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Ancient history (7)

Coat of Arms

The Scholes pedigree  to be found in Records of the Parish of Whitkirk shows a coat of arms, which can also be found in Barwick church. This is on a memorial to William and his son Richard Vevers of Scholes, who died in 1744 and 1766 respectively.
 
 
Coat of arms and memorial to William and Richard Vevers
 
This coat is described in the Whitkirk records as "quarterly or and gules on a bend sable three escallops argent" (a shield quartered in gold and red with a black diagonal band bearing three silver scallop shells), which is also the arms of a much more ancient family who in the late 1400’s were called Evers or Evre or Eure. Note however that in the picture above, the three scallop shells are not silver but gold. I wondered whether it had been touched up at some time and done wrongly as the colours seem quite fresh, but nobody in Barwick knows when this is likely to have happened.

The memorial also has a motto "pensez bien devant vous parlez" (think well before you speak) and a crest on top in the form of a griffin.
 
There are several examples of where the name Evers and Vevers alternate. Robtus Evers als Vevers appears in a Rothwell burial record in 1615 and there are a considerable number of other Evers in Rothwell. There is also a will for Robert Shanne of Barwick dated 1584, which alternatively makes reference to William Evers and William Vevers, whom I assume to be the same person.
 
The same coat of arms also appears in a pedigree of the Evre or Evers family in Ducatus Leodiensis, a history of Leeds published in 1765, though it doesn’t link to the Vevers family. The version below is from a later Victorian publication and more readable. You can see the crest is in the form of a coronet with four pearls on it which signifies that one of the holders is a baron. Often the terms coat of arms and crest are used interchangeably; the coat of arms is the shield and its decoration, whereas the crest is the part that sits on top. The crest  tends to vary from generation to generation, but the coat of arms is a much more formal device. I'm presuming that this coat is that  used by William the vicar of Leeds.
 
 

Pages from Ducatus Leodiensis - a history of Leeds

In the text above the pedigree it refers to William Evers, vicar of Leeds, and Lord Evers. The pedigree itself calls the family members de Evre or simply Evre. Many other sources however call them Eure.
 
There were two vicars of Leeds called William Evers, and the later one was also stationed at Whitkirk for a time, though the main bulk of the family lived then in North Yorkshire and County Durham.

It would be handy if one of these vicars was the source of the Vevers family, but at that time all priests answered to Rome and were supposed to be celibate. We know that this didn't always strictly apply, but neither are credited with offspring in the pedigree.  

Some care has to be taken with coats of arms, as there are many examples throughout history of persons assuming coats of arms to which they weren't entitled to. York has several "heritage" shops which will run off a coat of arms for your name, and failing that some other name which is a bit like it.
 
The College of Arms in London is the governing body for this and they inform me that they have no record of William Vevers of Scholes registering his arms with them, though there would be no requirement to do so. More likely it's an informal adoption though could connect via a minor line, and maybe the gold scallops were deliberate so as to distinguish this line from the main Evre family.

Richard Vevers who left his estate to Richard Wilkinson and insisted on him changing his name to Vevers, also commanded him to take up his coat of arms "if it be lawful". I don't know whether he ever did, but I'm presuming that Richard believed his use of the arms was lawful. 

Lloyds Evening Post 17/6/1791 reported that William Vevers and William Roberts robbed Thomas Beresford, a woollen draper. William Vevers is described as a young gentleman  who had been at Westminster School. His mother, no longer alive had kept a boarding house there. He claimed to be related to a noble lord.
 
In the family tree above, Hugo fitz John (Hugh son of John) inherited the manor of Stokesley, North Yorks in about 1290. The estates included land at Easby and Ingleby, which are villages nearby to Stokesley. Hugo's father had married twice, secondly to Alda de Balliol, daughter of Roger de Balliol, and so had acquired the titles to Alda's inherited lands. His family already owned the manors of Werkworth (Warkworth) Northumberland, Clavering in Essex, and Evre, nowadays Iver in Buckinghamshire, and since he'd spent most of his life at Evre, he took the name Hugo d’Evre, and it was this name that stuck, and subsequently mutated to the other forms seen today, notably Evers, Eivers and Eure. His elder brother Roger got the main properties and also was made a baron, and the king demanded that his line become known as Clavering. Hugo's younger brother Robert also took the surname d'Evre and went to live in Belton in Isle of Axholme, Lincolnshire.

