LOMAX SURNAME (the following text is copyrighted, 1991, 1995, 1997)
The area of England known today as Lancashire had few of the native Britons living there prior to the Roman occupation in the year 43. The Romans did not develop nor populate that region either, so that after the year 400, when the Saxons came from northern Europe to settle northern England, they found little opposition. The Saxons were thus the primary influence in the creation of Lancashire, giving their language, manners and religion to the region and bestowing their names to the rivers, lands and villages. The Saxon place-names were often chosen to convey some distinctive or natural factor about the placement of a village.
Prior to the Norman conquest of England in 1066, almost all Britons and Saxons had but a single name. Under the Norman influence, and as the population increased, surnames gradually began to be used. Often the surname taken was the name of the hamlet or locale where the person lived; such surnames were usually accompanied by the preposition "de", French for "of", hence John de Bury merely meant that John lived in Bury. Other sources were parentage (Johnson), occupation (Weaver), animal (Fox), and many others. Initially such second names were not permanent, but could change with abode or occupation, and usually did not descend to the children. The use of second names gradually became the norm and inheritance of the father's surname became common. Family names in England therefore generally originated sometime between 1100 and 1400, with lords and gentry adopting the practice first. Some of the surnames in Lancashire, particularly of the lower and middle class, did not become fixed until much later, often into the 1600s.
An extensive study of the origin of the Lomax/Lomas/Loomis surname was done by Charles A. Hoppin Jr. The facts presented in that study have withstood the test of time and later discoveries superbly, and will to some extent be repeated herein. However, one assumption by Mr. Hoppin, namely the specific location from which the name was derived, is certainly incorrect; subsequent discoveries of old manuscripts and maps, as will be described, leads to a new conclusion. Eilert Ekwall, Professor of English at the University of Lund, devoted much of his life to the study of the origin of place-names in Lancashire and concluded that the name of the hamlet of Lomax, a "now lost name of the district South of the Roch, where Charlestown and Heady Hill are," was descended from the Saxon (Old English) word Lumhalghs. Other authors independently conclude that the surnames Lomas and Lomax were territorial, derived from living in the district or hamlet of Lumhalghs, and that Lumhalghs was "in Bury parish. The place concerned lay east of Bury itself, to the east of the river Roch." "Lum" had different regional meanings; in Lancashire generally it meant a deep pool in a river, but near the Yorkshire border it could also mean a wood bottom growing shrubs and trees. The second element, "halghs", is the plural of the Old English "halh" also "haugh" and meant either low-lying, level ground by the side of a river, or, land lying within the bend of a river.
Actually, the hamlet of Lomax is not lost. A map dated 1785 (in the Bury Public Library, Lancashire, England) titled "A Plan of Lomax in Heap, The Parish of Bury" shows 25 parcels of land, their names, and a list of their areas, with a total area of 75 acres. Lower Lomax has retained its name to the present time and was, when visited in 1988, a dairy farm bordering the South side of the river Roch. The Lower Lomax Farm is 8.5 miles due north of Manchester City Center. The farm's meadows are fifty feet lower than Heady Hill which rises quite gradually from Lower Lomax and Heap Bridge. The river Roch has cut a channel 75 feet deep through that pasture land. The area shown as Lomax Woods on both an 1847 map and a current street atlas of greater Manchester is now largely scrub growth in the bottom and on the south side of that gorge. It is unknown whether there was a deep pool in this part of the river but one wide area, bordering the part of old Lomax in the bend of that river, was named Botany Bay. With the bottom of the gorge covered with shrubs and trees, a portion of old Lomax laying within a sharp bend of the river, and the extensive meadows beside the river, the descriptive Saxon term Lumhalghs is certainly satisfied.
The earliest known mention of this area is contained in a charter, dated 1210, in one of the Lansdowne manuscripts (British Museum MSS 485, f. 49). It is in Latin, but has been roughly translated as follows: "I, Adam de Biry (Bury), have given ... to God and St. Mary Magdalene of Bretton and to the monks serving there and to the work of her church, one piece of land in Hep (Heap) which is called Lummehaleges (Lomax), 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 the Guledene (Gooden) and from the Guledene to the water of Rached (Roch), 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 names that have survived to the present are shown in parenthesis. The township of Heap was recorded as early as 1278. The authoritative "The Victoria History of the County of Lancaster" also states concerning Heap that "The principal road is that eastward from Bury across the Roch at Heap Bridge, through Charlestown and Heady Hill (here was the old district or hamlet of Lumhalghs or Lomax), and the town of Heywood, where it divides, to Rochdale on the north-west and Middleton on the south."
