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"dykes" family name, ancestry, and history


Dykes is a British surname which may originate from the hamlet of Dykesfield in Burgh-by-Sands, Cumbria in the north of England. Due to its close proximity to the English and Scottish borders, the surname Dykes has also been found in Scottish lowlands throughout the ages. The first family to bear the surname (for which written records survive) are said to have lived in the area prior to William the Conqueror's Norman Conquest of England, with the oldest surviving written document placing them in Dykesfield at the end of the reign of Henry III. The family took their surname from Hadrian's Wall, also referred to in some texts as Hadrian's Dyke. The great wall crossed Great Britain from the mouth of the Tyne to the Solway Firth and forms part of the border for Dykesfield. At this early period of history, however, the surname existed in a different form from the modern day; del Dykes, literally meaning 'of the Dykes', indicating the region from where the family came. A charter, bearing the first known recorded instance of the surname, comes from either the reign of Henry III or Edward I, though the exact date of the record is unknown. It does, however, reveal that land owned by one Robert del Dykes at Burgh was conveyed to one William del Monkys. An alternative derivation for the name is that it is from the common personal name "Dick" (a diminutive of "Richard"). It would therefore share its origin with a number of similar names such as Dike, Dicks, Dix, Dickson, Dixon, Dickins, Dickens and Dickinson. The earliest historical records are from a family which was moderately wealthy for the time. Robert del Dykes owned land during the reign of Edward I, and in 1379, during the reign of Richard II, Adam del Dykes owned land further east in Yorkshire. Another family member bearing the name William del Dykes is noted as having represented the Earl of Cumberland in the English Parliament during the reign of Henry VI. More is known about this William than those who had previously bore the surname. Records indicate that he married Elizabeth, the daughter of William de Leigh, Lord of the Manor of High Leigh. The de Leigh family claimed descent from Adeliza, Countess of Aumale, the half-sister of William the Conqueror, and Charlemagne's eldest son Charles, who is usually considered childless. William del Dykes is also known to have received the manor and lands at Wardhall, Cumbria (also referred to as Warthole Hall [http://homepage.mac.com/philipdavis/English%20sites/732.html] and Wardale), subsequent generations would come to use the land but would later move to Dovenby Hall in Cumbria. By the 17th century it appears that majority of those bearing the surname del Dykes had dropped the prefix of 'del' and had begun simply using the surname Dykes, as it is most commonly found today. Thomas Dykes is one such family member who was responsible for the formation of the family motto and symbol used by the majority of his descendants and others bearing the surname. Thomas, a Royalist at the time of the English Civil War during the reign of Charles I, secreted himself at Wardhall after the defeat of his party at the Battle of Marston Moor. Thomas is reputed to have hid in many areas of his land, including in a mulberry tree, which stands to this day. It was all in vain, however, has he was soon captured by the Parliamentarians and imprisoned at Cockermouth Castle. Thomas was offered his freedom and the restoration of his property if he would become a traitor to his King by joining the Parliamentarians, but responded with Prius frangitur quam flectitur - Sooner broken than bent. Thomas died at Cockermouth Castle and, such was the strength of the story, the family adopted Prius frangitur quam flectitur as the family motto, and the mulberry tree as the family symbol. While the surname had changed from del Dykes to Dykes by the 17th century further changes can be charted and, Dykes aside, other incarnations include Dawkes, Dyke, Dikes and Dike, though instances of the surname del Dykes can still be found. It is still most common in the northern counties of the United Kingdom, particularly in Lancashire and Cheshire. Areas such as Liverpool and Warrington are some of the most populous to this day, records show that members of the family moved to these areas as early as the 18th century. Outside of the United Kingdom, the surname can also be found in most parts of the Commonwealth and other former British Empire nations including Australia, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland (particularly Co. Sligo). Current bearers of the surname include Hugh Dykes, The Lord Dykes, and Greg Dyke, former head of the BBC.

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