Peacock Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Peacock Meaning
Both
the
Peacock and Pocock names derived from the peacock bird.
These surnames probably developed initially
as nicknames, possibly for someone who wore bright clothes or was seen
as a
vain strutting person. It has also been
suggested that the name was occupational, describing a breeder of
peacocks, or locational,
describing someone who lived by the sign of a peacock.
The Peacock spelling
(which predominates) has tended to be found more in the north of
England, the
Pocock spelling more in the south – although there are no hard and fast
rules
on this.

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Peacock Resources on
The
Internet

Select
Peacock Ancestry

England.
The
history here divides into Peacock
and
Pocock
.

Peacock.  Peacock has
tended to be a northern name, although there have been exceptions. Reginald Pecock, the 15th century theologian,
was probably born in Wales. He was
appointed Bishop of St. Asaph in 1444, but was then found guilty of
heresy in
1457 and banished. Stephen Peacock
of
the Haberdashers’ Guild was Lord Mayor of London in 1533.
He it was in
his gown of crimson velvet who led Anne Boleyn on her way to being
crowned Queen that
year.

Generally, the Peacock name has been strongest in Yorkshire, extending
north
into Durham. One early mention of the
name was in 1536 when Anthony Peacock, the bailiff at
Arkengarthdale
near Swaledale, took part in the Pilgrimage of Grace.
The story did not end happily as Peacock was
hanged in chains on Richmond Moor and then executed for his role in the
uprising.

Peacock
has been concentrated in Swaledale in this part of north Yorkshire that
used to
be called Richmondshire. There were 48
Peacocks living at Arkengarthdale in the 1881 census.
Peacocks were also at Marrick and Reeth near Grinton. Thomas
Peacock
of Marrick was recorded at 102
years old on his death in 1762.

Lead
mining took place in this area in the 18th century and the
Peacock name was
to be found in mining villages such as Thwaite and Muker.
Ralph Peacock was a lead mining superintendent
in Swaledale in the early 1800’s. His
son Richard made his mark as a railway engineer and co-founded in 1853
the
locomotive company of Beyer-Peacock.

It
was clear that Peacock was a very familiar name in Swaledale as it
cropped up in the local Beeth Bartle Fair
ballad composed in the 1870’s.

Pocock. The early spelling here appears to have been
Pocok in Somerset and Pecok in Essex.

The Pocock name in Berkshire dates back to
John Pocock who was buried at Hampsted Norris in the county in 1493. Edmund and Laurence Pocock, vicars at
Chieveley and Brightwalton in the late 1500’s, were probably brothers:

  • Edmund’s
    son, Dr. Edmund Pocock, was the
    great Oriental scholar at Oxford, the
    first scholar of Arabic of any stature in England.
  • Laurence’s
    line included the
    clergyman Thomas Pocock, also known as a diarist, and Sir George Pocock
    who had
    a distinguished naval career, defeating the French three times in
    Indian waters
    during the 1750’s.
“For
these services he received the gratitude of the East India
Company and a statue was erected of him outside India House.”

His son George was created a baronet.


The
Pococks
in Bristol were thought to have been related to the Chieveley Pococks
in
Berkshire. The first in their number was
Nicholas Pocock, a respected mariner and merchant of Bristol who was
made a
freemen of the city in 1742. One of his
sons
Isaac fought at sea and distinguished himself at the time of the
American
Revolutionary War; while another son Nicholas became well-known as a
marine
artist. The line from Nicholas extended
to Isaac, also a painter, and then to Nicholas, a cleric and historical
writer.

Scotland. Peacock is also a Scottish
surname. The Peacock name was first found
in Dumfries
and later in Edinburgh and Perthshire. However,
the main concentration of the name has been in the Glasgow area:

  • there
    is a
    preserved document of the last speech and confession of Alexander
    Peacock,
    shoemaker from Glasgow, who was executed in 1743 for the cruel and
    bloody
    murder of Margaret Marshall his wife.
  • while
    John Peacock was a rope manufacturer
    in Paisley in the late 1700’s. William
    Peacock took over another rope business there in the 1840’s and this
    business
    continued under his name until 1990.

Ireland. Peacocks in Ireland
are likely to be of either
Scottish or English ancestry, the former being mainly found in Antrim.

