surname Research Family Histories, Surname Origins, Record Searches
Dr George Redmonds
Oak Cottage,
5, Knotty Lane, Lepton, Huddersfield
Tel. +44 (1484) 603646

I have recently bought a couple of books off George and on one phone call he mentioned that he had been working with someone who has been checking DNA. Apparently names with a one location source tend to have a lot of similarities in there DNA. And checks on Hinchliffe's have confirmed we are from one location.

Books I know George has authored are as follows:-

Yorkshire Surname Series Part One Bradford and District - £2.70 plus Postage
Yorkshire Surname Series Part Two Huddersfield and District - £2.70 plus Postage

These is are very useful guides to the origins of a lot of Surnames of Yorkshire Origin Each Surname gets about 1/5th of a A5 page and contains early examples of each name. EG 1545 William Hynchclyff (Holmfirth) (That's not the earliest but if you are interested you will have to buy the Huddersfield book. The George has slightly updated the details in the following report too.

Surnames and Genealogy: A New Approach - £14.00 plus Postage

This is a book about how surnames in general have changed in spelling due to Linguistic Development and clerk error.

Holmfirth - £3.90
Heirs of Woodsome - £2.25

I don't know anything about these books at present. It is possible info might appear sometime here

George Suspects he has details of about 50 Hinchliffe's from Court Records he has researched. This would cost £25 to obtain. I am still thinking of these and I won't be revealing them if I do get them as this is how George earns his money.

History of the name HINCHLIFFE

Origin and Meaning

Even at the present day the main home of this prolific family name is the southern half of the West Riding and many scores of families still live in and around those Holme Valley hamlets where the surname was first recorded 650 years ago. Although the surname is now so well known this was not always the case and all the evidence points to a single family origin in the West Riding. Even as late as 1545 the only three families recorded in the subsidy roll for the Clothing Area lived in or near Holmfirth. This is all the more remarkable if we consider that included in this area were Bradford, Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield and Dewsbury, not to mention a score of minor towns. In all these places variants of Hinchliffe can now be found, often in good numbers, but the surname's expansion there is relatively recent.

This should not be taken to mean that the Holme Valley was the only place where Hinchliffe could be found in 1545. The area in which the family had its origin and early history lies close to the watershed of the River Dearne and at a very early date migration took place over the watershed and as far south as Sheffield. Consequently much of the name's ramification over the centuries has been in the villages of Staincross Wapentake and in towns such as Penistone and Barnsley. Sheffield has, throughout most of its history, been an important centre of its distribution.

Hinchliffe is geographical in origin and two minor place-names should be considered when we try to locate the source. There is, for example, a Hingcliff Scar in Bradfield in the South Yorkshire Pennines. Unfortunately there are very few references to this place and none at all before 1440. It might conceivably be the source of the family name but a much stronger case can be made out for the locality now known as Hinchliffe Mill. References which point to this place-name 'certainly pre-date the first surname evidence, e.g.

1307 John, son of Hugh, gives 2 shillings for 2 1/4 acres at Welesbothem, and 3 roods at Heyncheclyf.

As this was recorded in the court rolls for the village of Holme it would certainly seem to refer to what is now called Hinchliffe Mill. In one sense, however, indecision about which place-name gave rise to the surname is not very important, for both have the same meaning. The words 'henge-clif' in Old English signified a steep slope or cliff, a description which in fact fits both the localities we have discussed.

View of Hinchliffe Mill today

Variant Forms

Some place-names and family names vary very little throughout the centuries but this is not so with Hinchliffe. In Kirkburton Parish Registers, which cover the area where the family ramified, there are nearly 20 versions of the name ranging from Hinslife to Hynschonclyf. The group of 5 consonants resulting from Hinch + cliffe always tended to be simplified in colloquial speech, and spellings in the Registers such as Hynchyffe and Hyncleff bear testimony to this. A change of vowel produced Henchlif and an unusual metathesis in the final syllable gave rise to the unlikely Hynchylff - perhaps influenced by the nearby hamlet of Hunshelf. This does not exhaust the list of Holme Valley variants. The local pronunciation of Hinchliffe Mill was Hinchley and there is abundant evidence locally to show that the surname was treated in the same way. In Emley Parish Register, for example, we find

1663-1667 John and Dorothy Hinchcliffe or Hinchley

Whilst the tendency to omit the initial 'H' produced numerous variants, e.g.