There is no record of the Lumhalghs/Lomax surname in the Domesday Book of 1086, nor in the Pipe Rolls (Great Rolls of the Exchequer) of 1130-1216. The earliest record of the Lomas/Lomax family name is for William de Lumhalghs who was mentioned as being at a court held at Tottington (about four miles WNW of Lower Lomax) on 15 February 1324 according to a document that has survived to the present time. The Lay Subsidy (Tax) Roll, number 130-6 at the Public Record Office, London, for Lancashire in 1333 lists "Rico de L'mhales" (Latin for Richard of Lumhalghs) as a land owner in Penhilton (Pendleton, about seven miles SSW of Lower Lomax) in the parish of Eccles. In 1380, Henry and Richard Lumhalgh and their wives contributed two shillings each to the Exchequer Lay Subsidy in the Parish of Bury, and at the same time Thomas de Lumhalgh paid twelve pence. In 1391 King Richard II granted a pardon to John del Damme for stealing at Bury in 1390, two bullocks, value 10 shillings, from Richard de Lumhalghs. In 1435 the following names appeared (in Latin) on the rent rolls of Sir John Pilkington, lord of the manor of Bury: Radus del Lumhalges, Oliverus del Lumhalges, Thomas del Lumhalge de Whetyle, and Galfridus del Lumhalges. In 1441, Ralph de Lumhalx, John de Lumhalx and others, of Heap, were concerned in a lawsuit regarding land in Bury and Middleton. Movement out of Lancashire is also recorded: 1386, Henry Lunhales in Herefordshire; 1394, Roger de Lumhale of Yorkshire; 1423, Thomas Lomys in Somersetshire; 1432, Thomas and Richard Lumhales in Derbyshire; and 1496, Sir Richard Lumhalx (Ricardi Lumhawkys on his tombstone) rector of Surlingham St. Mary church in Norfolk.
Regarding the matter of pronunciation, the letter "h" is often not sounded in England, the "al" was pronounced in Old English as though it were an "au" in modern British English, which is similar to the "ä" in father in American English; the "gh" in Halghes is pronounced in Lancashire today as though it were "sh". The Old English pronunciation of "Lumhalgh" in Lancashire was thus probably Lum'äsh, with primary stress on the first syllable, but in some areas was also pronounced Lum'ägz. The pronunciation of that name changed over the years so that it finally became Lomax (pronounced in Lancashire today as Lum'uks). The dialects of different regions resulted in various pronunciations, recorded phonetically by clerks in old records as "Lumaus", "Lummas", "Lomas", "Lumhales", "Lumhalx", "Lomax", "Lummys", "Loomys", and "Loomis".
The earliest records of the modern spelling of the name were found by Joseph Lomax. He reported on a family lineage of Laurent Lomax, with the first Laurent Lomax born about 1427 in Bolton parish, the second about 1460 in Lancashire, and the third about 1493. This last one was the first Lawrent Lomax of Eye, Suffolk. Another early family that was noteworthy can be traced to a Richard Lomax of Pilsworth who married Janet Heap in 1545. His descendants were: Richard, who died in 1587; James, will dated 1623; Richard, born in 1612 whose will was proved in 1669; James, who was Constable of Pilsworth in 1693 and 1708; and Richard Lomax of Pilsworth and Burnshaw, born 1688, who married Rebecca, heiress of John Heywood of Urmston in 1715. Through this marriage the Richard Lomax family acquired the Clayton Hall estate at Clayton-le-Moors. The Clayton estate was inherited by James (1717-1792); Richard Grimshaw Lomax (1763-1837), who was granted a coat-of-arms; John (1801-1849); James (1803-1886); Helen (1844-1924) who was the daughter of Thomas Lomax; and Richard Trappes-Lomax, born 1870.
Of the parish registers that have survived to the present time from the Lancashire region, none predate 1541. The parish registers for Bury, Bolton, Deane and Rochdale, parishes with concentrations of Lomas/Lomax families, do not start until 1590, 1587, 1637 and 1582 respectively. More than 30 entries of Lomax baptisms, marriages and burials were found in those registers prior to 1600. The 1642 Protestation Returns for Salford Hundred only listed 66 persons named Lomax or Lomas, including 25 in Bury parish, and 24 in contiguous parishes. The remainder occur mostly in the northern part of the hundred, particularly in Deane parish, a short distance to the west of Bury, but the name also appears at Manchester and Salford. Note that the English population in general, and certainly including the Lomax families, had been repeatedly depleted by the Black Plague during a number of major epidemics between 1563 and 1603. The Lomax name became more numerous in the latter part of the 17th century and in the 18th century. A study of the surnames of Lancashire stated that the name "Lomax seems to have become more dispersed by the end of the 18th century than some other surnames originating in the same part of the country."
The earliest record found to date of a Lomax in America is for Thomas Lomax, born June 14, 1630 in Newcastle, England. He was in Maryland before 1657. Thomas was a backer of Josias Fendall, who seized control of the colonial Maryland government in 1658. Thomas was Clerk of the Court while Fendall was in power, from January 1659 to November 1660. Thomas was tried in Provincial Court in 1661 for acting "mutinously and seditiously" for helping Fendall, but was found not guilty. His younger brother Clibourne arrived with his wife Blanch in 1668 and was also prominent among the colonial gentry and in the Maryland government. Thomas and Clibourne were children of Ralph Lomax of Newcastle-on-Tyne; the "Virginia Lomaxes" are also descendants.