Origins of the Surnames: Wingfield, Winkfield & Winfield

The Four Wingfield settle­ments in the Domesday Book

In the Domesday Book, the record of who owned what throughout Eng­land, compiled by William the Con­queror in England in 1086-1087, are the following four places called Wingfield:

Wighefelda aka Wineberga in the Fief of the Bishop of Thetford. [Suffolk]. “In Wingfield 1 free man by commendation and soke [held] 28 acres and 3 bordars.”

Wineberga [as above] in the Hun­dred of Bishop [=the Bishop of Thetford]. [Suffolk]. “A free man over whom St.Aethelthryth had commendation THE held Wingfield with 2 caracutes of land and 7 bordars. Then 2 ploughs [US: plows] in demesne, now 1. Then as now 2 ploughs belonging to the men. 11 acres of meadow. Woodland for 140 pigs. Then 2 horses now 1. And 1 ox. Then 60 pigs now 20. And 20 sheep and 2 hives. A church with 24 acres. Worth 4 shillings.13 freemen with 80 acres. Robert Malet’s predecessor had commendation over 1 of them. Then 4 ploughs now 3. Then it was worth £4.13s.4d, now £4. Roger Bigod claims this of the King’s gift but the Abbot of Ely has established his title against him. Now Roger holds it through a post­ponement. The soke is in Hoxne. 1 league and 2 furlongs long and 4 fur­longs broad. 11 1/2 d. in geld. Others hold [land] there.” [Folio 385, Suffolk].

Winefel in the Land of the Bishop of Coutanes. [Wiltshire]. “The [same] bishop holds “Wittenham” in Wingfield the same bishop holds Wingfield & Roger [holds] of him. Azur held it TRE, and it paid geld for 3 1/2 hides.”

Winnefelt was in the land of Walter D’Aincourt. [Derbyshire]. “In Pilsley [in North Wingfield] and—[?] Owlcotes and Williamthorpe Swein Cild had 2 caracutes of land less half a bovate, to the geld… The soke belongs to [?north] Wingfield.” Etc. [Today Pilsley is 4 miles south of North Wingfield].

Winefeld in the land of Roger de Poitou [Derbyshire]. “In [?South] Wingfield Alnoth [had] 2 caracutes of land to the geld. [There is] land for 3 ploughs. Robert holds it of Count Alan under William Peverell, and has 1 plough. There is a priest and 8 villans and 2 bodars with 3 ploughs. Ther are 4 acres of meadow. It was and is worth 20 shillings.” Etc. [Folio 274, Derbyshire].” [Footnote: A “bordar” was a villein who “held his but at his Lord’s pleas­ure”; a “caracute” was used as a unit of taxation (divided into four quarters totalling 120 acres) used in shires settled by Danes; “d” denoted “denarius” (the old penny); a “de­mesne” was a manor house with an estate not let out to tenants; a “fur­long” was 220 yards; “geld” means money”; a “hide” was a measure of land, variously estimated at 60, 80 and 100 acres; “shilling” was 5% of a pound; a “soke” or soken” was a district held by tenure of “socage” i.e. held against performing certain serv­ices; “TRE” denoted “Ternpore Regis Edwardi” or in the time of King Edward the Confessor (1042-1066, i.e. pre-Conquest); a “villein” or “villan” was originally a free villager (later, in the 13’h century it meant a serf, free in relation to all but his Lord and not entirely a slave. The Wingfields above are respectively on pp. 1254, 1258, 166, 750 & 744 of “Domesday Book, A Complete Translation” by Dr. Ann Williams & Prof. G.H.Martin, Pen­guin, 1992].

Surnames in England came from eight basic sources: characteristics (like Short), nicknames, Christian names, patronymics (like Robinson), occupa­tions (Smith), one’s “master’s” name, the name of one’s father’s Manor (es­tate), or — 50 to 75% of them – from a location.

These locative names were used until c.1400 preceded by “de” (“of” or “from”), and “atte” (“at the”). Normally only one family at any one time took their surname from the same place. From the mid-1200s to the mid-1300s a man from Wingfield, when he had moved away, might call himself “de Wingfield”.

Names were often corrupted ; and our Wingfield ancestors spelt the name in about 150 ways!

