Origin of the Tattersfield Name

Possible Precursors

Most books on surnames and their origins do not mention TATTERSFIELD at all, which is in itself an indication of the name’s rarety.

Some researchers have suggested that it is a “habitation name” associated with the village of Tatsfield in Surrey, England; and the surname TATELESFELD was apparently recorded in Surrey in 1253. This is said to be made up to the Old English personal name TATEL and the Old English FELD, meaning a field or open country. Another suggestion is that it is derived from the personal name TATHERE. If there is any truth in any of these interesting explanations, it is difficult to see why the name disappeared completely from the South of England and began to appear in Yorkshire in the seventeenth century.

Some family members I have spoken to have their own ideas. A Scottish origin has been suggested, for which I have found no evidence. Another interesting theory put forward is that it was a corruption of a Huguenot name which ended in “ville”. Again, there is a total absence of evidence.

Could it have been derived from “tenter field”? This was a patch of ground, common in West Yorkshire, where tenter frames were set out upon which finished cloth was stretched. The cloth was attached to the frame by “tenter hooks”, a phrase that has been absorbed into the English language.

All-in-all I have not yet found convincing reasons for accepting any of the possibilities listed above.

There are many names starting with “TATTERS”. They include TATTERS itself, and TATTERS followed by various suffices such as EL, AL, ALE, ILL, DILL, LEY, HALL. The most common, of course, is TATTERSALL, which is a medieval family name (De Tattersall) and the name of a castle in Lincolnshire. TATTERSALL is commonly found to this day in Lancashire and the West part of Yorkshire. It is best known as the name of a major racing establishment. The possibility must exist that TATTERSFIELD is a variant of it. There are many instances in early records where the various suffices were clearly mixed up.

In “A Dictionary of Yorkshire Surnames”, published in 2015, George Redmond states that Tattersfield “…is another variant of Tattersall…….It appears to have developed in the Dewsbury and Leeds area, probably in the 1700s”. This is reinforced with our own discovery that a number of people had the surnames Tattersall and Tattersfield at different times, particularly in the area just west of Dewsbury, including Mirfield.

The Earliest Records

The first record found of the name TATTERFIELD (without the ‘s’) was in the baptism register of ANNE, daughter of MARSHAELL TATTERFIELD in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, on 26th January, 1603. Unfortunately, this tantalising glimpse is a solitary record and no other events related to it have been found.

The second known record in Yorkshire is the marriage of THOMAS TATTERSFIELD to Ann Appleby in Dewsbury Parish Church on 10th November, 1686. Study of the record shows that Ann was a widow aged about 48. The age and parentage of THOMAS are not known, and this could have been his second marriage. He died in 1706. There are no other events recorded in Dewsbury Parish registers that can be linked to THOMAS with certainty.

A Mrs Tattersfield was buried in Bunhill Fields Cemetery, London, in 1728. The record contains no details about her family.

There were three burials and three baptisms, probably within the same family, in Eltham and Plumstead, Kent, in the period 1729-1763.

The Tatterfield family record starts with the marriage of William Tarfield (? The Marriage Certificate is unclear) to Martha Gault in Burin, Newfoundland on 7 Nov 1838. A son, William Henry Tatterfield, migrated to Massachusetts about 1870-75.

Header Image: One of the very few remaining tenter fields, this one in Northumberland, comprising long fence-like tenter frames with tenter hooks, used for stretching and hanging washed cloth. Tenter fields were once a common sight in Yorkshire. One speculative idea for the origin of the name Tattersfield derives from "tenterfield", perhaps capturing the location and trade of family members at that time. 

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