1679 Matthew Insliffe (York)

1769 Richard Inchliffe (Huddersfield).

Most of these varying forms were attempts by clerks to render in writing what they heard, what they thought they heard or what they thought the "correct" form was. In the Protestation Returns for 1641 the name in the Holme Valley was always Hinchliffe; a generation later in the Hearth Tax Hinscliffe prevailed, although there was one Hinchliffe and one Hincliffe. Over in the next valley there were Hinchcliffes at Longwood and Quarmby.

This tendency to corruption, linguistic corruption I should add, endured until comparatively recent times, but in the last 100 years there have been stabilising influences and the acceptance locally of standard spellings. The prevailing spelling in the Holme Valley is now, therefore, Hinchliffe with small numbers of Hinchcliffes and Hinchliffs. However, this family had already established branches outside the West Riding as early as the l7th century and inevitably this helped to preserve some of the many variants we have mentioned. In this account I shall use the form Hinchliffe for convenience unless referring to specific documentary evidence; it should however be remembered that all the following surviving variants share the same origin:

Hinchcliffe, Hinchcliff, Hinchecliffe, Inchcliffe,

Hinchliffe, Hinchliff,

Hinchsliffe, Hinchsliff, Hinsliffe, Hinsliff,

Hincliffe, Hincklieff,

Hinchley, Inchley,

Henchcliffe, Henchcliff, Henchley.

It is quite likely that an even more exhaustive search of surname lists, both in this country and overseas, will widen the range of variants and also produce hybrids where Hinchliffe has developed alongside similar names such as Hinckley.

Early History

The first reference to the place-name, as we have seen, occurred in 1307 when a certain John, son of Hugh rented land there. The first reference to the surname, which occurs some 17 years later in the court rolls, may also identify who this tenant was:

1324 Thomas, son of John de Hengeclif sues John son of Hugh de Alstanley (Austonley) for trespass.

In the next few years the name of this man appears in the manor rolls for Holme on a number of occasions, e.g.

1325 Thomas de Hyengeclif surrenders 8 acres in Holme, committed to William de Hyengeclif - 2 shillings.

1331 Thomas de Hiengecliff stood surety for Thomas Undirlangley who was accused of chasing Robert Chobard's cattle with his dogs.

The only other member of the family mentioned at this period is a woman, who may well have been the widow of the John referred to. There is, however, nothing to show the exact relationship.

1324-27 Agnes de Hyengeclif / Hengeklif / Hingecliff or Hyngecliff fined for various minor offences, i.e. for allowing her beasts to escape (3 pence) and for helping herself to wood from the Earl's forest (21 pence).

Inevitably many family names of this type disappeared in the Middle Ages and one of the main causes was undoubtedly the disastrous plague of 1349-50, known as the Black Death. The Hinchliffes not only survived this calamity but as the Poll Tax of 1379 shows, had actually ramified in the meantime.

1379 Holmfirth

John de Hyncheclyff and wife. 4 pence tax.

William de Hynchecliff and wife. 4 pence tax.

Richard de Hynchecliff and wife. 4 pence tax.


Adam de Hyncheclyf, a single man. 4 pence tax.

The standard rate of tax was 4 pence and only tradesmen or gentry paid more. It seems unlikely, therefore, that the Hinchliffes of this period had any special status in the enclosed world of the Holme Valley. What is of interest is the fact that several widespread hamlets were listed under the general heading of Holmfirth and there is no way of knowing exactly where the three Hinchliffes lived. The bridge at Holme actually divided the two great parishes of Almondbury and Kirkburton, although the tendency for at least 300 years was to move south and east rather than north and west.

Ramification and Distribution 1379-1720

The Holme Valley

In the period 1379-1545 the population did not increase greatly and it is not very surprising, therefore, that the surname Hinchliffe was no more numerous in the 16th century subsidy rolls than in the great Poll Tax of 1379. The period between these great nationally levied taxes was one of political confusion and civil strife, and ironically the documentary evidence for yeoman families is often much less detailed than in previous centuries. Enough survives, however, to show us that the Hinchliffes continued to live, generation after generation, in the same area, e.g.