I give here a link to Google maps which shows where these early manors are.
 
The pedigree in Ducatus Leodiensis goes back several generations to before the Evre name arrived, and in another publication, Visitations of Yorkshire, we find much the same information but going back to the Norman conquest. In this the originator of the family was Eustace de Burgh, whose son John Monoculus (One Eye) was Lord of Knaresbough, and this has to be treated with care, because it states that Eustace's coat of arms was "quarterly or and gules" at a time when, I am told, the armorial system had not yet been introduced. Historical research shows that formalised coats of arms arrived in the early 1100's, so any films you see with King Arthur and his knights with shields with recognisable coats of arms on have got it wrong. None of the soldiers on the Bayeux tapestry have recognisable coats of arms.

It was the fashion in the 14th century to devise coats of arms for long dead kings. Edward the Confessor who died in 1066 had one and it appears quartered in later monarch's coats of arms even though it had never existed during Edward's lifetime.

The original Visitations of Yorkshire was a report by the heralds on noteworthy persons who bore arms, around the mid 1500's, and contains a section on the Eure family giving details as known at the time. The book was republished in 1875 and a much expanded version of the Eure pedigree was added, the details supplied by John Mathews, probably round the time of publication, so I can't tell how accurate his information is.  

Visitations of Yorkshire also shows that after the demise of the Evre family, descendents on the female side resulted in a marriage to Rev. Philip Stanhope Smelt, a nephew of the Earl of Chesterfield. It may be recalled that the son of Richard Wilkinson/Vevers, the Rev Richard William Vevers married Frances Stanhope Derby also from this family, so I think the two vicars would have known one another. Whether this is coincidence or merely points to the fact that the gentry moved in very tight knit social circles over quite long distances I can't say. 
 
One surprising detail that I found in a copy of Visitations of Yorkshire in Sheffield library, was that a letter had been attached about the Eure family. This letter was from another descendant of the family, a Mr Paget Swain of Guildford and was addressed to the editor, telling him about a couple of details that he'd missed. This was an original letter, which doesn't appear in two other copies of the book I've consulted so this must have been the editor's or author's personal copy! I've no idea how it came to be in the library. It enabled me to sort out detail which I report on the Eivers site, which you'll come to later. Interestingly, Paget Swain had a family motto "Vince Malum Bono" which I later discovered on a building in Malton.
 
 
I was once told that the original Vevers came over from France with William the Conqueror and was granted some land as a reward. This seemed plausible because Vevers sounds French. However I now know that it's unlikely that they were called Vevers, Evers or Evre or any of the other variants at that time (I know of 26 variations so far of persons who were using the coat of arms). In those days the patronymic system applied to many families. One was given a christian name at baptism followed by fitz (meaning son of) then their  father’s name. In modern parlance I would have been called Andrew fitz Stanley. In this instance Evre didn't get used as a surname until the late 1200's.

 The original Clavering arms was a shield quartered in gold and red with a diagonal black band (in heraldic language this is described as quarterly or and gules a bend sable), and Evre of Stokesley added three silver scallop shells (escallops argent), whereas Evre of Belton added three silver fleur de lys.

Here you can see the arms of Rauf d'Evyr who is one of the persons in the pedigree above. It's taken from Basynge's book held by the College of Arms and this is dated 1395 so the artwork has been very well preserved.

 (image courtesy of College of Arms B.22 f.70 v)
       
Evre to Vevers

I do not have solid evidence for a connection between my Vevers line and the Evre family in the above pedigree. There was a John Eure or Evre who left a will at Thorner, the next parish to the north of Barwick, in 1430, and this may also be the same person as John Ewerie who prepared the Barwick accounts in 1418. Even earlier there is a legal document involving Margery Ever and land at Potterton, Kiddal, Hunslet and Barwick in 1383.  

