Wheelock Origins and Alternative Definitions – Part 2

Wheelock Origins and Alternative Definitions – Part 2

23rd February 2020 0 By admin

Second Question: Did the Norman surname “Willoch” or “Willock” become anglicized into “Whelock” and then “Wheelock”?  is Wheelock a Norman name and not Welsh? The following is the opposite argument to Blog # 5

To answer this question, one must consider the origins of all surnames similar to Wheelock (including “Wheelocke,” “Wheeloc,” “Whelock,” “Whilock,” “Whillock,” “Willock,” etc.). Since these surnames appear throughout England, are all of these surnames connected? And how? What is the connection?

Willoch is a Norwegian name with ancestry from possibly Scotland where one finds the name Witloch or Withlock, which can mean white and sea/wave respectively or just garlic (1)

The context of the Norman Conquest of England supports the possibility of ancestral relationships among Norwegian Willochs, Norman Willochs or Willocks, and English Wheelocks, and those areas identified for future research will assist to determine if such a relationship exists. Particularly in light that Kåre Willoch was Norway’s Prime Minister in the 1980s and comes from a distinguished family.

My assumption is that Norwegian Willochs participated in the Viking settlement of Normandy, residing along the northwest coast of France from 800 to 1153 AD.

The Domesday book states: (2)

  • Lord in 1086: Ranulf (of Mainwaring).
  • Lord in 1066: Earl Morcar.

Translated: “The same Randle (Mainwaring) holds Hoiloch. Earl Morcar held it. There are III hides rateable to the gelt [tax]. The land is nu carucates. One is demesne and [there are] nn serfs and n with I carucate. There is a wood III leagues long and I broad. In King Edward [the Confessor’s] time and afterwards it was waste. It is now worth xx shillings.”

Bagshaw in 1850 (3) and the history of Cheshire of 1882 (4) state Whelock gave name to an ancient family, who possessed the manor as early as the reign of Henry II. Upon the death of Richard de Wheelock without issue, in 1439, This manor passed to Thomas Worth, who married the heiress of that family: the only daughter of Mr. Worth, brought it to Richard Leversage, Esq. During the English Civil war, William Leversage sold this manor, of his nephew, then in his minority, to Thomas Stephens, Esq. who continued in possession in 1662, about the year 1786 the Ackers family became possessed of it. In 1850 G.H. Ackers, Esq., was the proprietor.

It is well known that Henry II (5) deployed an army and wrestled the English throne away from his cousin Stephen of England, he strengthened the power and authority of the crown at the expense of the barons. Henry II introduced legal reforms (creating the basis of English Common law), strengthened royal control of the Catholic Church (leading to the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett), and tried to incorporate Wales, Scotland and Ireland into the Angevin empire, Continuing the practice that William the Conqueror started in the 11th century, Henry II transferred land to loyal Norman noblemen.

During the reign of William, the Conqueror, the village of Hoiloch passed from the Anglo-Saxon Earl Morcar to the Norman Randle Mainwaring as per Domesday Book.

During Henry II reign, Randle’s descendants released the village of Hoiloch to Hugh de Whelock: “This Randle was the ancestor of the Mainwarings of Warmincham, co. Chester, and, according to Williamson’s Villare Cestriense, Roger Mainwaring, about Henry the Second time [1154 to 1189 AD] released to Hugh de Whelock all his claim to the vill of Whelock, which he [the said Hugh] held of Richard de Moston knight and [also released him] from suit of mill and court of Warmincham.‟(3&6)

This property transaction begs several questions. Why did Roger Mainwaring “release… his claim” to the village? No cash or other consideration was mentioned, as one would expect in a sale with a transfer of title. Does a release of property mean that Hugh de Whelock was a landholder, and not a landowner? If Hugh de Whelock was a landholder, does this indicate that he was a member of the clerical hierarchy, or assumed an obligation to be one? Did Henry II, a lord or a baron have a role in this transaction? Did Henry II follow the strategy of William the Conqueror and dilute power by dispersing land piecemeal?

Did the Mainwaring family fall out of favour with Henry II and lose their property? Additional research on this transaction in the context of feudal land ownership is required to answer these questions and to determine Hugh de Whelock‟s background and status within the Norman hierarchy.

Changing the Name of the Village from Hoiloch to Whelock Coincides with the arrival of Hugh de Whelock between 1154 and 1189, the name of the village was changed from the native Hoiloch to the Norman name of Whelock. A change in the name was not unusual; after land was transferred, the new occupants were known to change the name of manors and the surrounding village to the family name. “The adoption of the surname was an emphatic way of asserting the family’s manorial rights over the area.”

