Origin of the name of Warburton



      As a place name Warburton is not wholly confined to the Cheshire village. There are in fact several villages and localities of the same name throughout the British Isles and indeed the world. It was therefore considered essential at the outset of the quest to investigate their derivation since the similarity cast some shadow of doubt upon the Cheshire name and, consequently, upon the origin of the Warburton family.

      In the North Highlands of Scotland, near St.Cyrus, lie Warburton and Nether Warburton. This was first thought to suggest that a family branch had left Cheshire at some time to seek their fortune in Scotland. However, upon enquiries, this proved not to be the case. A village or hamlet no longer exists but only two farms of Upper and Nether Warburton. These are all that represent the former lands and Barony of "Wardroperton" now contracted to Warburton. The lands appear to have been part of, or conjoined with the adjoining Barony of Commieston and formerly, in the 15th century, were in joint ownership of the Earls of Montrose and Airlie. The latter name is, to say the least, very provocative for it is coincidental that there should be Warburton and Arley in Cheshire history and Warburton and Airlie in Scotland!

      Efforts to find the derivation of Wardroperton were unsuccessful but it is strongly suspected that the lands had at one time been held in ward tenure; a feudal holding. The area is quite near the sea and on a former course of the river Northesk. It is not beyond possibility, therefore that at one time there may have been a "toon" farm or dwelling of Ropers in connection with the sea or river fishing operations. It is certain that the Warburton of Scotland has no connection with that in Cheshire.

      In Arundel, Sussex, there is a village recorded as Walburgtone in Doomsday Book and subsequently as Warburton or Waburton (see The Place-names of Sussex -- English Place names Society, Part 1, para 3), but no evidence could be found of a link with Cheshire. Similarly, a village named Warbleton, north east of Lewis is called Warborgetone in Doomsday Book, subsequently becoming Waberton, Warbletone and Warbulton (ibid. Part II, pp. 468 - 9).

      Further investigations in Yorkshire revealed the existence of a hamlet named Warburton located close to Emley near Huddesfield, and situated on a high escarpment overlooking the Denby dale. No village, as such, exists today. The name refers to the locality on the ridge. According to local records, "Warburton" meant "Guard or watch tower" and this suggests a link with Aethelfleda's fort dedicated to St.Werberg. A church was built on the site towards the end of the 11th century and later replaced by a cross. It may be that, following the charter granted to Emley in 1253, the cross was removed or rebuilt away from the scarp for the convenience of the market but would still be known as Warburton Cross. It exists today, only as a ruin, for it was almost completely destroyed by Cromwell. Warburton, Cheshire, also had a cross allegedly destroyed in the same manner, but from the information obtained on Emley there is no possibility of any association between them.

      On the other side of the world is the parish and town of Warburton in Victoria, Australia. It is now a well-known holiday resort and is situated on the Yarra river, 48 miles by rail East of Melbourne. In 1860 gold was discovered on the site and very soon a new and large town was built to accommodate the "rush", but soon as the "strike" failed or petered out, the town diminished. The town derives its name in memory of a police magistrate named Charles Warburton Carr. An intermittent river which rises at Goyler Lagoon in the North-east of Australia is named the Warburton. Usually it is dry but has several times carried large volumes of flood water from Western Queensland to fill lake Eyre. The river was so named after Peter Egerton-Warburton (1813 - 89), soldier, explorer, Commissioner of police in South Australia and member of the Cheshire family. It was he who first discovered lake Eyre. His Journal, Journey across the Western interior of Australia, was published in 1875 and records the hazards of the trek in which he and his party barely escaped death from hunger and exposure. He was the recipient of the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society and also the C.M.G. Two mountain ranges also commemorate his name.

      Across in Western Canada is the small hamlet of Warburton. Its population is 512 souls. It has but one church dedicated to St. Matthew and is situated some four miles from Lansdowne, Ontario.