1437 William Hynchclyffe of Scholes quitclaimed certain lands to Adam de Stokkes (probably living in Thurstonland).

l490 Thomas Hynchclyff, a churchwarden for Kirkburton Parish, signed a fascinating document which records a dispute between local families respecting their rights to occupation of certain places in the church. The subsidy roll of 1524, taxing only a percentage of the population, provides us with the first hint of where the family lived:

1524 Thomas Hynchlyff of the Crosse, taxed 12 pence on lands valued at 20 shillings.

Robert Hynchclyffe, taxed 12 pence on goods valued at 40 shillings.

Both these men were again listed under 'Holmfirth' but we know from a will proved in 1526 that John Hynchclif lived at Cartworth and from a second in 1541 that another John Hyncheclif lived at Holme. In the second subsidy roll four years later there were still only three members of the family in the Clothing Area, all in Holmfirth.

1545 Thomas Hynsclyff, Holmfirth )

William Hynchclyff, Holmfirth ) All paid 2 pence tax

Robert Hynchclyff, Holmfirth )

An interesting record of this period which survives, provides further illustration of how the surname varied. In the Star Chamber proceedings for 1536 John Ynchlyf or Hynclyf of Wooldale was accused of having '7 acres overmeasure and testimony was offered by Thomas Hynchclyf. A century later, extracts from the West Riding Sessions Rolls provide some insight into the different occupations in which Hinchliffes were engaged:

l636 James Waterhouse of Holmfirth, a clothier, stole one lamb, value 2s.6d, from James Hinchcliffe.

1658 Ambrose Hinchclyffe of Holmfirth, a carpenter, stole two ewes value 10 shillings from Francis Haighe of Penistone.

The area of the Holme Valley in which the Hinchliffes lived was remote from the two mother churches of Kirkburton and Almondbury and a move was made in 1650 by the inhabitants of Holmfirth to have their chapel given the status of a church. They hoped thereby to escape the fines which were levied if they did not walk or ride the six or seven miles on a Sunday. The petition signed by the Holmfirth residents contained the names of six Hinchliffes - including Joseph Hinchcliffe of the Cross, Wooldale. and this hints at the expansion of numbers which had taken place in the 100 years since the subsidy roll of 1545. Actually there are two documents, the Protestation Returns of 1641 and the Hearth Tax Rolls of the l660s and 1670s, which allow more accurate estimates of the ramification to be made. The details of the first of these provide staggering evidence of the family's growth. In the whole of the Huddersfield area, 52 male Hinchliffes were recorded. The major concentrations were at

Austonley (11), Cartworth (9), Holme (7), Hepworth (5) and Wooldale (3). All these men lived within a mile or two of their ancestors of the 1320s and many other families had not moved far afield, e.g. Fulstone (3), Meltham (3), Upperthong (2). Isolated Hinchliffes lived in Kirkburton, Thurstonland, Lepton, Longwood and Marsden.

There is actually a surviving rental of Wakefield manor for the year 1709 which identifies in detail the land holdings of many of these Holme Valley Hinchliffes. It would be tedious to list them all but as an example we can cite James Hincliffe (sic) who paid 1 shilling for 'Good Greave' and 7 shillings and sixpence for land at 'Arunden'. He, or a namesake also held tenancies at 'Maukin House, Dunsley, Austonley, Doxon Shaw and Knowle'. Actually at this time James was not a commonly used name in the Hinchliffe family and the main ones were John, Thomas, Abraham, Richard and Henry. Others in frequent use were Joseph, Edmond, Francis, Ralph and George.

(There is a note by my Grandfather at this point referring to Maukin House in the above. "1900 My Grandfather lived at 'Maukin House' colloquially 'Maukinhus'" This would be referring to Albert Hinchliffe who Drowned in Manchester Ship Canal)

The West Riding

As the population increased dramatically numerous branches of the family settled in the villages and towns to the south of the Holme Valley. The process had started in the fifteenth century as the following show:

1430 William Hynchcliff of Woolley was bequeathed 20s in the will of Oliver Woderow.

1440 John Hyncheclyf of Sheffield (Manor Court Rolls).

1472 Grant by John Wombwell esq. of lands in Wath, Melton and Brampton which Thomas Hynchcliffe of South Kirby had granted him.

All these families appear to have had descendants for the surname continued there for many generations. There are wills registered for the Hinchliffes of South Kirby in 1474, 1546 and 1556 and in both Woolley and Sheffield a variety of documentary evidence throws light on successive generations of the family.

