The Origins of the LOMAS Name
The name Lomas is very well established in Derbyshire, especially in the Chapel-en-le-Frith area, where there have been Lomas families recorded since 1432. In nearby Lancashire, in the area near Bury, the name was recorded even earlier, starting in 1210. Apart from these Lancashire and Derbyshire Lomases, there are no other examples of the name anywhere in England before 1496.
So what does the name mean and where did it originate? The name Lomas is not the description of a job (like Smith or Carpenter) or a father's name (like Johnson or Jackson). It is most likely a place name (like London or Derbyshire), but where is this place called Lomas?
Today there is no place called Lomas anywhere in England, the nearest existing today is Lower Lomax in Lancashire, and indeed it is in that area of Lancashire that we suppose the Lomas name was first used. At the time, it was called "Lumhalghs" (pronounced "Lum'ash"), and was to be found to the east of Bury, east of the Roch River, and west of present day Heywood.
How do we know this? Well, the two main sources for me have been the excellent Lomas Family web-site run by Joe Lomas in Regina, Canada, and an American book called the "Descendants of Joseph Loomis in America", first published by Elisha Loomis in 1870 and then revised in 1909. It includes a thorough analysis called "The Loomis Family in the Old World" by Prof. Charles A. Hoppin, which looks in detail at the English origins of the name Lomas.
Variations on a Name
In England, for the past couple of centuries, the name has uniformly been spelled "Lomas", but three or four centuries ago it was variously spelled Lummas, Lommas, or Lomes. Earlier still the names were Lumhales, Lumhals, Lumals, Lomas, Lomax, Lummas, Lommas, Lomes, Lummys and Loomis. All these names are considered to be variations in the spelling of one original name, and the spelling now well established in England is "Lomas", while the spelling adopted in the United States is "Loomis".
First Mentions of the Place called Lumhalghs
The web-site for the present day town of Heywood, Lancashire states that the earliest known record of any place within what is now Heywood was in a charter dated AD 1210, just over 150 years after the Norman Conquest, and found in the "Lansdowne Manuscripts" at the British Museum.
The original was written in Latin, and the full text translation can be found on the web-site, but what we are interested in is this part:
... one piece of land in Hep which is called Lummehalenges, divided as follows:- That is to say, from the rivulet which falls into Blackwell, through the centre of the moss as far as Meresache - as the land divides itself as far as Guledene, and from Guledene to the water of the Rached, together with all rights pertaining thereto in wood, in plain, in meadows, in pastures, and in waters, and with all common rights of communication, with their livestock with the same ville, wheresoever the livestock of my men communicate with the same ville of Hep...
The spelling of the place names mentioned here has changed over time, but most of them have survived.
Hep (or Hepe) is Heap, Lummehalenges (or Lumhalghs) has become Lomax, Guledene is now Gooden (near Hopwood), and the Rached is the River Roch. The locations of "Blackwell" and "Meresache" remain a mystery. So this 1210 charter suggests that "Lumhalghs" is east of Bury and east of the Roch River (and, although it doesn't say it, presumably west of Heywood (Hewode)).
On the right is shown "A Plan of Lomax in Heap" from 1785, which again interprets "Lomax" as being to the east of Bury and west of Heywood, and so in the same place as the original Lumhalghs.
The following are labelled and their locations shown on the map: (1) Lower Lomax, (2) Higher Lomax, (3) Heady Hill, (4) Charles Town, (5) Lomax Woods, and (6) an unnamed street on the 1785 and 1847 maps but now called Higher Lomax.
In modern day terms (from 1851 onwards) Lumhalghs is in the same location as modern day Lower Lomax, Higher Lomax and Lomax Wood.
Etymology of the Name
The word "Lumhalghs" is Saxon in origin. In Lancashire and Derbyshire, "lum" means "a deep pool by the bend of a river", while "halgh" in Lancashire means "low-lying level ground by the side of a river forming a part of the floor of a river valley". So it seems that "lum" and "halgh" are nearly synonyms, and perhaps one was used to give emphasis to the other.
The hamlet of Lummehalenges or Lumhalghs or, subsequently, Lomax was once located in Lancashire, midway between Bury and Heywood, within a large bend in the River Roch. The original hamlet no longer exists, but in later years the northern part of this property, which had the lowest elevation and was closest to the river, came to be known as "Lower Lomax", and the more southerly portion, several hundred feet higher in elevation, became known as "Higher Lomax".