      About 45 miles from the city of Lahore, Pakistan, is the small town of Warburton with a population of 8,000. It is said by the schoolmaster to have been bought by a Hindu, Rai Bahadur Lala Sundar Das Chopra, for 1,100,000 rupees. It was so called after Warburton, an Inspector General of Police, who controlled two or three districts of the undivided Punjab and remembered because he introduced the use of handcuffs. Upon retirement he was appointed an honarary magistrate whose coure and residence was a short distance from the site of the present township and now used as part of the high school property. He is said to have created such a terror that crimewas drastically reduced in the area. His period is not exactly known but is probably the mid 19th century.

      About the year A.D. 626 Oswy, King of Northumbria, was killed in battle by Penda who consolidated the Saxon kingdom of Mercia and made the river Mersey the Northern boundary.

      His son, Wolfrere, who married Ermenhild, daughter of the King of Kent, was converted to Christianity and became the first King of Mercia. Later he recanted with such violence that he murdered two of his sons who refused to foresake their new faith. At a later date, he repentedand sanctioned the entry of two of his children Kenrig and Werberg, into the Church. Kenrig joined a pilgrimage to Rome and there, upon taking Holy Orders, spent the remainder of his life in a monastery.

     Werberg, on the other hand, remained in England and devoted her life to the community. Ethelred, who succeeded her father Wolfrere as King, made her Lady and President of Weedon. She also became Abbess of Ely. In A.D. 700 she died at Trentham, Staffordshire, and was buried at Hanbury near Repton.

     In A.D. 875 she was cannonised and, as a precaution against Danish desicration, her body and shrine were removed to Chester where Queen Ethelfreda built a monstery to her name. The shrine, which was a place of pilgrimage until damaged at the Dissolution, now stands at the West of the Lady Chapel in Chester Cathedral, once dedicated to St.Peter and St.Paul but now dedicated to St. Werberg.

     Werberg was a woman of great faith and piety and many miraculous happenings were attributed to her including the following which occurred at Weedon where she founded the Abbey.

     Shortly after the completion of the buiding a plague of wild geese descended upon Weedon and began voraciously to denude the Abbey lands of herbage. The townspeople horrified at the sight, sought the intercession of the Abbess who appeared and in the name of God commanded the geese to assemble in one place and then be gone. They rose into the air with a mighty flapping of wings but, as the holy woman and the people thought they were rid of them, back they returned complaining that one of their number was missing. Searchers were hurriedly sent out and it was not long before it was discovered that the absentee had passed not only through the state of roast goose but also gibblet pie! However, the Abbess ordered the collection of bones and remnants and by a miracle retored them to flesh, grease and feathers and life and the flock went happily on its way.

     The Saxon Amazon Queen Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred and widow of Ethelred, in her determined struggle against the invading hordes of Danes who had landed on the Wirral peninsula and were pillaging the countryside, erected a chain of fortresses along the banks of the river Mersey. In A.D. 915 one was erected at Warburton ford and named after the virgin saint Werberg. It was not long before it became known as St. Werberg's town or Wareburgtune or Webergtune as recorded in the Doomsday Book.

     It was evidently a place of some importance for in the reign of Ethelred (A.D. 991), of the Danegelt levied on the whole country to buy off the Danish invaders, Warburton's proportion was 10/- (ten shillings) per annum.

     In pre-Conquest times Warburton was divided into moieties held by two Saxon freemen named Earnwig and Ravene. It contained some 480 acres, a hide of cultivated land and the remainder being described as waste.

     Earnwig's moiety was, in the Doomsday survey of 1086, held by William Fitz Tesson, who was probably an undertenant of Fitz Nigell. It is also recorded that there were two Radmen (or horsemen) who among other duties were required to render armed aid or service to their lord, one Border or householder with land and half a plough team or four oxen (probably a tenant or smaller farmer) two villeins who also held land but, being subservient to the former, had to serve aslabourers to their lord and to the larger tenant. The number of serfs is not mentioned.