Hastings Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Hastings Surname Meaning

Hastings as a town in Sussex was first recorded in the Saxon cartulary of 790. The place may have been named after Hasten, a raiding Viking in the area. It is possible that some of his followers settled at Hastings and the name was a corruption of Hasten Ingges (Hasten’s people). 

Hastings of course became famous in 1066 when the Normans under William the Conqueror defeated the English army at the Battle of Hastings. The Hastings name was adopted by Robert de Hastings, subsequent port reeve of the town who was steward to William the Conqueror.

Hastings Surname Resources on The Internet

Hastings Surname Ancestry

  • from England and Scotland
  • to America and Australia

England. The Hastings family which began with Robert de Hastings in Hastings was a powerful and influential family in medieval and Tudor times. From about 1100 they made their home at Ashill near Swaffham in Norfolk. Hugh de Hastings devised the Hastings coat of arms around 1130; and his son William was Steward to Henry II.

The Leicestershire Line. The Hastings family moved from Norfolk to Leicestershire in the early 14th century. In 1461 William Hastings was raised to the peerage as the 1st Baron Hastings and was granted the following year the castle of Ashby-de-la-Zouch in NW Leicestershire. This became the family’s principal residence.

Baron Hastings fell out with Richard III and was executed in 1483. However, his family was to reach the pinnacle of its fortunes in 1529, when William’s grandson, George Hastings, was created the 1st Earl of Huntingdon. But massive debts accumulated by the 3rd Earl who died in 1595 subsequently triggered their long-term decline.

Since that time the family has had in fact a checkered history:

  • Fernandino Hastings saw his family seat, Ashby-de-la-Zouch castle, destroyed by Cromwell’s troops in 1646 during the English Civil War.
  • Francis Rawdon Hastings fought in the American and French Revolutionary Wars and went on to be Governor General of India from 1813 to 1823.
  • his son George Rawdon Hastings caused public furor when he denounced the young Queen Victoria and her courtiers in 1839 for insulting his unmarried sister, Lady Flora Hastings, by implying that she was pregnant.
  • while a generation later Henry Rawdon Hastings blew the family’s considerable fortune on horse racing. He died in 1868, aged just twenty six.

On the death of Reginald Rawdon Hastings in 1926, the Hastings Manuscripts, the family accounts which extended from the 12th to the 19th centuries, were sold to American buyers.

Other Lines.  John Hastings of this family had inherited Abergavenny castle in Monmouthshire through his mother in 1273. His son Laurence was created Earl of Pembroke in 1339. However, the line died out fifty years later. There followed a dispute between two claimants to the title. But the final view was that this line had ended in 1389.

A Hastings family had come into possession of Daylesford manor in Worcestershire (now Gloucestershire) in 1275 and was to remain there until 1709. A descendant Warren Hastings, who made a fortune in India, repurchased the estate in 1788.

A Hastings line started in Oxfordshire with the birth of James Hastings in Chipping Norton, close by Daylesford, in 1726. He became a wine merchant in London. His son James entered the church and was rector at Martley in Worcestershire for sixty one years, from 1795 to 1856. A later Rev. James Hastings spent fifty three years at the parish, from 1891 to 1944.

The earlier Rev. James lived to be a hundred and was the father of three remarkable sons:

  • Thomas and Francis Hastings who both entered the Royal Navy, the former rising to Admiral and the latter to Rear Admiral. Thomas became renowned for his expertise in gunnery.
  • and Charles Hastings, a medical surgeon who founded the British Medical Association in 1832.

A later Hastings line began with Stephen and Elizabeth Hastings at Walworth in London in the 1880’s. Their son Basil Hastings was a playwright of some repute; their grandson Macdonald Hastings a distinguished journalist and war correspondent; and their great grandson Sir Max Hastings in his time a foreign correspondent for the BBC and editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph and Evening Standard.

Scotland. The Hastings name was taken to Scotland under William the Lion in the latter part of the 12th century. These Norman Hastings were once claimants to the Scottish throne. The largest Hastings numbers today are in Dumfries on the Scottish borders. But the name there, as with the Hastings at Morton Thornhill, was probably a corruption of the Scottish Hairstains or Hairstones.

