Introduction to the CHESHIRE ARDERNES

Arden, Ardern, Arderne, Harden, Hawarden

Sorting out the muddles

Helen Moorwood   [April, 2013]


Origins of the names

There have been so many muddles about this name and the families that bore it that it is difficult to know where to begin. Perhaps the best place is at the beginning, with the origin of the place-name.

The Oxford Dictionary of Place-names (1996) only gives an explanation under Henley-in-Arden:

Arden (old forest) Warwicks., see HENLEY-IN-ARDEN.

Harden W.Yorks. Hareden late 12th cent. ‘Rock valley’, or ‘valley frequented by hares’.                OE *hær or hara + denu.

[denu under other entries is also given as OE denu, OE being Old English, which the Dictionary defines as “the English language c.450-c.1100”. HM]

Henley-in-Arden Warwicks. Henle c.1180. Affix refers to the medieval Forest of Arden (Eardene 1088), possibly a Celtic name meaning high district.

[It is not obvious here whether the ‘high’ part comes from ‘Henley’ or ‘Arden’. HM]

The Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames (1995) gives a good idea of the origin of the muddles:

Arden, Ardin, Arding, Hardern: Turkill de Eardene c.1080 OEByn; Adam de Arden 1268 AssSo; Ranulph de Ardene 1318-9 FFess. From Arden (Ch, Wa, NRY).

Ardern, Arderne: William de Arderne 1219 AssL; Thomas de Arderne 1301 FFY; William de Arderne 1372-3 FFWa. From Arden (Ch), Arderne 1260.

Harden: (i) Adam de Hardene 1214 P (Nb); Richard de Hareden’ 1275 RH (W); Thomas de Harden 1298 AssL. From Harden (WRY), or Hardene Wood in East Tisbury (W). Sometimes, perhaps, for ARDEN. (ii) There was also a personal name: Adam filius Harden 1212 P (Du). (iii) John de Hardene 1396, Richard de Harden 1312 Black. From the lands of Harden (Roxburgh).

Hardern: v. ARDEN

These entries seem to indicate that the names with or without an initial ‘h’ have often been muddled, and there is no consent as to whether the first syllable was of Celtic origin (with an unknown meaning) or, particularly with ‘h’, connected with Anglo-Saxon hares. The ‘den’, such a common English suffix (Marsden, Walkden, Hawarden, etc.), seems to mean valley, although on a website on Kentish names I found, “The Old English word denn is a woodland pasture, especially a pasture for pigs”.The location of Harden Hall, Tameside, Cheshire in a valley by a river suggests the same origin as the Harden in West Yorkshire (above). But there is a Harden Moor not too far north, above Ramsbottom in Lancashire and another one near Bradford in West Yorkshire with a megalithic monument. In both cases these are high ground. No doubt the name has survived in many other places. Interestingly, the entries above indicate that the place- and surname was used more in the Midlands and the North than anywhere further south.


Arde(r)n(e) of the Midlands to Harden in the North, and back again to Arden country

Whatever the origins, the family that first adopted this name and established itself as a large landowner was in the Midlands, as indicated by “Turkill de Eardene c.1080” (above) at the time of the Domesday Book. Their pedigree has been researched intensively, not least because of the Shakespeare connection, on the assumption that some of his genius genes might derive from this family. Although all the spellings given above beginning with ‘A’ were used for their surname, it gradually settled down to Arden, and has thus been fixed as this for evermore, not least in ‘Mary Arden’s House’. The same applies to the name of the Forest of Arden. This presumably has the same origin as the Ardennes, spreading over the borders of modern Belgium, Luxemburg and France.

However, when Sir John Arderne (Sir John(1) on the Family Tree) moved north to Cheshire in c.1220 and founded another branch, his family found themselves in an area with places called Harden and Hawarden. This seems on occasion to have confused everyone, with the newly imported family name of Ardern(e) now being applied to place-names and vice versa. The family name in Cheshire gradually settled down to Arderne, and this was the case when Thomas Arderne moved to the Midlands at the end of the 15th century. He left behind him the Cheshire Ardernes of Harden (Hall) and Alvanley. They retained this spelling for themselves until the male line at Harden Hall finally died out in the middle of the 19th century and Harden Hall was sold. A brief history of the Hall is on the Wikipedia entry for Bredbury. There it is called Arden Hall. On Saxton’s maps of Lancashire and Cheshire 1577 and Speed’s maps of 1611 it is Harden. The Wikipedia article includes the engraving of Harden Hall (named as such in Aiken’s A Description of the County from 30 – 40 Miles Round Manchester, 1795) but with the caption of Arden Hall. At what point it changed ‘officially’ from Harden Hall to Arden Hall has not been established, but it must have been post-Aiken and probably even more recent. A print (from an early photo?) of Harden Hall, Bredbury, 1855 from the Stockport Image Archive is on In case of problems in clicking this to actually find it, this print is reproduced below. (H)Arden Hall is still there today, having retained many of its Tudor features (see image and note at the end).

After Thomas Arderne moved to the Midlands and his family gradually spread out, the complications of spelling now multiplied. The Cheshire ‘Ardernes’ and the Midlands ‘Ardens’ intermingled on many occasions during Tudor times, sometimes even appearing in documents together. This was the situation that later Shakespeare researchers were confronted with. It was first discovered that John Shakespeare’s wife was Mary Arde(r)n(e) when two bonds were discovered and passed to Edmond Malone (1738-1816). In November 1578 John mortgaged Asbies, Mary’s property at Wilmcote. This, incidentally, is the first documentary evidence of John being married to Mary. In October 1579 he sold Mary’s property in Snitterfield. This concerned lands in Snitterfield near Stratford previously owned by Robert Arde(r)n(e) of Wilmcote, also near Stratford. Later Robert’s will of 1556 was found and the story of John Shakespeare’s wife gradually fell into place. This is the story repeated in every Shakespeare biography of the last two centuries.

