You are in [People] [Family History] [Hidden alias Clydesdale]

This article was written by Norman Hidden and published in the Berkshire Family History journal, Vol 8, No 2, winter 1982-83.

An article in the BFHS Magazine, volume 7 number 4, by John Brooks referred to the Hungerford family of Hidden alias Clydesdale, and requested more information concerning the alias. First, to correct one small point in Mr Brooks' reference: the family of this name were in the Hungerford area more than one hundred years earlier than the dates Mr Brooks has given. Perhaps I might add also that although it was not unknown in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for estates to be willed to persons on condition that they adopted a particular surname (usually that of the testator), I have never heard of the practice in medieval or Tudor times.

The first record of the name Clydesdale in Berkshire was of Sir Thomas Clydesdale in 1465; he was not a knight but a chaplain of the chantry of the Bles s ed Virgin Mary in Hungerford. In 1488 a John Clydesdale obtained from the prioress of Littlemore a lease for life of the manor of Haywood and Leverton (formerly in the parish of Chilton Foliat, now in that of Hungerford). In 1506 the prioress of Littlemore granted a further lease to Thomas Hall and "John Clydesdale the younger", presumably the son of the first John. By 1515 a John Lyddysdale had begun farming the neighbouring manor of Hidden, the manor of Haywood having been relinquished to the Hall family.

The genealogist who gets as far back as the fifteenth century is accustomed to the problem of variant spellings and it will be noted that both in 1506 and 1515 variants occurred. The two earliest spellings in 1465 and 1488, however, are spelt unambiguously Clydesdale, conclusive evidence that this is the original spelling of the name. It is not a Berkshire name, no trace of it occurring before 1465. It is clearly a place name, and the obvious place would seem to be in Scotland, where the name was current and not uncommon. Uncommon, however, it certainly was in Berkshire and this alien quality no doubt created problems of spelling. The query as to how a Scot (in those days an alien and often an enemy) might come to settle in Berkshire is
almost certainly answered by Sir Thomas's profession; clergy had an international status. It must be remembered also that Hungerford was part of the Duchy of Lancaster's possessions, that Sir WaIter Hungerford was the leading Lancastrian supporter during the Wars of the Roses, and that the House of Lancaster had frequent recourse to help from Scotland.

The "John Lyddysdale" who acquired the manor farm of Hidden appears in many documents, but very variously spelt, for instance Clydesdale, Cledisdale, Lyddysdale, Gledysdale, Ledisdall, Cledesdale, Clydale, Glyddesdall, Clysdale and Clidesdale. It was an age of phonetic spelling, but even so there is a wide variety here applied to a single individual during his lifetime. The scribe's difficulty in 'catching' a man's name when spoken is compounded when it was unusual or foreign, even though the John whom we are discussing must have been at least two generations away from the chaplain of 1465.

The surname Hidden derives from the Anglo-Saxon name (Hyddene = valley with a landing place) of the valley which runs a mile or two north and north-west of modern Hungerford and is marked on Ordnance Survey maps (rather more prosaically) as Old Hayward Bottom. From this valley with a landing place the later manor of Hidden took its name, since the valley cut right through the manor's lands. These included the viII of Eddington and several farms, such as Great Hidden, Little Hidden and North Hidden. At one time the whole area was known as Hidden but in the eighteenth century this name was replaced by the uglier, and less accurate, name of Hungerford Newtown.

Before John Clydesdale's formal grant of lease in 1515 there is, with one dubious exception, no known record of anyone named Hidden. There would seem, therefore, to be no question of a Clydesdale marriage to a member of an sx i sting Hidden fami ly, nor even of an illegi timacy arising from a Clydesdale-Hidden liaison. Well before 1500, English surnames had settled and before this time it would be relatively unusual for a surname that had been in existence locally since at least 1465 to change. Nevertheless, from some time after the grant of the lease of the manor farm in 1515, John Clydesdale became John Hidden alias Clydesdale.

