The following is from research from Peter K Haythornthwaite:
The Hathornthwaites and a Multitude of Haythornthwaites, Hawthornthwaites, Haythornwhites and Haythorn(e)s
The Descendants of William of Catshaw, (d 1592), Recusant, and John of Tarnbrook, (d 1630), Yeomen of Over Wyresdale and Several Other Trees as yet Unconnected
The Family of Peter Kenway HAYTHORNTHWAITE
Hathornthwaite is a place name. When the Vikings settled the upper reaches of the River Wyre (in what is now the county of Lancashire) in the 9th Century, they cleared the ground of this rather harsh but beautiful landscape and set up farms for grazing their livestock. Hagthorn is Old Norse for hawthorn (or hedgethorn), and thwaite is a clearing or secondary farm. The usual interpretation of the name is "Hawthorn-field", but a more romantic version suggests that a Viking settler by the name of Athon (a name still current in Iceland so I'm told) landed on the west coast of England in around AD 900 and made his home at Athon's-farm. One way or another, modern Hathornthwaites may claim, without much fear of contradiction, to have Viking blood coursing vigorously through their veins.
Frustratingly, Hathornthwaite does not feature in the Domesday Book of 1086 which so meticulously recorded the ownership of land and its earning power for King William. Nor for that matter does the whole area of Over Wyresdale, which is uncompromisingly blank on the maps of Domesday place names. Probably this upland area was too sparsely populated to rate a mention, though the thought of a gang of post-Viking resistance fighters hanging out against the rule of the Conqueror in this remote valley is an intriguing one. Certainly, William's rule in the west did not extend at this time further north than Broughton-in-Furness and Bootle in modern Cumbria, so it is conceivable his grip was a little tenuous even south of the Lune.
Later in medieval times, Hathornthwaite (or Hawthornthwaite as modern maps have it) became one of the 12 vaccaries, or cow farms, of Wyresdale. These included also Tarnbrook, Marshaw, Abbeystead, Dunkinshaw, Lee, Emmetts, Catshaw, Hayshaw, Ortner, Lentworth and Greenbank, names still preserved in the farms and cottages today, many of them lived in by Hathornthwaites at one time or another.
From about 1600, there was more enclosure and improvement of the land by the application of lime, which was brought through the Trough of Bowland from the lime kiln at Sykes, and the population of Over Wyresdale eventually grew to reach a level considerably in excess of that of today. At Tarnbrook there were at one time as many as 25 cottages where today there are four or five, and at Hawthornthwaite there were 15 where today there is only Hawthornthwaite Farm itself.
Before hereditary surnames came into general use, a man might be known as John de Tarnbrook, Edward Richardson or Richard de Hagthornthwaite, but his "byname" might change from time to time according to the whim of the clerk with whom he was dealing, and would probably die with him. The custom of passing surnames from father to son or daughter started around 1200 and spread slowly down the social scale and from south to north, not reaching the denizens of this remote and isolated part of the kingdom till around 1400 or even later.
So we see that in 1322, Jeffrey de Cover rented from Thomas, second Earl of Lancaster, the vaccary of Hagthornthwayt (2022.5 acres) for 5s 6d a year; William de Hagthornthwayt the vaccary of Emodes (564.5 acres) for 3s a year; and Richard de Hagthornthwayt the vaccary del Abbey (1635 acres) for 5s 6d a year. This is the earliest known record of the use of this surname. (Alfred Ian Haythornthwaite: "The Hathunuts" 19645)
On 5 March 1325, Richard de Haghethornthwait was fined 4d for failing to turn up at a court in the Wapentake of Lonsdale. (Private communication from Constance Turner, 1962)
In 1541, we come across the first known record of a Hathornthwaite in Tarnbrook. To quote again from "The Hathunuts": In November 1541 William Hawthurnthwaite of Troughtonbroke (T' Rowton Brook House, 1 mile SSE of Quernmore Church ?) was under enquiry by the commissioners of Henry VIII. Apparently the Mayor and Burgesses of Lancaster went to their common in Quernmore Forest, impounded stray cattle, and left a guard. "Upon the morning next after, being the Feast of Corpus Christi, William …….(and others) did come to the said fold with long staves and brought with them a writing which they said was a replevie, and they hanged the said writing upon a gatepost of the said fold". They refused a request by the guard to wait while they got someone who could read, and took their cattle out. At the hearing, Richard Hathurthwaite of Tarnbrooke gave evidence claiming ancient grazing rights, and William Hathurthwaite "56 years of age" also gave evidence. For the prosecution it was said that fifteen years previously the wife of Edward Hathurnthwaite of Troughton Broke had paid a fine of 3d for the release of cattle.
Also very interesting in the above account is the mention of an Edward Hathornthwaite. Edward is a sufficiently unusual name to suggest that he just might be an ancestor of the run of Edwards who came later in the story of our family. First names were not given at random but in a very systematic way. The first son was named after the paternal grandfather, daughter after the maternal grandmother. The second son was named after the maternal grandfather, daughter after the paternal grandmother. Later children would be named after the parents themselves, uncles and aunts, and, particularly, after earlier offspring who had died in infancy. This "Naming Rule" works very well in the Hathornthwaite family until as late as 1840, giving a repetition of naming patterns from generation to generation and sometimes vital clues as to family relationships.