Woolley, Penistone and Barnsley

1467-8 Quit claim by Thomas Gaunte of Hoyland Swayne to Richard Wentworth of Bretton Hall. Witness William Hyncheclyffe of Woolley.

1489 Grant by Robert Rilston to Thomas Popeley of Woolley of a yearly rent of 3s,4d. Witnesses William Hynchclyff, Matthew Wentworth.

1511 Grant by Thomas Wentworth of West Bretton esq. of lands and messuages in the tenure of William Hynchclyff.

1546 At the break up of Monk Bretton Priory the library, which was a very fine one, was sold to the monks. One of the main purchasers was Richard Hynchclyff alias Woolley! Perhaps he was the Richard who in 1559 was described as a priest and bought lands in Worsborough.

1591-2 Francis Hynchecliffe of Woolley sold lands to George Brownell.

1615 Will of Francis Hinchcliffe of Woolley registered at York.

1618 Thomas Hincheliffe of Wentworth (Wil1 registered)

There is abundant evidence here of a very close link between the Hinchliffes of Woolley and the land-owning family of Wentworth - a link which was taken a step further when Thomas Hinchliffe married Frances Wentworth of Woolley in 1716. This Thomas actually lived in London (l677-l741) and was a citizen and member of the Salters' Company. He was said to be of 'Billcliffe' in Yorkshire and this throws some light on another interesting reference:

1524 Grant by James, Woderowe and Richard Whetelay to Thomas Wentworth, gentleman and William Hynsclyff of the manor of Bulcyff (sic)

Even before the end of the 17th century the surname ramified prodigiously in this area to the south of the Holme valley and one or two further extracts from documentary sources seem worth quoting, e.g.

l639 John Milnes of Penistone, a labourer was committed to 'the house of correction (sic)' for divers misdeeds, being in the custody of the constable John Hinchliffe. Unfortunately 'the said John Hinchliffe so negligently kept him that he permitted him to escape.'

l640 James Hinchcliffe of Barnsley, a labourer, was fined 40 shillings 'for exercising there the art or mystery of the butchers trade without having been brought up therein as apprentice.'

In the year l898 there was printed for private circulation a number of notes on the Hinchliffe family. They were edited by O. Hinchliffe and published by Hinchliffe & Co. of Manchester. For the most part the references are to isolated members of the family who either lived outside Yorkshire or who achieved distinction in some way, e.g. Dr. John Hinchliffe, Bishop of Peterborough; Messrs Hinchliffe & Co. of Whitelands, Chelsea, Wall Paper Manufacturers; John Elley Hinchliffe the gifted sculptor and his son John James an engraver, etc.

There is also however some interesting information on the surname in the Penistone area. There was, for example, a set of trustees appointed by the King in 1677 to regulate the management of the endowed lands of Penistone Grammar School. At that time an Arthur Hinchliffe was one of the trustees and in 1898 John Hinchliffe of Bullhouse Hall, Thurlstone was still carrying on the traditional office.

In a reference to a great lawsuit over lands in Penistone carried out in 1595 between the Wortleys and other landowners a William Hinchliffe was mentioned, so the history of the name there clearly goes back nearly 400 years at least. Other paragraphs deal with the Hinchliffe Charity, based on a gift of lands at Wombwell and the various residences of the family at Pawhill, Cross Royd Head, Billcliffe and Hartcliffe, all within 3 miles of Penistone on the edge of the moor and mentioned in the Diary of Adam Eyre of Hazlehead, a Captain in the Parliamentary Army, written in 1645-7.


The first Hinchliffes to move to Sheffield must have done so in the first half of the 15th century, for as we have seen the name was recorded there in the court rolls in 1440. Other typical references to this family in the court rolls are:

1483/4 Henry Hinchclyff surrenders a messuage and land called Birley Hollins to the use of Nicholas Mounteney, esq.

1564 It was presented that the wife of Robert Hynchecliff has brewed ale and sold it contrary to the assize.

1593 Thomas Skynner surrendered lands and tenements in Stannington to the use of Henry Hinchcliff, his heirs and assigns for ever.

