Our first Worden ancestor in North America was a man named Peter Worden (ye elder.) The first record of him found on this continent is mention of his name in the Plymouth Colony Court Records of January 7th, 1638/9.

Listed as "Old Worden," he was one of four men apparently discovered at Yarffiouth, on Cape Cod. The notation is that he and three other men were "excepted against," undoubtedly meaning that they were there without the authority of the Colony.


The second documentation of his America was another Plymout_ Colony Court 5th of March, 1638/9, at which time his to the Court for probate. The date of February 9, 1638/9.


presence in North Record dated the will was presented Peter's will was


Most fortunately for our purposes Peter's will revealed that he had only one son, also named Peter Worden, whom he named as his heir and executor. And he revealed the location of his former home in Old England, byoequeathing to his son, Peter, all his ". .lands, Leases, Tennements with goods movea_le and unmoveable in the Town of Clayton in the County of Lankaster." The full name of Clayton was (and still is) "Clayton-Ie-Woods". The County of "Lankester" is now Lancashire.


Thus we have had the great good fortune of having very early documentation of Peter's presence in Yarmouth, Cape Cod, in January 1638/9; his will dated February of the same year; evidence of his death by March 5th; the name of his only son and heir, and the location of his former home in England.


Oliver Norton Worden (see "Dedication") uncovered this information in 1868 and brought it to light through the publication of his book (Reference 1.) The records remain in the archives of the Plymouth County Court Commissioners, South Russell st., Plymouth, Massachusetts.


with these facts to guide us we are pointed in the right direction for further research about Peter's (and our) English ancestors.




Ref. 1: Oliver Norton Worden, Some Records of Persons by the Name of Worden, printed for private publication by the Railway Press of J.B. Cornelius, Lewisburg, Pa. 1868.






Over a period of many centuries names of places have frequently been derived from terrain or topographical features sufficiently unique to identify them. Thus we find      such       places as Land's    End, High      Point,       Stone

Mountain, Great Falls, Forked River, Grand Rapids, and



Man-made structures have had a similar influence, such as in Walton (Wall Town), Castleton, Bridgeton, Mill Town, Harper's Ferry, and Bath.


Often a combination of natural formations and man­made structures serves to give a place a meaningful name, such as Mountain Bridge, Castle's Peak and Valley Forge. There is strong evidence that a place named Werden 'was one of these.


English has been, and still is, a vibrant, moving, changing language. Individual words were not picked out of a hat. They came from some source, generally for good reason.


It has been said that the English language is a soup,

made up of many foreign tongues, lacking consistency in spelling, pronunciation, and grammatical rules; the most difficult of modern languages to learn. Whether this be true or not, or to what degree, the fact remains that the etymology of most English words has been quite orderly and

logical. Dictionary definitions generally detail their source and evolution. A word may have been derived from Latin, Greek, Anglo-Saxon, Danish, Old or Modern French, Old or Middle English, or any of several other languages, passing from one to another, picking up changes along the way, until we have its modern version. This also appears to he true in the development of Werden as the name of an ancient English settlement.


Having been pointed by Peter Worden, ye elder, toward "Clayton, in the County of Lankester", our interest lies in present-day Lancashire County, situated in the North of England, its western edge lapped by the waves of the Irish Sea.


Three principal rivers flow into the Sea, each with an industrial center at its mouth. From north to south they are the River Lune (City of Lancaster); the River Ribble (Preston); and the River Mersey (Liverpool).


7Just south of Preston lies the settlement known as Clayton-le-Woods. Those who live there receive their mail through "Leyland, Preston." And a stone's throw from Clayton is the site of the ancient hamlet of Werden. Its specific location today is somewhat in doubt. If one

should ask directions to "Werden", he might get no answer, unless he were fortunate enough to have asked a member of a local historica! society, who might be able to provide a general idea of where it was. However, Werden is clearly shown on what is called "Saxton's 1577 Map of Lancashire, a copy of which follows. Note that Leland, Claton, and Werden (as there spelled) are in close proximity one to the others.


Another map, drawn for Lord Burghley in 1590, is said by J. J. Bagley, in his A History of Lancashire, to

be the second oldest map of Lancashire. By deduction, therefore, this 1577 map of Saxton's would have to'be the oldest.


The land between the Ribble and the Mersey rivers is low and flat near the seacoast, rising gently to the east until one comes to the pennine Chain, an extensive system of hills in northern England, running north and south through several counties. The Encyclopaedia Brittanica (hereafter "EB") states that the name is probably derived from the Celtic pen, meaning high, as appearing in the Apennines of Italy and the pennine Alps. The Pennines of England rarely exceed 2000' in height, and are broken into strings of hills, as Saxton's map would indicate. There are two sections of the Chain formed by a gap created by the Aire and Ribble Rivers. (EB).


As the land rises eastward, increasing elevations have caused brooks and rivers to flow westward into the Irish Sea, rounding the hilltops and cutting valleys into the terrain It is this last feature of the landscape which takes on significance in our story.


      Mr. George L. Bolton of Clayton-Ie-Woods, Leyland,

Preston, County Lancashire, (see Acknowledgements) 'vTote (Reference 1):




(by George L. Bolton)


"The study of place-name meanings is a fascinating one and much has been published on the subject. A foremost authority is Eilert Ekwall whose book on the


8place-names of Lancashire contains an entry for Worden. He quotes early documentary references as follows:



) )

) ) de 11erden )


ante 1250 (N.B. actually 1190-1210)










) 1524


"It may be mentioned. that "broc" equates ,vi th the modern word "brook" frequently used locally (**) to denote a smallish stream. Ekwall goes on to interpret the name as be ing formed from t\vo Old Engl i sh (* * *) elements, "wer"

= a \veir or dam and" denu" = a deep valley.