Unfortunately, it was wrong. Robert Arde(r)n(e) was not from the Midlands Ardens but the Cheshire Ardernes. See Three cross-crosslets vs fess chequy. And Mary was not John’s first wife. See “John Shakespeare had ten children”. A few muddles still remain; see Two (Sir) John Arderns, two (or three?) Thomas Arderns, two Robert Ardens c.1500.

A miscellany of geographical & other details
Harden Hall is on the banks of the River Tame: the course of the river:

The Taume springeth in Yorkshire, at a village called Taume, and parteth Lancashire and Cheshire asunder all his course, which is from Micklehurst to Stayly Hall, Ashton under Lyne, Duckenfield, Denton, Redish, and so near Stopford falleth into the Mersey, where it giveth over both name and office. The whole course is about ten miles.

(Daniel King,King’s Vale Royal, 1656, reproduced in

George Ormerod, The History of Cheshire, 1816-19, Vol. 1, p. 56.)

Other T(h)ame(s)-like rivers

The name Tame is attached to rivers across the UK in several forms, including Thames, Thame, Taff, and Tamar, alongside two other instances of Tame.[5][6] The name is Celtic in origin, but the meaning is uncertain.[7][8] Dark river or dark one has been suggested,[9][10] but Ekwall[7] finds it unlikely; Mills suggests it may simply mean river (c.f. Avon, Humber, Tyne).[6] The names of the Mersey's co-tributaries Etherow and Goyt are equally ancient and mysterious.[7] Mersey is an Old English name (i.e. more recent) derived from "river at the boundary". The earlier name is lost: Dodgson suggests that Tame may have been the name for the whole of the Mersey.[8]



HAWARDEN. This interesting surname, having long associations with the north-western English county of Lancashire, is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name either from Hawarden in the former Welsh county of Flintshire (bordering Cheshire), or from Harden in Staffordshire. The former place, recorded as "Hoardine" in the Domesday Book of 1086; as "Haurdina" circa 1100 in the Chartulary of the Abbey of St. Werburgh, Chester; and as "Haworthyn" in 1275, is believed to have as its component elements the Olde English pre 7th Century "hea", high, and "worthign", enclosure, yard about a house, open place in a village, homestead; hence, "hea-worthign". This placename is pronounced "Har'den", and in the vicinity is Hawarden Castle, formerly the seat of the late Right Hon. W.E. Gladstone, M.P. Harden in Staffordshire, recorded as "haworthyn, Hawerthyn" in the 14th Century, shares the same meaning and derivation. On February 3rd 1545, Francis Hewerdyne was christened at Ingleby Greenhow, Yorkshire, and on January 21st 1550, Elline, daughter of John Hawardeyne or Hawarden, was christened at Farnworth near Prescot, Lancashire.

Read more on:

Uniquely Hawarden, Four-Times Over
An Essay by Roger Gordon Smith

To the local population in and around Hawarden in the county of Flintshire, north Wales (regional map), the village at the top of the 80-metre hill has a unique name, and one that many non-locals find hard to pronounce. A visitor to the area will often give themselves away -- much to the amusement of the natives -- by uttering a variety of odd sounds and unnecessary syllables, oblivious to the fact that the locals pronounce the name of their village, simply, har-den.

Many English people assume Hawarden to be a Welsh name, simply because they cannot pronounce it, but its origins are very much Old English. John Garnons Williams, in his web page Mapping Medieval Wales, suggests that the earliest record for Hawarden was Haordine in 1086, this derived from the Old English heah (meaning high) and worthign (meaning enclosure or farm). The Welsh name for Hawarden is Penarlâg; it neither looks nor sounds like the English name, but its derivation is very much along the same lines: pen (meaning head or top) and gardd (meaning garden or enclosure).

Read more on:

Although Hawarden is just over the Welsh border, this has become the place and name of Chester’s newly revamped Chester Hawarden airport.

Harden Hall (two images)

Harden Hall

Harden Hall

Harden Hall, engraving dated 1794 by JohnAiken,

A Description of the Country from thirty to forty miles round Manchester (1795)

Named Arden Hall on the latest OS & A-Z maps.

Sold by the last Arderne in the mid-19th century.

Privately owned today, used for industrial purposes.


Harden Hall2

From Stockport Image Archive on

2 recent photos of Harden Hall appear on Pictures of; type in via Google: Trevor Booth’s Pictures of Bredbury. Its caption is Ardern Hall and his text reads:

Former Manor House of the Ardern [sic Arderne] Family at Bredbury. There has been Arden [sic Harden] Hall on this site since 1331. The wabble [sic wattle] and daub building was rebuilt in 1597. The moated house was used to house Crowell’s [sic, Cromwell’s] troops during the Siege of Manchester during the civil war. The last male William Ardern [sic, Arderne] died in 1850 having sold this house and others to pay off gambling debts. Since then it has been used as a farm and more lately for industrial purposes.

It seems that spelling problems with (H)ARDE(R)N(E) (and a few other words) continue today. Thank you, Trevor Booth, for your splendid photos.

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