Monday, June 20, 2005

Blecca of Lincoln - A Possible Origin of the Blackard Surname

The town of Grimsby, Lincolnshire where we first find the Blackard
family in 1560, has a legend that a man named BLEEKER founded the
town. It is a curious coincidence that the Blackard name was first
recorded in a town said to be founded by a man named Bleeker and
so I did more research on this name.

A researcher hired to research the Blackard family in the
Lincolnshire archives found no name like Bleeker, other than
Blackard in the surviving records. Historical resources indicate
that this BLEEKER of legend was a man named Blecca, who was the
governor of the Roman town of Lincoln. Blecca is a common
Anglo-Saxon name.

Unfortunately, before the earliest surviving church parish records
of 1560 in Lincolnshire, there seem to be only three authoritative
historical sources:

- Bede's Ecclesiastical History
- Anglo-Saxon Chronicles
- Domesday Book of 1086
- Tax Rolls of 1373

It is perhaps a stroke of luck for us that both Bede's
Ecclesiastical History and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles actually
record the name BLECCA or BLEEK in Lindsey, perhaps confirming the
Grimsby town legend.

'This year [AD 627] was King Edwin baptised at Easter, with all his
people, by Paulinus, who also preached baptism in Lindsey, where
the first person who believed was a certain rich man, of the name
of Blecca [prefect of the city], with all his people.'
(from Bede's Ecclesiastical History)

Another source translates the original Latin as saying that Blecca
was living in 627AD when Paulinus made his ministry in Lincolnshire.

"Paulinus preached the word of God unto the Province of Lindsey,
and first of all converted unto the Lord the Governour or Provost
of Lincoln-city, whose name was Blecca, with his family. In which
very City he built also a Church of goodly stone-work, the roofe
wherof being either fallen for want of repaire, or cast downe by
the violent hand of enemies, the walles are eene standing to this
day" [ut inquit Beda II.xvi.]

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has this to say about Bleek:

"A.D. 627. This year was King Edwin baptized at Easter, with all
his people, by Paulinus, who also preached baptism in Lindsey,
where the first person who believed was a certain rich man, of
the name of BLEEK, with all his people. At this time Honorius
succeeded Boniface in the papacy, and sent hither to Paulinus the
pall; and Archbishop Justus having departed this life on the
tenth of November, Honorius was consecrated at Lincoln Archbishop
of Canterbury by Paulinus; and Pope Honorius sent him the pall.
And he sent an injunction to the Scots, that they should return
to the right celebration of Easter.

A.D. 627. This year, at Easter, Paulinus baptized Edwin king
of the North-humbrians, with his people; and earlier within the
same year, at Pentecost, he had baptized Eanfled, daughter of the
same king."

Samuel Lewis in his 1831 "Topographical Dictionary of England"
writes this about Lincolnshire:
"Christianity seems to have been first introduced into
Lincolnshire, soon after the conversion of that sovereign [Edwin
of Northumbria], by the Romish missionary, Paulinus. We are told
by Bede, that Paulinus, after converting the Northumbrians, came
into the northern part of the kingdom of Mercia; that he converted
Blecca, then Governor of Lincoln, and baptized many people of this
district in the river Trent. The see of Sidnacester, which is known
to have comprised the district or province of Lindsey, (although the
site of Sidnacester itself, which appears to have been somewhere in
that district, is a subject of controversy among antiquaries,) was
established in 678, and continued until the latter part of the
eleventh century, when St. Remigius, the nineteenth bishop,
transferred the see to Lincoln."

Fellow researcher, Charles Harris suggested this:"...from the
etymological information you provided recently, the "ard" ending
could mean "guardian of." So the name Blackard might come from
one of Blecca's personal guards. Under feudalism it might also
refer to a tenant who was obliged to protect the lord of the


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