1625 William Hinchclyffe, juror at the manor court.

Throughout the latter part of this period the Hinchliffes were engaged in a number of land deals - often having their name linked with that of the Littlewoods, another Holme Valley family. In 1580, for example, the Henry referred to above bought lands in Stannington, Ughill and Oakes and five years later in Dungworth and Woodhouse. In Sheffield, perhaps more than elsewhere, the variety of occupations followed by members of the family was very wide. Whereas in the Holme Valley farming or the making of cloth were usual, in Stannington and Ecclesfield we find: 1590 Thomas Hinchliff, cooper; 1617 Henry Hinchcliffe, waller; William Hinchliffe, blacksmith.

In all probability economic circumstances played a large part in the dispersal of the surname throughout the West Riding and if the migration into South Yorkshire seems predictable because of the very geography of the area, there were moves made in the period up to 1720 which are more clearly the result of the pull of the large town. Consequently we find Hinchliffes settled in places such as Leeds, York, Wakefield and Doncaster from very early dates. The Rolls of the Freemen of York, for instance, contain the following names:

1485 William Hynseclif, chaplain.

1552 Henry Henseclyf.

l679 Matthew Insliffe, translator.

1718 Edward Henchcliffe, goaler (sic).

Robert Hyncliffe was a tailor in Wakefield in l599 and in Doncaster there were Hinchliffes from 1558 at least. The name is also found at the same period in villages such as Fishlake, Tickhill, Grimethorpe and Badsworth. The Leeds Hinchliffes - again linked with the Littlewoods, acquired land in Kirkstall, Adel and Leeds from William Inglebye in 1596 and Thomas, who died c.1610 was described as of 'Kirkstall, Bargrainge, a yeoman' and there is an interesting note on one of his descendants in the Royalist Composition Papers:

1649 Abraham Hinchliffe of Burley in Wharfedale "saith that he was never sequestered nor questioned for any delinquency nor engaged at all in the latter war........but taking notice of the favour intended by the late votes of Parliament to such as shall discover themselves, he is seised of land in Burley; lease of a farm called Kirkstall Grange, of 2 water mills and 2 fulling mills and lands in Kirkstall and Bramley worth yearly £74, of a lease for 7 years of Abbey lands etc, possessed of cattle and household stuff worth £14 etc."

Clearly the Hinchliffes of Kirkstall had become a wealthy family in Lower Wharfedale and it is not surprising to learn that in 1664 Eleanor Hinchliffe of Kirkstall married into the even more famous family of Fairfax.

Although the early history of this surname suggests a single family origin it had become very numerous by 1650 and widely dispersed. I find Hinchliffes in Nottinghamshire from 1550 and in London from c.1675 and doubtless other branches had settled elsewhere. Despite this migration, however, the Holme Valley has not ceased to be the place where the concentration of Hinchliffes is most marked and in conclusion I should like to give some idea of this from recent records.

Trade Directory 1881 (Holmfirth area)

Although such a Directory covers a proportion of the population only, there were over 20 Hinchliffes listed, the majority in the town of Holmfirth itself (9) but others in traditional locations: Austonley (2), Cartworth (2), Upperthong (5), Wooldale (3), Fulstone (2) and Hepworth (2). Many of the names common in 1641 were still being used, e.g. John (3), Thomas (2), Henry (2), Joseph (3) and George (2) What is also noticeable is the 19th century habit of using the wife's or mother's maiden name as a christian name. Johnson Hinchliffe (grocer), Parker Hinchliffe (sizing boiler). Not surprisingly farming and the woollen trade occupied many of the family at this time as they had for hundreds of years, but the range of occupations is very wide. In addition to those mentioned there was a chandler, two innkeepers, a postmaster, a wheelwright, a shoemaker, a joiner and even an 'aerated water manufacturer'.

Electoral Register 1967

In the area covered by this Register for Holmfirth, no fewer than 92 householders called Hinchliffe are listed. There is also one Hinchliff and furthermore, Hinchliffe is found as a christian name. This statistical evidence merely confirms what any resident of the Holme Valley takes for granted, or what any visitor might deduce if he notices the names on shops and mills. What is, perhaps, new in the Register is the evidence of a complete break with the traditional christian naming pattern. Although there is an occasional George, Joseph and Thomas and as many as four Johns and two James, the most popular names are Brian (7), Harry (5) and Harold (5). Fred and Albert are just as numerous as John (4) and the next group consists of Frank, Norman, Ronald and Robert (all 3).

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