Here is a list of possible origins, the first nine being in the Domesday Book:

  1. Suffolk: Wighefelda (= field of Wigha’s people) then Wineberga, then Wingfield (where there were four Man­ors)- whence from before 1087 the Suffolk (de) Wingfields took their name. Maybe the “Wuffinga” tribe of Suffolk was the origin of “Wigha”.
  2. Derbyshire: Winefeld, later Sutwynnefelde then South Wingfield—whence from before 1320 sprang the (de) Winfields/(de) Wingfields – moving to villages nearby like Crich, Alderwasley and Ashley Hey (whence apparently came the Shropshire and Bolton-Sydney Wingfields). This family had their own coat of arms.
  3. Derbyshire: Winnefeld/t [–meadow field] then Wynefeld then North Wingfield. Guppy wrote (1890) that “the Wingfields took their name from Derbyshire parishes” (plural). We have seven Derbyshire Wingfield pedigrees.
  4. Bedfordshire: Winfeld or Winfeud then Wingfield.
  5. Berkshire: Wenesf elle and later WinKfield. We have three Wingfield lines in Berkshire, of Bradfield, Hurst, and Sonning (some of whom went to Canada and New Zealand)
  6. Hampshire: Winseflet then Winchfeld.
  7. Lincolnshire: Wenf let or Wernf let became Wainfleet Bank and Wainfleet
  8. Lincolnshire: All Saints. They spawned the de Wayneflete family. Were there also Wingfields?
  9. Wiltshire: Winefel, which became Winkfield-cum-Rollerton  then Wingfield.
  10. Cumberland: WHINFELL FOR­EST, near Penrith. A “fell” is “high moorland”.
  11. Cumberland: WHINFELL BEA­CON (1,544 ft.) and WHINFELL COM­MON (i.e. public land).
  12. Kent: the Manor of Wingfield in Borough Green near Wrotham. This was in 1358 owned by a family called Quintin — who could have given the name to younger sons.
  13. Kent: Wenifalle, later “the manor of Wingfield aka Windfield Manor” near Southfleet.(Do the Mary Messer Fam­ily, or the Jarvis Winfield Family fit on here or at #12? And could the Jarvis line be descended from William Winkfield, son of William & Mary of St.James the Apostle at Dover -25 miles east of here, near the Swingfields – christened November 17, 1643?)
  14. Oxfordshire. Folklore has it that the craftsmen who in 1429 extended Wingfield church in Suffolk for the Duke of Suffolk, then moved to Ewelme in Oxfordshire to build the church there – and there they were referred to as de Wingfield. But 1429 is surely too late for them to have taken the name de Wingfield!
  15. Adoption of one’s Master’s name by serfs or apprentices.
  16. Adoption of the name – by three sets of Russian emigrants. One, who emigrated to Kings County, Wash­ington in the 1890s and became “J.H.Wingfield”.
  17. Adoption of the name – A second one called Weinraub, emigrated to Cornwall in England in the 1930s(?), anglicising his name as Wingfield;
  18. Adoption of the name – and a third Russian man settled in Canada, also taking our name. None have known kin.
  19. Adoption of non-Wingfield children.
  20. A Germany-based family called Wingelfeld.
  21. A Denmark-based family called Windfeld(t) aka Vindfeld(t) visible in c. 1600.

The Wingfields were presumed to have been Saxon and living in England before William the Conqueror arrived in 1066. The Domesday Book of 1086 lists Wingfield (Wighefelda) in Suffolk, but the first Wingfield for which there is any record is Robert de Wingfield in the year 1100 according to “Muniments of the Ancient Saxon Family of Wingfield” writ­ten by Mervyn Edward Wingfield, 7th Viscount Powerscourt published in En­gland in 1894 and republished by the Wingfield Family Society in 1987.

In medieval times, literacy was limited and when the name was given verbally to recorders, it was often spelled the way it sounded.  Once recorded, it often stuck, or sometimes it was deliberately changed to designate a difference in the family. Just because our family members or clerks did not spell the name your way, does not mean these are not relatives.  Nor should these names be overlooked as you do your family genealogy research.  It is understandable that differences would evolve over the centuries.

Some of the spellings known through the centuries are:

Wynkfeld, Wynkfyld, Wyngefyld, Wngefelde, Wingfyld, Wynfield, Wyngefeld, Wyngefelde, Whinfell, Winfeld, Winfelde, Windfield, Winckfield, Winfield, Winkefelde, Whinfield, Wigfield, Wiggfield, Winnefelde, Winnefield, Winnefeld, Whinnfield, Wingfeild, Wingefeld, Wynefeld, Winkefelde, and of course, Wingfield.

Descendants of the English and Irish Wingfields have immigrated to Australia, Canada, France, India, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, United States, Zimbabwe and undoubtedly many other places.

"Posse Nolle Nobile" — Latin for "To have the power without the wish is noble."

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Some Records of the Wingfield Family

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