It's known that the manor of Potterton was held at various times by the Neville, Langton, Ramsden and Danby families and that each of these families intermarried with the Evres. Possibly a son of the main Evre family ended up in Barwick and led to the Vevers line. Margery Ever may have been a widow from a local family who'd inherited property from her husband. It would later have gone to her children, who had not yet come of age, but the effect was to secure long term moderate prosperity for the family in the Barwick area. As you can see I'm only guessing at this. 

Also from the College of Arms are two coats of arms from Writhe's Book. This was drawn up starting in 1480 and completed in the early 1500’s. These are just sketches but are both clearly the same coat of arms as as the one of Rauf d'Evyr and  the first says Lord Vevers, the second Sir William Veverys and I suspect that they are both referring to the first Baron Evre.

 (image courtesy of College of Arms M.10 f. 38r)

 (image courtesy of College of Arms M.10. f. 32r )

In the pedigree above I've numbered seven barons, starting in 1544. There is detail on these and and the early Claverings in The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant by Gibbs and Doubleday.
 
In the civil war several of the family were killed in battle, and the peerage ended up down a distant branch and the final baron Ralph Evre died in 1707 without an heir. He'd been a draper's assistant on £20 per year prior to getting the title, and although his income went up to £100 once he got the title this wasn't much for a lord to live on.
 
In the 15th century, the family were clearly very wealthy. Ralph Evre built Witton Castle in County Duham around 1410.  The castle fell into ruins and was restored in Victorian times.

Witton Castle, Co Durham

The family's main property in the mid 1500's was at West Ayton castle near Scarborough.
 
 

 Ruins of West Ayton Castle near Scarborough
 
They later moved 18 miles to Malton where they built a great mansion but this didn't last long. When the 5th baron William Evre died, the next in line George Evre did not inherit the property, only the title. Instead it went to two of William's cousins, Margaret Danby and Mary Palmes. Unfortunately they could not agree on how to share it. After several years in the courts the judge ruled that they should pull the house down and divide the building materials. All that remains today is the gatehouse which has been converted into a hotel.
 
 
The Old Lodge Hotel - former entrance to the main residence in Malton
 
A smaller but still impressive building, York House, still remains in another part of town, and has the Vince Malum Bono motto on the gate along with the initials H.S. York House went to the Palmes sister, and Elizabeth Palmes married Henry Strickland, whose initials these are. York House along with a lot of other Malton property is now owned by Fitzwilliam Estates. 

York House in Malton

Motto on York House gate
By the late 1660's, the properties at Ingleby, Stokesley and Easby had already been sold.
 
I've accumulated a lot of information on the Evre/Eure/Evers family but as it mostly happens after when the Vevers family is likely to have diverged, I'm not detailing it here. 


What's in a name? 

The village of Iver was listed in the Domesday Book as Evreham and was later shortened to Evre. There are three theories as to where it got its name:

1. from the old English "eofor" meaning wild boar, hence it was a location where wild boars were to be found
2. from the old English "yfre" meaning an edge or a steep slope
3. from the Norman knight Roger d'Iveri. 

Ward and Block in their book A History of the Manor and Parish of Iver, published in 1933, prefer the first meaning. Iver is not far from Heathrow airport in London, just off the M25, and is where Pinewood Film Studios are. Since Iver lies in very flat land the second explanation seems unlikely to me (though this is the explanation given on the Iver parish council website). Roger d'Iveri was known locally and had manors in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, but not Evre. Also it was not known for villages to change their name after the Norman conquest.

However Roger d'Iveri came from the French region of Evre or Eure in Normandy, and this was also named after the wild boar. I think some of the Eure family of today may have derived from this source.

In England several other places appear to have a wild boar connection, including Everton, Evesham and even York. York is more complex; in Roman times it was known as Ebor or Eboracum, then later became Eoforwick. The Vikings called it Jorvik and later this became York. The house of York under Richard III had a wild boar on the flag. Note how close Ebor and boar are, though there are arguments that there is confusion here with Eburos, a Roman official (who I suppose may have taken his name from the boar) and the word for yew tree.There is no suggestion that the family from Iver had any connection with the naming of York, though at least three members of the family in the pedigree above were appointed to the position of Sheriff of Yorkshire.

A further thought has occurred to me. The word ivory is, according to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary derived from ebor, which they say came via Latin from the Coptic word ebou meaning elephant. The wild boar however also has small ivory tusks so perhaps both boar and elephant are named after their tusks.