Ireland.  Hastings in Ireland may be either English/Scottish or Irish in origin.

English/Scottish Hastings can be found in Northern Ireland, particularly in county Down. They were Presbyterian churchwardens in Downpatrick from the 1730’s. A Hastings mausoleum dates there from the 1820’s. Billy Hastings, born in Belfast, is the proprietor of the Hastings Hotels Group, the largest in Northern Ireland.

The Irish Hastings has appeared on the west coast, primarily in Mayo and Clare. Hastings here was an anglicization of the Gaelic O’hOistin, descendant of Oistin (the Gaelic form of Augustine).

America. Thomas Hastings departed Ipswich on The Elizabeth for New England in 1634. He and his second wife Margaret settled in Watertown, Massachusetts. They were the forebears of a large number of Hastings descendants in America. An early account of their line was given in Lydia Hastings’ 1866 book The Hastings Memorial.

Among their descendants were:

  • Seth Hastings, US Congressman for Massachusetts from 1801 to 1807.
  • Thomas Hastings, composer of the hymn Rock of Ages in 1831.
  • Lansford Hastings, an Oregon pioneer of the 1840’s who wrote The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California to encourage Americans to move west.
  • Thomas N. Hastings, a member of the New Hampshire Senate in the late 1800’s and friend to Thomas Edison.
  • and Reed Hastings, a co-founder of Netflix in 1997.

John Hastings arrived in Henrico county, Virginia from London sometime in the 1690’s. His descendants migrated to North Carolina and later to Henry county, Tennessee. Another North Carolina Hastings line was to be found in Bedford county, Tennessee. There was as well an early 19th century Hasting in Tennessee, Joseph Hasting or Haston who had acquired land in White county in 1808.

Irish. Many Hastings came from Ireland. John Hastings came to Ohio in the early 1800’s and became a US Congressman there in the 1840’s. James and Thomas Hastings, probably Scots Irish, arrived in America from Fermanagh around the year 1820, James settling in Jefferson county, Ohio and Thomas in Washington county, Pennsylvania.  

Australia.  Irish Hastings also came to Australia. Daniel Hastings and his wife Catherine arrived from Limerick on the Bussorah Merchant in 1850. They made their home in Richmond, Victoria.

Hastings Surname Miscellany

The Hastings Coat of Arms.  The Hastings coat of arms was one of the first coat of arms to be created in England. Its romantic origin centers on an ancestor of Emma de Hastings, namely Hugh de Hastings of Barwell. He had received the Barwell estate in Leicestershire upon marriage to Erneburga de Flamville.

Shortly after 1130 Hugh was in a jousting tournament.  He carried a plain gold shield without markings of any kind.  Hugh noticed that other knights displayed favors from their wives or sweethearts. He approached his wife in the stands and asked for a favor that would bring him luck.  Having nothing suitable on hand, Lady Erneburga is said to have torn off the sleeve of her gown and draped it over the shield of her husband.

Shortly after that, the Hastings sleeve had become the Hastings coat of arms.  It is not known if the sleeve brought Hugh de Hastings any luck in the tournament.

The Hastings Name in Scotland.  George Fraser Black wrote as follows about the emergence of the Hastings name in Scotland in his 1946 book The Surnames of Scotland.

“The old Scottish family of Hastings was a branch of the English family of that name settled in Scotland during the reign of William the Lion. From him they obtained a grant of the lands of Dun in Angus.  Johanne de Hastinge was the lord of Dun and sheriff and forester of the Mearns around the year 1178.  He was still alive in 1210.  His son David de Hastinges married Forflissa, Countess of Atholl, and succeeded in her right to the earldom in 1242.

Meanwhile Adam de Hastenge “had from King William a gift of the lands of Kingledoors in Tweeddale, which he afterwards gave to Arnbroath Abbey.” William, son of Robert de Hastings, witnessed the gift of a stone of wax yearly to the church of Glasgow in 1233 and Sir Robert de Hastangg was sheriff of Roxburgh in 1298.

Some Harestanes changed to Hastings.”

The Hastings Manuscripts.  After the death of Reginald Rawdon-Hastings of Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, the Hastings family manuscripts were sold in 1926 to Henry Huntington, the American railroad and real estate magnate.  They now reside in California.