America. The Peacocks in America may have English,
Scottish or Irish origins. Perhaps the
first to arrive was
William Peacock from England who came on the Hopewell in 1635 and settled in
Roxbury, Massachusetts. He had one son.
John
Peacock, also from England, came to the New
Haven
colony in Connecticut in 1638. But he had
no male heir.

Later arrivals were:

  • John
    Peacock
    from Scotland who came in 1714 and made his home in
    Burlington
    county, New Jersey. There are a large
    number of Peacocks in New Jersey descended from John Peacock.
  • and
    Thomas Peacock from Ireland who came to
    Long Island in the 1760’s. He fought in
    General Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War and afterwards
    settled
    in Newburgh, New York. He died in 1828
    at the advanced age of 98.

Peacocks
in the South
. The earliest arrival
may have been Thomas Peacock from Scotland who came to Maryland
sometime in the
1730’s and whose descendants settled in Loudoun county, Virginia. Peacocks from Virginia and North Carolina
spread across the South. Many of these
Peacocks
are covered in the Peacock Family Association of the South – which
began life
after the publication of John J. Pierce’s 1979 book The
Children of Levi Peacock
.

The Rev. Levi Peacock, born in Wayne
county, North Carolina in 1756, served in the North Carolina militia
during the
Revolutionary War and settled down around 1800 in Georgia.
Simon and Zilpha Peacock lived in Wayne
county also at this time. Their son
Robert came to Georgia a little later and there are a large number of
his
descendants today in Thomas county.


South Ahrica. Richard and Maria Peacock from Kent were part of the
Wilson party among the 1820 settlers to South Africa. They made
their home at Somerset East in the Eastern Cape. Some of the
later Peacocks moved to Queenstown where Alfred Peacock served as
mayor.

Australia and
New Zealand.
John Jenkins Peacock had been
born in Sydney of
convict parents in 1798. An enterprising
young man, he acquired a master’s ticket and involved himself in
coastal
trading where he worked hard and became very successful.
However, in 1843 he over-extended himself and was forced to sell
off almost all of his assets.

He and his son John moved to New Zealand the next year. They made
their base in Lyttelton, South Island. Son John proved himself a
successful merchant who managed to hold onto his money and retire early.

Another Peacock family made good down under was begun by William
Peacock from London, an early settler in South Australia in 1838.
He started a tannery and wool-brokering business which was carried on
by his sons Joseph and Caleb. Caleb was mayor of Adelaide from
1875 to 1877.

 

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Peacock Miscellany

Peacocks as Lead Miners.  The Peacock name is associated with Swaledale in north Yorkshire and the lead mining that went on there.  The hey-day of lead mining was probably the 18th century.  However, this occupation was hard and very dangerous, not least because of the lead poisoning.  Most lead miners died at a relatively young age as a result.

The forebear of one family was Thomas Peacock from Thwaite who died in 1753 at the age of sixty or so.  That was not a bad age for those times.  But then the lead mining took its effect.  His son Ralph died in 1763 at the age of fifty and his grandson Mark died in 1796 not quite making his 40th birthday.

The Tombstone of Thomas Peacock in Swaledale.  Grinton is a parish on the banks of the Swale river in Swaledale.  At its
church of St. Andrew, there is a tombstone that reads as follows:

“In memory of
Thomas Peacock of Marrick who died on December 4, 1762 at the age of 102
and
Dorothy his wife who died on December 6, 1710 at the age of (left
blank).Also in memory of
Simon, their son, of Reeth who died on July 14, 1767 at the age of 58
Ann his wife who died on June 30, 1797 at the age of 78
and Catherine Orton her sister who died on March 24, 1811 at the age of
99.

Blessed are the dead which die in the
Lord.”

Thomas Peacock was probably no lead miner! 

Dr. Edmund Pocock the Great Orientalist.  Edmund’s
father, named Edward, was a clergyman and had been the vicar of
Clievely in Berkshire before moving to Oxford where Edmund was born in
1604.

Edmund became a scholar at Corpus Christi.
Early during that time he made contact with some English
merchants then
active at Aleppo in the Levant.   So
fascinated was he by his exposure to the Oriental world that he
travelled there
in 1630, meeting up with the Turkish and Arabic people based in Aleppo
and
procuring many religious and other documents in their language.  He managed to obtain an Old Testament
document that was written in Arabic; and Arabic became the subject of
his greatest
industry and application.