   "There is no reason to question Ekwall's interpretation

(as) most of the streams in this particular area (**) have cut deep, steep-sided channels in the land, which falls away to the west.


"What is in question is the exact placement of the stream with the weir but a detailed discussion of the matter would seem to be out of place in the present work, although it will be touched on again later.


"Thus we see that a natural topographical feature, a

stream with a weir (man-made?) has given rise to a place name which is then applied to a manor, a small hamlet, and as a surname to a family or families. The exact dating of these events is not possible, but the place-name would exist several centuries before the Norman Conquest (1066)."




My notes: ** area near Clayton, Lancashire

           *** Old English = prior to 1100, end of the

               Anglo-Saxon period.


The name of "Werdenebroc" is most interesting in that the three syllables mean (1) weir (2) in a valley (3) in a

broo]_. The Old English "denu" meaning valley, is the same as the Danish word, "denu", also meaning valley. Danish influence  on         what  is   now  the            English    language was

profound. It began with Danish raids on Britain in the 8th century, heavy invasion in the 9th, a renewal in the early 10th. It reached its peak when Canute (the Great), son of


9the King of DenmarJc, conquered England early in the 11th century. He became King of all England in 1016, and ruled well until he died at age 40 in 1035. He had the great distinction of being at the same time King of Denmark, Norway and England. Thus when we speak of Old English, we are also speaking of heavy Danish influence on the Anglo-Saxon language.


(We may remember having heard in our that King Canute's, courtiers kept telling power was so great that the ocean waves would command. He went to the ocean's edge to see if true, only to have the waves' motion continue, feet very wet).


school days

   him his

stop at his

this were

getting his


Webster's lists:


New International Dictionary, 2nd Edition,


"den, noun (Anglo-Saxon denn, akin to Anglo-Saxon denu, valley)." It gives as one definition, " a narrow glen; a ravine; a dell - survivinq as a suffix in place names. British". (Underlines mine). Worden, indeed, is consistent with this statement.


In regard to "denQ." and the "den_" in Werden_broc, it is also interesting to note that Webster's section of the dictionary entitled "A Brief History of the Enqlish Lanquaqe" mentions changes made near tl.1e end of the Anglo-Saxon period (1100) in this manner:


"The change '!::>y ,vhich, in grammatical endings, the older vowels, a, 0, u, have passed into e, is found in High German from the beginning of the twelfth century; it began even earlier in our language." It would appear,

therefore, t_at the Old English (and the Danish) denu underwent this sort of change, and became delle in the name Werdenebroc. Obviously the "broc" (brook) was dropped, and Werden, with the suffix already mentioned, became the accepted spelling.


The first syllable, ",ver" is also of interest, and should be explored. _vebster I s oefini tion of a weir is IIA dam in a river to stop and raise the water for the purpose of conducting it to a mill, forming a fishpond, or the like." Its derivation is long, going bac]c to Sanskrit, but incluces "Middle English wer, from Anglo-Saxon wer, akin to Old Norse ver,... .."


There appears to be little doubt, if any, that the place named Wer_en derived its name from the fact that there was, at that point, a weir (dam) in a valley. The




use of the 'word "weir" appears to be more common in

England than in America. The English author, Thomas Hardy, in The Mayor of Casterbridqe, concerning 19th century country folk in _vessex, uses the vlOrd "weir" repeatedly in reference to pools of water in the brooks and rivers. "Dam" ,vas never mentioned. I have not noticed any common usage of "weir" in the USA.




So far, we have gone back to Plymouth Colony where we have found records of Peter Worden, ye elder. They have pointed us across the Atlantic to "Clayton, in the County of LanJ<:2ster." Near Clayt°J:? vTe have 0een led to the area in which lay the ancient valley hamlet of Werden, its name drawn ages ago from the fact that there was a weir of some significance in the water which flowed through it. As time went on, the spelling evolved to Worden, which became also the name of the local manor.                                     .


The dictionary defines manor (from Middle English maner, from Old French manoir, to stay or to dwell) as:


"I. In England, in feudal times the district over which a lord held authority and which ,vas subject to the jurisdiction of his court,. .."


With this understanding, just where was the village of Worden, and where was the Manor of Worden? Again we turn to the writings of the English historian, George L.

Bolton, who wrote for Wordens Past in its issue of January 1987:


THE EXTENT OF WORDEN             by George L. Bolton


"Whilst still on the subject of Worden as a place, a little may be said about Worden Manor and Worden ViII.


"The Manor of Worden is easy to identify but difficult to understand. Its early boundaries have recently been worked out by the present author and are shown in Sketch A. It will be seen that physically it lies, or rather lay, Ivithin the boundaries of the township of Leyland, at the eastern end of that township. Its immediate post­Conquest history is quite obscure but about 1205/1211, it was granted to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem

(Knights Hospitaller) although the actual tenant was left undisturbed. In 1212 the tenant was Hugh Bussell and in 1270, William Bussell granted it to the Andertons of Eux_on and it remained with that family for nearly 300




years. In 1534 it was sold by them to Sir Henry Farington of Farington and Leyland. The Faringtons made Old Worden Hall their principal residence and the Manor of Worden became absorbed in the general manor of Leyland.


"The viII or hamlet of Worden is less easy to identify. It obviously consisted of an unknown number of dwellings located near to, probably on the western side of, the manor of Worden. The slight evidence available

suggests that the viiI was never very great in extent. _ was enouqh, however, as has been shown, to give rise to a surname in use today many thousands of miles from its oriqinal source. " (Underlines by WWW).




Ref. l_ G.L.Bolton, THE MEANING OF THE NAME (of Worden), published in WORDENS PAST, Vol. VII, #3, January 1987. P. 334.




R. Hersey




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