According to an 1851 map of the area, the property contained about 75 acres. It is unknown whether there was in fact a deep pool in this part of the river, but with the bottom of the gorge covered in shrubs and trees, a portion of Lomax existed within a sharp bend of the river, and with the low-lying meadows adjacent to the river, the descriptive term "Lumhalghs" is certainly satisfied.
Pronunciation of Lumhalghs
The letter "h" is often silent in English, the "al" was pronounced in Old English as though it were an "au" in modern British English, the "gh" in "halghs" is pronounced in Lancashire today as though it were "sh". The Old English pronunciation of "Lumhalgh" in Lancashire was thus probably "Lum'ash", with primary stress on the first syllable, but in some areas was also pronounced "Lum'agz". The pronunciation changed over the years so that it finally became Lomax (pronounced in Lancashire today as Lum'uks). The dialects of different regions of England resulted in various pronunciations, recorded phonetically by clerks in old records as "Lumaus", "Lummas", "Lomas", "Lumhales", "Lumhalx", "Lomax", "Lummys", "Loomys", and "Loomis".
First Mentions of People called Lumhalghs
It is probable that people started being called "of Lumhalghs" between 1200 and 1250.
The first documented example of a person from Lumhalghs appears to be "Rico de Lumhales", from Pendleton, Lancashire (about 8 miles south of Lumhalghs) in 1333. Others were: Thom. del Lumhalgh (of Wigan, 1381); Henr. lumhalghus (of Wigan, 1381); Ric. lumhalghus (of Wigan, 1381); Richard de Lumhalghs (1391); Radus del Lumhalges (1435); Oliverus del Lumhalges (1435); Galfridus del Lumhalges (1435); Thomas del Lumhalge (of Whetyle/Whittle, 1435).
Around 1500, in a dispute at Middleton (about 5 miles south of Lumhalghs), two people called Lomas testified, a "Lawrens Lomal's" and a "Richard Lumals", both of the parish of Bolton.
After 1500 the family appears in various parts of Lancashire, and the following item from 1608 first mentions the variation into Lomax, in a transaction at Little Lever, some 7 miles west of Lumhalghs: Close Roll, No. 1883, 5 James I Indenture dated 28 July 1608, between Gyles Aynsworth of Aynsworth, Lancs, and "Thomas Lommas alias Lomax" of Little Lever, parish of Bolton-in-the-Moor, as to the sale of certain tenements.
In 1533 reference is made to "John Hargrave of the Lomeshagh".
Parish registers in the area didn't start until around 1590, with the following people from Lumhalghs then being registered as Lomax: 1576: John Lomax of Heap;1587: John Lomax of Pilsworth;1587: Richard Lomax of Pilsworth;1588: James Lomax of Pilsworth;1588: Margaret Lomax of Prestbury;1590: Christopher Lomax of Bury;1590: Jeffery Lomax of Heap;1592: James Lomax of Bercle;1592: Isabella Lomax of Heap;1593: Oliver Lomax of Walmsley;1593: Owen Lomax of Preston;1606: John Lomax of Gloributts.
According to Joe Lomas's site, various documentation recorded movements out of Lancashire:
- 1386: Henry Lunhales to Herefordshire (this strain died out);
- 1394: Roger de Lumhale to Yorkshire (this strain died out);
- 1423: Thomas Lomys to Somerset (this strain died out);
- 1432: Thomas and Richard Lumhales to Derbyshire;
- 1496: Sir Richard Lumhalx, rector of Surlingham St. Mary church in Norfolk.
The 1432 migration led to the Derbyshire Lomas families, while the 1496 migration eventually led to the only Loomis family in England, which then emigrated to America in 1638. Thus it would seem that any other Lomas strains in England either originated directly from Lumhalghs in Lancashire, or from their offshoot in Chapel-en-le-Frith in Derbyshire.
Arrival in Derbyshire
Arrival from Lancashire into Derbyshire is first noted in 1432 at Chapel-en-le-Frith, in the High Peak Hundred, six miles north of Buxton:
- 1432: pleas of the Forest of Peak 13 Henry IV to Henry VI (1412-1432) Duchy of Lancaster Rent Roll. Belvoir Castle Records (pages 187-265) Chapel-en-le-Frith Rents of Assize: "Thomas Lumhales" and "Ric Lumhales";
- 1466: in a Derbyshire Charter (Bradburne, No. 395) a power-of-attorney is recorded from "Laurence Lumhale" and Laurence Parker to Thomas Brewster for lands in Bradbourne and Hartington;
- 1504: in a court roll of the Duchy of Lancaster for Castleton, Derby, number 427-41, "Ricus Lumalls" is presented and fined four pence for not appearing as a juror.