His reputation in England grew.  Support
came from William Laud, the
Archbishop of Canterbury, which whom Pocock corresponded regularly.  However, these were dangerous times.  The Civil War was raging, the
Parliamentarians were gaining the upper hand, and Laud himself was
executed in
1645.   Pocock was deprived of his
Oxford
tenure at Christ Church.

It was not until the Restoration in 1660 that this
tenure was restored to him.  That year he
published his Arabic version of Hugo Grotius’s treatise concerning the
truth of
the Christian religion.  It had a wide
circulation.  Edmund Pocock lived on
another thirty years.   During that
time
he travelled and corresponded widely, cementing his reputation as the
great
Orientalist. 

Peacocks and Pococks in the 1891 UK Census

Peacocks (000’s) Pococks (000’s)
Yorkshire    2.4 London    0.8
London    1.4 Berkshire    0.5
Durham    1.2 Sussex    0.3
Lancashire    0.8 Kent    0.3
Sussex    0.4
Kent    0.3
Cheshire    0.3
Elsewhere    3.7 Elsewhere    1.4
Total   10.5 Total    3.3

Peacocks outnumbered Pococks by more than three to one.  The
Peacock name, although concentrated in the north, did spread across the
country.  Pocock was largely a name of London and the
southeast.
Sussex and Kent seemed to be ambivalent as whether they liked Peacock
or Pocock.

John Peacock in New Jersey.  Stealing children,
or “kidnapping” as it was called, to send them to America where they
would be sold to planters, was a common practice in the 17th and 18th
centuries.  It was encouraged by the
captains and owners of the vessels who would derive profit from this
slave
trade.

Family
lore has it that John Peacock from Glasgow was kidnapped by his
guardian uncle and sold off as an indentured servant.
On his arrival in America in 1714, John, at
the tender age of sixteen, was sold again to a mill-owner, John
Gosling, who
lived at Medford in Burlington county, New Jersey.
John learnt to saw logs.

In
time, after he
paid off his passage, he became a free man.
He remained on good terms with John Gosling.
Squire Gosling in fact presided over his
marriage to Elizabeth Prickitt in 1723.
He and his wife developed several sawmills and, on his death in
1759,
John had become a man of considerable property. 

John Jenkins Peacock and the Convicts.  John Jenkins
Peacock, the son of a convict, had done good in colonial Australia.  The money he made from his merchant and
shipping enterprises enabled him to build a fine Georgian stone
farmhouse in
the Hawkesbury district of NSW in 1826.
This house became known as Peacock’s.

Five
years later, he and his family endured a
frightening home invasion.  One evening
three
runaway convicts entered their home, put the family under guard, and
plundered
the house for an hour, taking cash and anything movable.  After
releasing the family, the convicts
requested and received refreshments before leaving with their plunder
in
Peacock’s boat.

Early
the next morning,
Peacock set off with a posse and tracked the convicts to a cave where
they were
regaling themselves on his stolen wine, bread and meat.  Guns
were fired and one convict was shot in
the arm (which later had to be amputated), whilst the other two seemed
to think
better of it and surrendered.  Peacock was able to recover his
stolen goods and
his boat.

 


Select
Peacock Names

  • Reginald Pecock was a leading English theologian of the 15th century who
    in later life was banished for heresy.
  • Dr. Edmund Pocock pioneered Arabic studies in England in the 17th century.
  • Thomas Love Peacock was an English novelist and poet of the early 19th century, a close friend of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.



Select Peacock Numbers Today

  • 25,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 7,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 9,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

 

Select Peacock and Like Surnames

Nicknames must have been an early feature of medieval life in a family or community as these nicknames later translated into surnames.  People then lived a more natural life than we do today and the surnames have reflected that.

They could be about color (Brown, Gray, Green etc), whether of hair or complexion or other factors; mood (Gay and Moody are two extremes); youth (Cox and Kidd); speed of foot (Swift and Lightfoot); and actions (such as Shakespeare and Wagstaff).  Then there were likenesses to animals (notably Fox and Wolfe but also Peacock) and to birds (Crowe and Wren for example).  And then there were some extraordinary nicknames such as Drinkwater and Wildgoose.

Here are some of these nickname surnames that you can check out.

BirdFoxKiddShakespeare
BrownGayLightfootSwift
CoxGouldMoodyWagstaff
CroweGrayPeacockWilde
DrinkwaterHardySavageWren

 

 

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