More Cornish surnames from placenames

The following three surnames all seem to have originated as the names of places. I say ‘seem’ as in the case of the first, it’s difficult to pin down the actual place involved.

Tingcombe looks very much like a placename. There is a Tincombe nature reserve near Saltash and also a Tincombe House at Topsham near Exeter. But I have no evidence for the existence of these placenames in the medieval period. What we do know is that the element ‘combe’ is more common in east Cornwall and Devon and this was exactly the area in which the name Tingcombe or Tinkcombe first made its presence felt. It was found at Landrake, not far from Saltash, in the 1580s. While a brace of Tinkcombes appeared (and then disappeared after a century) much further west at Penzance, this surname was most common around Saltash and near Looe. It then dispersed quite widely in the later 1700s. As a result, its distribution in 1861 offers few hints of its origin in south east Cornwall.

Unlike Tingcombe, there are a multitude of places named Towan, Cornish for sand dune or more generally seashore. Several of these might have given rise to the surname which indubitably has multiple origins. In the 1500s and early 1600s it was found scattered across the land from Gwinear in the west to Padstow in the east, although by the mid-1600s it seems to have become confined mainly to the Camborne-Redruth district.

Tredwen was one of the most common Tre- surnames in the early 1500s. However, its frequency had declined to a level in 1861 that meant it didn’t qualify for inclusion in The Surnames of Cornwall. Let’s remedy that. The surname arose from a single place – Tredwen in Davidstow on the northern slopes of Bodmin Moor. This was originally known as Riguen (1080) or Rigwyn (1296), but by the 1400s had become a tre- name through folk etymology. The name is Cornish, from rid and gwyn, meaning white ford, or possibly pleasant ford or even Gwen’s ford. Meanwhile the surname had probably become hereditary by the late 1300s in this part of Cornwall. It then scattered far and wide, and surprisingly quickly, being found across a wide swathe of the region in the early 1500s. This distribution thereafter contracted so that by 1861 the surname was found in just three districts: mid-Cornwall, where it had had an early presence, around Penryn, where it first appeared around the 1610s and at Penzance, which appears to be the result of a later migration.

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