Evidence of the evolution in Derbyshire of the family name from Lumhalghs to Lomas can be seen:
- 1585: Duchy of Lancaster, Court proceedings Vol. XCIII—H. No. 3 Nicholas Heathcote in an action of law against "Nicholas Lomas" over lands in Hartington;
- 1578: "John Lommas" of Wirksworth, Derbyshire, in an action-at-law;
- 1616: Parish Register of Chesterfield, Derbyshire: "Ralf Lomas" of Glasswell and Mary Cresswell" were married;
- 1641, Parish Register of Longstone, Derbyshire: "Henry Lommas" and Parnel Mellor, were married 10th February;
- 1689-1702: Court of Quarter Sessions, held at Chesterfield, "George Lomas" of Chapel-en-le-Frith was fined for assault.
The probate records for Derbyshire and Staffordshire contain 21 Lomas wills between 1533 and 1651. One of the earliest references is a letter of administration granted to widow "Margaret Lumalls" of Youlgrave, Derby in 1533.
Just over the border into Staffordshire at Alstonfield, which is near Ashbourne, Derbyshire, the following burials were recorded:
- 1541 Sep 19, Margaret, daughter of John Lomas buried;
- 1542 Feb 18, James, son of Margaret Lomas buried;
- 1545 Apr 9, John, son of Emot Lomas buried;
- 1545 July 10, Joane, wife of John Lomas buried.
Lumhalghs according to the Loomis Families of America
Before proceeding we need to return to the book "Descendants of Joseph Loomis in America", first published by Elisha Loomis in 1870 and then revised in 1909, which includes an analysis called "The Loomis Family in the Old World" by Prof. Charles A. Hoppin, which looks in detail at the English origins of the name Lomas in England.
"There is no question as to the exact locality in Lancashire that was called Lumhaulgh, or the Lumhalges... This is certain because there has been only one locality that has had the singular distinction of being known, from sufficiently remote times, by such a form of this name. The locality is that before referred to as Haulgh (only of recent years united with Tonge and called Tonge-with-Haulgh) in the parish of Bolton, Lancashire. A study of this very ground in Bolton, even in this day of its modern development, reveals the ancient features essential to the haulgh in the river vale. Tonge is on one side of the river, with Haulgh opposite; the two are set in two angles between the three rivers, Croal, Tonge and Bradshaw. As to Lum, it is still the name of a section in Bolton now to be identified in connection with "Lum Street""
Although I have used much data in the previous analysis from this thesis by Prof. Hoppin, I do not concur with his identification of the physical location of Lumhalghs!! Unfortunately, he did not include analysis of the 1210 Charter in his work, which specified the actual location of Lumhalghs as being east of Bury, and which I believe to be true. He asserted instead (see his original words on the right) that part of present-day Bolton was the location of Lumhalghs, and that it was located "between the rivers Croal, Tonge and Bradshaw near the town of Bolton". This is some 8 miles west of its true location.
This was based on his belief that "Lumhalghs" was in reality the place called "Haulgh" near Tonge, Bolton. He then used the etymology of the word Lumhalghs to justify his decision. He effectively looked for a nearby place that fits in with "lum" ("a deep pool by the bend of a river"), and "halgh" ("low lying level ground by the side of a river forming a part of the floor of a river valley").
It was a nice idea but in reality a complete leap-of-faith. So I abide by the earlier discussion based on the 1210 Charter that identified the location of Lumhalghs as being east of Bury, east of the Roch River, and west of present day Heywood.
Finally, a word about any possible Spanish origins. The Spanish word "loma" means "little hill", while "lomas" is the plural (hills). In California, which was originally settled by the Spanish, there are many examples of the word "Lomas". For example, I took a photo standing next to the entrance to "Lomas Santa Fe Estates" near San Diego, while a road in Hollywood, Los Angeles was called "Las Lomas Ave" (which of course just references the hills in that area).
In the "Loomis of America" paper, there are various theories that some Spanish sailors were shipwrecked in Lancashire in 1588 from the Spanish Armada and were the originators of the name Lomas in England. Although a romantic idea, I don't think there is any substance to this theory. As previous stated, the Saxon word "Lumhalghs" is mentioned in a Charter in 1210, some 378 years before the Armada, and so the name was well established a long time before.
The above analysis lends credence to the original Lomas name being Lumhalghs (Lum'ash), and that this was a place in Lancashire just east of Bury. There were no other Lomas families in England before 1500 that did not come from Lancashire or Derbyshire. So I would suggest that "my" Lomas strain that was first identified in Hellidon, Northants in 1644 originally came from either Derbyshire or Lancashire.
10 September 2022