There are three reasons why he may have welcomed this:-
1) the change to Hidden would disguise the family's alien origin
2) before 1521 the use of two names would assist John in avoiding detection by the ecclesiastical authorities in his Lollard sympathies and activities (he was finally tried for herasy in 1521 and although he escaped burning at the stake, he was made subject to various legal restrictions) - on the other hand, the use of a new name after 1521 would assist (if he so wished) to cover up his heretical past
3) bearing in mind the Clydesdale's Scottish origin, he may have followed the traditional Scottish custom for the Laird to take as his name, that of the manor of which he was laird.

None of these reasons on its own seems and one learns to suspend judgement possibilities in genealogical research by positive proof. to me to be entirely adequate, an all 'fanciful' ideas and which cannot be substantiaited. In most local documents of this period a person's name is written down
as that by which he is known to the wri ter. A lawyer, however, may particularly wish to make certain of a person's identity by referring to him by all his known names and by all versions of his name previously used. Thus in a Hungerford deed of conveyance in 1616 one of the parties is described as "John Lyddysdale alias Clydesdale alias Eden al ias Hydden". Perhaps one record above all where a per son's own choice might be followed as to the form of his name was the baptismal regi~ter. Marriages might take on a certain legal, contractual quality, deaths were recorded by the parson by the name most familiar to him; but in the case of baptism the parent not only chose the Christian name but also dictated the form (though not the spelling) of
the surname.

It is a striking fact that all Hungerford parish register baptismal entries for the Hidden family from 1559 until 1613 (there are 43 of them) give Hidden as the name without any reference whatever to Clydesdale. These are all direct descendants of the John Clydesdale who changed his name to Hidden when he acquired the manor farm c 1515. However the family sold their lease of the manor in 1599 and the main line of the family thereupon dispersed. Of the junior branches which remained in the area at least one member felt obliged to revert to the old Clydesdale surname, so we have a small series of entries between 1613 and 1623 for the children of 'Thomas Clydesdale alias Hidden'. Thomas in fact not only baptised his children under this alias, but
also used it in his two marriages and was buried under it. As a churchwarden, he may have been particularly meticulous i n describing himself with almost legal exactitude.

After 1623 baptisms of other Hiddens continue (as before) without any reference to the Clydesdale alias, until in 1687 we have a late and unexpected revival of the alias, with an entry for the son of "John Clisdell alias Hidden"; and so for other children of the same John. This revival continues in baptisms until 1726 after which it is not used again. It is last used in Hungerford marriages in 1713 and in Hungerford burials in 1750. One interesting marriage entry in 1690 (Jones-Biss) lists Thomas Hidden as bondsman, but he signs the register as Thomas Clisdell. During this period there were two Johns who were both prominent in town affairs so that their names occur with some frequency. One seems to have been known (mostly) as John Clydesdale
alias Hidden, the other (mostly) as John Hidden alias Clydesdale. Unfortunately, this distinguishing pattern is not 100 complete; no doubt local contemporaries themselves became confused, though not so much as later genealogists!

In neighbouring parishes, such as Kintbury and Inkpen, the same pattern of surname use was not followed as in Hungerford. Thus all the early entries in the Kintbury register are of Clydesdale, the first Hidden not appearing until 1589; and in Inkpen, where the register begins later, the first baptism using the name Hidden did not occur until 1658. Clearly the further in distance from the manor itself, the longer the old Clydesdale name held. In the end, despite the 'revival' mentioned above, the name Hidden survived, perhaps because it was simpler and easier to use.

Some Hiddens remained in Hungerford until the early part of the twentieth century. Many emigrated to other parts of Berkshire and these suffered permanent spelling variations, especially to Heddon, Hedding and sometimes Heading. Those who emigrated to London in the early nineteenth cen-tury, on the other hand, took with them the 'pure' Hidden spelling.

The name is a very rare one; a few years ago I counted less than forty in the telephone directories covering the whole of Great Britain. It was particularly sad to see that, after five centuries, there was no longer one in Berkshire. 

See also:

- Norman Hidden