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Whincup is surname, originating in England.

Origin of Whincup[edit]

The origin of the Whincup name is not known for certain. The earliest references found to date are in the 16th century in Yorkshire (Spofforth, Collingham, Copgrove) and Lincolnshire, and with a large separate branch in Suffolk (usually spelt Whincop).

Surnames originated in the 12th and 13th centuries and primarily came from one of four sources:

  1. Occupational e.g. Archer, Baker, Carter, Farmer, Mason, Smith, etc.
  2. Place associated e.g. Deighton, London, Newton, Preston, York or more loosely Brook, Dale, Hill, Pond, Rivers, Underwood etc.
  3. Patronymic e.g. Edmundson or Edmunds, John-son, Richard-son, Thom-son.
  4. Nicknames e.g. Green, Long, New-man, Short, Redhead, Round.

The Place name, Wincup[edit]

The surname, Whincup could well derive from a place (see below). As to the origin of the place name, Wincup, the reference books give two possibilities : From Winkup, from Winkhope. A wink was a draw or well. Hop was old English for a hoop. In place terms this might mean a round enclosure or ring or round hollow. Another reference guide mentions a Viking origin and a translation that means “gorse bush”.

The Surname’s origin in a place name[edit]

The surname is most probably place-associated from either of the two possibilities above. The families called “Wincoppes”, “Whincuppes” and “Winchoppes” seem to have been of farming stock. Perhaps their strip/strips of land were associated with one of the above descriptions when, in the medieval period, they were adding a second name to distinguish the Williams and Johns that lived in a particular village.

Germanic Origin?[edit]

One reference not fully explored is that of the name Whincoop/Wincoop, which seems to be of Dutch, German or Scandinavian origin. The Germanic name Wijnkooper means a wine cooper. The earliest references to Whincup and variants appear in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Suffolk and no other counties at all, that is in the east coastal region. Could this be a pointer to the origin? However, there are no foreign-sounding Christian names amongst the very early Whincup references which, as we know, often pass down several generations, suggesting either there is no Dutch connection, they anglicised very quickly or the connection is much further back.

Instances of the name Whincup recorded[edit]

The Whincup name does not appear very often in surname-origin textbooks. On the odd occasion when it does occur it is spelt Winkup, but the pre-1600 spelling was more likely to be Whincop, Wyncoppe, Whinkopp, Whinkcoppe, Wyncope, Whyncope, Whyncup, Wynchope, Whincoppe, Wyncopp or Winchop, rather than Whincup. Even as late as 1746 Richard of Spofforth used the name Whincop and had all eight of his children baptised Whincop.

Three of the very earliest references come from Wills. There is a Peter Wynchope of Lynton who was buried at Spofforth (possibly the family’s home village) in 1558; he mentions a wife and children. A Henry Wyncoppe of Swyllington died 1552. A William Wyncope of Knaresborough died about 1549, "to be buried within the sanctuarie of our lady at Knarisburghe"). These three were probably mature men who would have been born about or before 1500.

It would seem the name possibly began as sounding like Whincop. It is possible an early family moved to Lincolnshire, to Norfolk and then to Suffolk, keeping the Whincop pronunciation, whereas in Yorkshire it gradually changed to Whincup. The early spellings are not really important as very few people could write, never mind spell, but they would have tried to spell phonetically. All the evidence points to a Win-cop sound.

According to K H Rogers book, Vikings and Surnames, in which he discusses the origins of surnames, there is a brief reference to Whincup being derived from an early place name Whincop, the name being of Cumberland origin, but more research is needed on this. The Domesday Book has been checked for any reference to a medieval Whincop hamlet, village, settlement or field name, but Cumberland is not well covered. Many hamlets will not have survived the centuries and if Whincop was a field name it may not even be documented. Or it may derive more from a topographical feature rather than a named place. In old English the word “hop” is a type of valley. Little work has been done on the Whincup study of place names. This is worthy of more research and there is plenty of literature about. There is an “English Place Name Society”, and some very good reference works and place-name dictionaries. In one reference book there is mention of a computerised database of place-name material being compiled at the University of Nottingham. A current Ordnance Survey map of Cumberland, shows a hamlet/farmstead named Whincop. Research in local libraries and the record office did not produce any further information. There are no very early Whincup / Whincop parish register references in Cumberland.

The Cumberland Quarter Sessions (Coroner's Inquests) in 1762 looked into the death of Elizabeth Benson, aged 30, who died walking from Whincop in Birker to Boot in Eskdale, when she tried to ford Birker Beck at the site of a footbridge which had been destroyed by earlier floods, and was swept into the River Esk and drowned. This shows Whincop was a place in 1762 but does not show when the place was established.

All the evidence points to a West Yorkshire origin, as the further you go back in time the less mobile people were. A rough way of establishing origin is to look at the geographical distribution of the name. Even today a trawl of telephone directories gives a preponderance of Whincups in Yorkshire; a similar distribution characterised IGI parish record references; and this was continued in the Census details for 1881 and 1901.

Many surnames were common to many villages - like smith, baker, green - and they have a multi-placed origin. Some names are unique and can be traced back to the origin of one family. As the early Yorkshire Whincup references are so tightly contained rather than being widely scattered, it is likely it originated from one family farming a piece of land on the “Winkop” ( the hollow, near the well, covered in gorse). The Suffolk branch is as yet unconnected but earlier references are concentrated around Bungay. There is a John Wyncop of Bungay (1560) who baptises several children. Another interesting point is that there are some early clergy references to a Robert Whincoppe of Great Melton in Lincolnshire, baptised 1540 with a father named John (who would have been born about 1510), and perhaps the clergy were a little more mobile than the average yeoman. It is possible the origin may be in Suffolk, bearing in mind the proximity of the Low Countries, and a branch may have migrated northwards instead of the other way round.

A couple of recent theories which fit with the above but are as yet unsubstantiated are:

  1. Place name origin. There is some high ground near Ribston (near Hunsingore, to the east of Harrogate) that used to be called Whincop Hill. Perhaps the family lived/farmed near the “gorse (whin) covered hill”.
  2. Occupational. A gatherer of gorse. However most occupational names tend to end with “er” such as Farmer, Carter, Thatcher, Tyler, Potter, Brewer; and I would expect occupational-originating names to be more widespread in origin. The names Chandler, Smith, Baker, Cooper, Joiner, Carpenter, etc., all being occupational, have multiple origins as many villages would have had these occupations. I guess if we read deeper into surname origins some occupations will be localised, or at least the name given to what they do may be of local origin.


The best guess remains that the name Whincup is a place-name origin surname, associated with a gorse area where a family or families lived and farmed.

Notable Whincups[edit]