In the context of the times and adjacent to the County of Cheshire, the Welsh were rebelling against Norman rule, and Henry II Henry set out to stop the rot. He mounted three punitive campaigns into Wales between 1157 and 1163, which reasserted his authority including the Final Battle of Crogen in August 1165 again the Welsh Princes which was only 43 miles from Sandbach.

Little is known about Hugh de Whelock, I can only deduce that he was a Norman and not an Anglo-Saxon. First, the fact that Hugh de Whelock became a landholder or landowner during the reign of Henry II is of great significance. The granting of land to loyal subjects solidified Henry II‟s control over England and instilled a sense of allegiance. While there is no evidence that Hugh de Whelock was a member of the aristocracy, he possibly was a member of the clerical hierarchy (forerunner Civil Service) that Henry II developed to administer the shires (e.g., collecting taxes from the local population or administering the legal system).

Hugh de Whelock status may have been important enough that a lord or baron loyal to the crown recommended, endorsed and approved the release of land from the Mainwarings.

The village may have had some military value (My assumption) and that Hugh de Whelock was entrusted to maintain. The most direct route between Prestatyn Castle and London runs through the area close to Hoiloch, and the village is adjacent to waterways with access to northern Wales.

Second, the given name “Hugh” is derived from the Old French names “Hugues” or “Hugo,” both of which are of Germanic/Frankish origin. “Hugh” was very popular with French nobility and clergymen, (being borne by Hugh Capet, a 10th-century king of France who founded the Capetian dynasty) especially after the Norman Conquest in England. (7)

Published in 1874, The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States of America suggests a connection among the three surnames “Willock,” “Wheelock” and “Whellock,” from Normandy. The citation “M.R.S.” next to this entry refers to a French source document, the “Magn. Rotul. Scaccarii Normanniae” found in the Society of Antiquaries of Normandy. (8)

The least likely scenario is that the Welsh word chwyl-og led to “Quelock” “Whelock” and “Wheelock.” This scenario implies that, as the first Whelocks and Wheelocks migrated out of County Cheshire across all of England, their names were anglicized into “Wheelocke,” “Wheeloc,” “Whelock,” “Whilock,” “Whillock,” etc.

The largely illiterate Anglo-Saxon population of the time identified with tangible objects, and could understand “Willoch” or “Willock” better if the name was broken down into the two nouns “wheel” and “lock.” In that context, it is understandable that the Norman surnames “Willoch” or “Willock” were anglicized into “Whelock” and later into “Wheelock.” The pronunciation of the Willoch‟s surname and its similarity to “Wheelock” makes this a very credible possibility.

The genealogical record does not show that that Hugh de Whelock is the ancestor for all families with similar surnames. There is insufficient evidence exists to support any claim that the surname “Wheelock” is derived from the Welsh language and from the words “cheval-og” or chwyl-og.

To conclude this side of the argument:  It is true that many English towns near the Wales-England border derived their name from either the Welsh or English languages. However, it is my belief that Hugh de Whelock did not follow these conventions. Instead, he arrived in Hoiloch under a set of circumstances that compelled him to re-name the village in his family surname, an action that would demonstrate the loyalty and allegiance that Henry II was seeking. Even if symbolic, a change in name was essential to establish control in an area with a known history for dissention. The absence of credible source documents to the contrary, any notion that derives the name of the family Wheelock, the village Wheelock, and the river Wheelock from the Welsh language or any other native language has to be dismissed as inconsistent with the historical events of that time.

Without a complete genealogical record to show the relationship between the Norwegian Willochs and the English Wheelocks (or families with other variations of the “Wheelock” surname, including “Wheelocke,” “Wheeloc,” “Whelock,” “Whilock,” “Whillock,” “Willock,” etc.), Further research is required some assumptions consistent with the major historical events in medieval Europe.



1.- Norsk slektskalender bind 3, utgitt av NSF 1979. (Norwegian Family Calendar)

2.- The National Archives, Domesday Book

3.- Bagshaw 1850

4.-  Official History of Wheelock 1882

5.- Davies, R. R. (1990). Domination and Conquest: The Experience of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, 1100–1300. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-02977-3

6.- The History of the Ancient Parish of Sandbach, Co. Chester. Including The two Chapelries of Holmes Chapel and Goostrey. By J. P. Earwaker, M.A., F.S.A.

7.- (https://www.behindthename.com/name/hugh)

8.- The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States of America, 2 nd. Edition, Henry S. King & Co., London