At present, the earliest Hathornthwaite we (that is, my branch of the family) can link to our tree with reasonable likelihood is John of Tarnbrook, Yeoman, d 1630. The fact that he was a yeoman is useful to us, since, owning his own land, he (and his descendants) needed to leave a Will to prevent quarrels about the family farm. Of my ten known direct ancestors, nine are known to have left Wills, a remarkable record of continuity and sound financial planning (See Chapter 16 and a separate document Haythornthwaite Wills3 for many of these). Richard of Batrix (1732-1795) is the sole exception, for reasons we can only guess at. Perhaps it is simply that we have not yet looked hard enough to find it. Perhaps there was no need to go for Probate.
Being attached to their land, yeomen farmers tended not to move very far afield, and to be there, solid and reliable, to pay their taxes (or occasionally not). Thus there are interesting traces in ancient records of administration, taxation and courtroom proceedings. In 1640 for example, at the start of the Civil War, a John Hathornthwaite of Wyresdale (very likely our own John of Tarnbrook the Younger) contributed in cattle to the upkeep of King Charles's northern regiments. Two years later, Lancaster was besieged and burnt by the Parliamentary forces, at which point he no doubt kept a very low profile. The records of the Hearth Tax for Lady Day 1664 and 1666, show that even when describing themselves as yeomen, our ancestors generally paid on only one hearth, a modest establishment indeed, though they were never exempted, as some were, for reasons of poverty. However, Robert of Scorton in Nether Wyresdale and William of Abbeystead in Over Wyresdale each paid on 3 hearths, suggesting that they were men of substance. No doubt much still remains to be discovered in these early records. The search continues.
The modern science of genetics is another source of information which now can provide further clues to supplement the written record. The Y-chromosome is handed down from father to son rather in the manner of a surname. Certain repetitive structures in the DNA are characteristic of descendants of a given male ancestor, and so study of these structures may throw interesting light on questions of genealogy. To what extent are modern Haythornthwaites (and indeed Hawthornthwaites, Haythornwhites and Haythorn(e)s) genetic descendants of a single ancestral Hathornthwaite who lived at Hathornthwaite in around the year 1400? Are there links between hitherto unconnected branches of the family? As Hathornthwaites, we are fortunate that our name has been selected as a rare surname to receive special attention from the Department of Genetics at Leicester University, so we may be able to answer some of these questions. Initial results came available from this project in Autumn 2004 and the selected male Haythornthwaites who acceded to requests for DNA samples in 2001 at last received some feedback. A paper summarising the results of this research was finally published in February 2009 (see Chapter 16 for more details).
One problem which confronts the student of the Hathornthwaite family is that of spelling. Ancient records record the name in a bewildering variety of forms. I have not tried to count them myself but Alfred Ian Haythornthwaite in The Hathunuts5 lays claim to 110 different versions, Dorothy Haythorn Collins13 says 140. How could it be otherwise? The often illiterate bearer spoke his name to the clerk or the cleric who wrote down what he imagined he heard above the hubbub, with never a thought that one spelling might be preferable to another. Even today, when we have the new-fangled concept that there is a "right" way of spelling words, how many strange versions have we ourselves rejoiced or grumbled to see on envelopes or other documents? If the moderns cannot cope with a name of this complexity, the ancients must have found it quite a trial.
It is not surprising therefore that an early Hathornthwaite might have a different spelling for his name for every recorded event of his life, particularly if he himself was not literate. He could be christened as Hathronwhett, married as Hathornthwatt, and buried as Hathernwayt or Hathorwhite. It is not particularly helpful to select one of these alternatives, and, when I began this work, I tended to use the version Haythornthwaite for all early records in the main tree whose modern descendants use this form, and Hawthornthwaite in those branches where this is the general modern form. Whatever ingenuity was used to construct the final part of the name, up to about 1780 it nearly always began as Hath, a form that has now died out. I now feel that this variant is more faithful to the intention of the early writers of the name, and perhaps also to its then pronunciation, so I am moving towards this convention.
By the early 19th century, a greater degree of standardisation had become apparent. Those considerable numbers who had patronised the church at Slaidburn, to the east of the Trough of Bowland, tended to call themselves Haythornthwaite, whilst many who had stayed on the western side of the Trough became Hawthornthwaite. The Ordnance Survey maps have followed this trend and Hathornthwaite Farm and Fell have been transmogrified into Hawthornthwaite. Whilst it is by no means proven, the Hay- spelling may perhaps provide a clue to a person's descent from our branch of the family when in Slaidburn, whilst Haw-s may connect up, if at all, with our family in its earlier days in Over Wyresdale to the west.
Pronunciation has no doubt varied much over the years. As recently as 1964, Alfred Ian was able to say that "the pronunciation all over the fell today is Hathunut". In about 1960, I heard Hawthornthwaite Fell referred to as Hathunut, and once, whilst out beagling in the Forest of Bowland, I did myself meet a farmer who called himself Hathunut. But I have never met a Hathunut since, and rural old-timers I have spoken to recently appear to have no memory or knowledge of this ancient pronunciation, except in Over Wyresdale itself. It seems it has gone out of use, but is still remembered – just.