Origins of the Surname of Hope - Section 2.1.


2.1 The Scottish Border Hopes - Part 1 - prior to 1296 AD.

(In 1016 the northern border of Northumbria was moved south to the River Tweed and the Northumbrian inhabitants north of the river found themselves in Scotland - the area we now know as the Scottish Borders.  For more about the Scottish Border connection with Northumbria including the founding of the Scottish Flag and indeed also the founding of the Scottish Nation see Kingdom of Northumbria page on this site.)

It is probable that at least some Hope families living in what is now the Scottish Borders are descended from Angles that populated the Kingdom of Northumbria (c400 -1100 AD.).  Northumbria  stretched from the River Humber in the south up to the Forth estuary in the north. including the eastern part of what is now the Scottish Borders.  However it is possible that there are Hope families to the west in Dumfries and Galloway who could have Nordic roots see the map at foot of this page.   

The name of a hope as a topographical feature - a narrow enclosed valley - came up the north east part of England c500 AD, probably via the Keilder valley, where many hopes can be found in the valleys of the North Tyne, when the present day Scottish Borders was part of the Kingdom of Northumbria.   The narrow side valleys of the River Tweed and it's tributaries appealed to the residents as perfect for the appellation of hopes.   The name spreading westward along the Tweed and its main tributaries the rivers Teviot, Yarrow and Ettrick and probably even over the water-shed to the River Annan. - the River Tweed being the main means of communication across the region.   The area covered becoming known as the Ettrick Forrest.  To a lesser extent the name also spread along the smaller northern tributaries - Leithen Water, Gala Water, the Leader and the Black and White Adders which had their sources in the Lammermuir Hills in the Lothians.  The name of Lammermuir means the moor of the lambs. Over the Lammermuir watershed can be found the Hopes Water and associated reservoir, the Hopes Water flowing north to join the River Tyne (Lothians Tyne!).   However this is not the most northerly record of the Border Hope name - this is the site of the ancient 13/14th century chapel dedicated to St Catherine Of The Hopes.   This was on the southern slopes of the Pentland Hills and the remnants of the chapel are under the waters of the Glencorse reservoir.  St Catherine Of The Hopes was named so as not to cause confusion with another St Catherine in Edinburgh who was named St Catherine Of The Kaimes(Hills).   In the records there is the usual variation of the spelling of the Hope of our St Catherine - Hoippes, Houpis, Houp and Houpes.

The hopes - the valleys - were named, some with Hope as a prefix but more usually as a suffix.   Were the hopes with Hope as a prefix named by people who usually communicated in Latin or French and hence had the noun first?   We know that Hopecarton was managed by the Cistercian Monks of Melrose.    Examination of these names show many Easterhopes, Westerhopes, Summerhopes, Winterhopes etc.   These were obviously pastures associated with a hill sheep farms.   These are similar to the names of Eastfield, Westfield, Springfield, Sommerfield etc which would be pastures associated with farms with flat pastures.   However one unique feature is Winterhope which would have provided shelter for flocks against the prevailing winter storms.  An interesting example is Dryhope which would be a hope well above any flood lines and used for the storage of hay etc and also possibly sanctuary for farm animals such as cattle, horses etc in the event of severe flooding of the lower pastures.   Another example is Midgehope which was presumably a hope plagued by flying insects.   The naming of the hopes converted a topographical feature into a locality name.

View of St Mary's Loch at the head of the Yarrow valley.   The burn entering the loch in the foreground is the Summerhope Burn that originates in Summerhope.   Directly opposite amongst the clump of trees is Bowerhope farm at the entrance of Bowerhope - the hill on the left is Bowerhope Law. Just a few miles north of this idyll is Dryhope (pronounced Dreep).

The Hopes apart from being essential land boundary markers for land charters etc were probably also named so that the source of revenue derived from the area could be identified.   Also so that the origin of the wool and fleeces could be established so that relevant tenant farmers, shepherds could be renumerated for their efforts.   Actual branding of the sheep by means of a brand applied by a hot iron was unacceptable as this would detract from the quality of the fleece.  The alternative to branding would be the cutting of notches out of the sheep's ears and marks on the horns ie rings and notches to identify the animals with probably the incising of initial/initials of the owner of the land.  This procedure was continued into the twentieth century with the marks being entered into a log-book, in order to identify on which hirsel of the farm the sheep usually grazed - the word hope having died out.  Indeed the practice carried into the twentyfirst century with the tagging of livestock with plastic tags crimped to the ears which can be read by a computer.    The Monks of Melrose were probably the first to identify and record sheep records as part of the wool business - they would have had no idea that they were innovators of a practice that would last for centuries!   Apart from being able to reimburse the appropriate farmers etc the records would assist with selective breeding programmes to improve the quantity but also the quality of the wool and also improve the quantity and quality of milk for the important by-product of milk/butter/cheese.  This practice would also apply to cattle that provided the important hides.  Hence the names of the Hope valleys associated with sheep would be recorded and became well known.   The lands controlled by the Monks of Melrose were very extensive in the Tweed Valley including land at Hopecarton near Tweedsmuir in Peeblesshire and also elsewhere such as Eskdale.  

Circa 1100 AD the requirement for Surnames came in.   This was so that everybody could be identified as part of the formal structuring of the administration of Scotland.    Those in the wool producing business would choose surnames like Shepherd, Wooler, Shearer, She(e)rman, etc and also I believe Hope.  Also named Hope valleys would be adopted by the land owners hence the number of  surnames with Hope as a prefix or suffix that appear on the Liber Melrose, Liber Kelso,and Other Sources.  Also the Ragman roll of 1296 etc.  The earliest mention of a named valley is in the Liber Melrose where in the reign of King Malcolm IV (1153-1165) a W. de Lindesia de Fauhope is listed.  I wonder if Fauhope is an early reference for the family of Faw who became well known Scottish Border gypsis?  The surname Hope by itself would appear later.  Those involved in the hide trade would adopt names such as Herd, Skinner, Tanner, etc.

Scottish history records that during the Golden Years of the reign of Alexander III the wool trade through Berwick flourished with both Flemish and German cloth factories being established in Berwick.  The noted Historian Simon Schama describes Scotland during Alexander' reign as a flourishing Kingdom.   The prosperous maritime port cities from Aberdeen in the north to Berwick in the south, shipped hides and wool and housed the same mix of local artisans and foreign merchants and established a place in the dynamic trading economy of the North Sea.

The commencement of the Wars of Independence would herald the beginning of the end for the wool/hide trade as the Borders region became a war-zone.   Berwick became part of England and the port denied to the Scots.   The Border Abbeys, including Melrose were duly laid to waste by English armies.   The main port in southern Scotland was now Leith the port for Edinburgh enjoying the dynamic economy of the North Sea previously enjoyed by Berwick, as mentioned above   Is it sheer coincidence that John Hope the progenitor of the Edinburgh Hope dynasty owned property in Leith?

The word hope as a topographical feature is very localised in this area and could account for the Border lands being one of the heartlands of the surname.


If the Hope families of the Scottish Borders are descended from Angles in Northumbria where did the Hope families in Cumbria come from?   There must be quite a few according to the surname profiling map on the Hope origins page.  The profiling map also indicates a significant number of Hope families in the south-west of Scotland in Dumfries and Gallaway that could be outliers from the Borders but could also have Nordic roots similar to those in Cumbria - map below.    



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Scottish Borders Hopes after 1296 AD