I haven't yet got to grips with the way spellings and pronunciations have altered over the years. Evre  became spelled Eure, and ultimately, current members of the family call themself as you'd expect rhyming with cure. However if you look at some old inscriptions from the 1600's you'll find the letter U used where you'd expect it to be pronounced V. I've seen a gravestone with the word euery which is their spelling of every. A portrait of the Duke of Deuonshire can be seen at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, and I've found lots of examples of names such as Hargraue, Reeue, and even Veuers, though why there was a V at the beginning I don't know.

I can only presume that U was originally used as a substitute for and pronounced as a V, though there are also alternatives from earlier times where a V was used where the word was pronounced with a U sound.

In Yorkshire it's quite common to drop consonants in every day speech, so one might pronounce over as ower, so it's easy to see how Evre (already pronounced Eever) could become Eeyer and then Eeuer.


Then of course there is the W - pronounced as a V in Germany, and Dickens had his characters using a W sound in some words where a V is the norm (Uriah Heap was wery wery humble). People from India will usually pronounce a V as a W, hence Wewers.  And it can be seen there was distortion from B and F into a V.
 
Although the link to Evers and Evre seems quite strong, a book on English surnames suggests that Vevers or Veevers comes from vivares, a dealer in victuals, ie a grocer. Another explanation, if the connection to Evers can be established, gives an alternative through the name Ewers or Ewerie, which means water carrier.

Yet a further explanation comes from fevre, which was an iron worker, a blacksmith.

Vevers or Veevers could also derive from weaver. Surnames thus are seen to have several origins, firstly from the name of the father with for example Fitzwilliam (or Macdonald  or Johnson), secondly from the person's home village or town, and thirdly from their occupation (Baker, Smith, Carter etc). 
 
The Huguenots
 
In my searches I've frequently come across the name Evers - you'll see above that there were quite a lot in Rothwell. This is a quite common name on the continent and there are suggestions that the Vevers line might have originated from Huguenot immigrants. The fact that Vevers and Evers predates both of the Huguenot migrations in the late 16th and 17th centuries, and very few are known to have made it up north makes me doubt this.

 Irish link

Some detail from my researches can be seen in an article I wrote for the Eivers web site. The Eivers, Ievers and other variants are an Irish family, some of whom I believe have a common origin along with the Vevers family, though I think it's likely that Vevers branched off well before the Eivers went to Ireland. See The Evre Family of Buckinghamshire and Their Eivers Descendents at Eivers website.

I discuss in the Eivers site how the peerage may not be extinct. What happened was that after Ralph died in 1707, it was presumed that no more heirs were alive. It could only go to a direct male descendent of the first baron Evre but it is possible there may be still be a blood line in existance in Ireland. This isn't likely to benefit anybody in the Vevers line, since even if a connection can be proven it's likely to have diverged earlier than the first baron was created in the 1500's. Also I don't think any of the current Eure family who live in North Carolina will connect either. I think it's  possible that they descended from Robert d'Evre who went to the Isle of Axholme in Lincolnshire in the late 13th century.

I have also considered the possibility of the name continuing through an illegitimate line. Quite a number of Evers are to be found in Malton after the main family had disappeared. This could equally likely have happened with the early Potterton family which possibly became Vevers.

It's interesting to think that the Vevers family may descended from a noble family but it's worth remembering that everybody is said to have descended one way or another from Alfred the Great.

It's fairly easy to calculate that going back to my great great great grandfather, 57 people (men and women) from non Vevers families  have gone to make me, and if you go back to 1500 we're up to about half a million, so there's not a lot of original Vevers blood in my lineage. Far less the blood of the ancient Evre family. If you keep going back to the Norman conquest I, and everybody else living have more ancestors than the entire population of all the people who have ever lived.

Given that this is not possible, it indicates that most lines have interbred probably several times over.

There are numerous examples of illegitimacy and where the name follows the female line, and as we see with Richard Wilkinson, a name change. There are also a lot of people who we can only guess at because of gaps in the records, and who have left nothing to indicate that they ever lived. However because Vevers is a relatively uncommon name we have a better chance than most following the lines back to an early age. 
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