By the 15th century this family had been firmly established at Ashby-de-la-Zouch and it is Leicestershire that the bulk of the documents in the Hastings Manuscripts relates.

The collection can conveniently be divided into four main sections – correspondence, deeds, estate papers, and family papers.  The Hastings collection is particularly rich in letters.  There are some 5,000 letters written before 1700, twice as many as for the period afterward.

Warren Hastings and Daylesford.  Warren Hastings had dreamed from his childhood and throughout his career in India of buying back the old family estate of Daylesford in Worcestershire where he had been born in 1732.

Miles de Hastings had been granted the manor of Daylesford in 1275.  The manor continued in the possession of the Hastings family until 1709. At that time the Hastings fortunes has been much reduced and Penyston Hastings – together with his sons Samuel, Penyston and Theophilus – was forced to sell the estate to raise needed funds.

Further misfortune followed for Warren Hastings.  His mother Hester died shortly after his birth.  His clergyman father then abandoned him and his elder sister Anne and took himself and his new wife off to live in Barbados.  The poor children, virtually orphans, were therefore brought up by their grandfather and, later, by their uncle.

Upon his return from India in 1785, having amassed a fortune, Warren Hastings set about the business of realizing his dream.  After three years of negotiations he bought back Daylesford, then consisting of a ruined house and 550 acres of land, before engaging Samuel Pepys Cockerell to build the new house.  In all he spent about £55,000 on acquiring and improving the estate.

Warren Hastings also rebuilt the  Norman church of St Peter at Daylesford in 1816, where he was buried two years later.  His wife Marian continued to live at the manor until her death in 1837.

Thomas Hastings Father and Son in Early Massachusetts.  Thomas Hastings, the immigrant in 1634, was a civic leader of his community, a deacon of his church and deputy for the town of Watertown (where he lived) to the General Court of Massachusetts in 1673.

His eldest son Thomas Jr. was anything but.  In 1671 the young Thomas, then aged 19, was accused of fathering a child out of wedlock. While he denied the relationship and asserted that another was the father, Susannah Woodward was quite forthright about their alleged liaisons and “for all of which miscarriages she craved forgiveness.”

Although paternity could not be established, circumstantial evidence and hearsay led to an order that Thomas, Jr. should pay for the maintenance of the child and that his father should assume the financial responsibility.  It could have been a criminal offence.  But his father’s standing in the community brought relative leniency.

The younger Thomas married Anna Hawkes a year later after having moved 150 miles away to the village of Hatfield.  He became a respected doctor there.  Dr. Thomas practiced medicine for some forty years and served as the town clerk for two decades.  His was a frontier practice and, as such, he treated many injuries sustained in skirmishes with the Indians.

His son Thomas settled to farm in Amherst, Massachusetts in the 1750’s.

Mike Hastings the Real King of England.  A Channel 4 TV documentary in 2004 stated that Mike Hastings, a forklift driver in Australia, should be the real king of England.

The documentary suggested that King Edward IV was conceived illegitimately.  Edward’s father Richard of York had been fighting the French at Pontoise when he was conceived in 1442.  His mother Cecily was 125 miles away at Rouen, allegedly in the amorous arms of an English archer. It was thus George Plantagenet, the 1st Duke of Clarence, who should have been the ‘legitimate’ son of Richard of York and hence the next in the line.

The royal line would then have led to Henry Pole, to Catherine Pole, and to her son Henry Hastings, the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon.  Mike Hastings was his present-day descendant who had rejected his aristocratic heritage and departed for Australia in 1960 in search of adventure. Mike died in 2012.

Hastings Names

  • Robert de Hastings was a steward to William the Conqueror in 1066, port reeve to the town of Hastings, and forebear of the Hastings line. 
  • Henry Hastings was a key political player in the Tudor courts of Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth in the mid-16th century.   
  • Warren Hastings was the first de facto Governor General of India, from 1772 to 1785. He was later accused of corruption in his position, but acquitted. 
  • Sir Max Hastings is a British author and journalist. He has been a foreign correspondent for the BBC and editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph and Evening Standard.
  • Reed Hastings is the co-founder and former CEO of Netflix.

Hastings Numbers Today

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 9,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Written by Colin Shelley

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