Dowbiggin History by Diane Main
Link to Dowbiggin Famiy History Society (or copy and paste in browser)
An article in an 1889 issue of the Lancaster Observer, a local newspaper, detailed some of the life of Dowbiggins who lived at High Winder, an estate in the Forest of Bowland, to the southeast of Lancaster. Most Dowbiggins can be traced back to this place or the general area, to the family of Thomas Dowbiggin (1530) and Elizabeth Marton.
The name DOWBIGGIN has its origins in a place just to the east of Sedbergh, England. It used to be in the West Riding of Yorkshire, but when county boundaries were changed in 1974, the Sedbergh area became part of the new county of Cumbria.
Apparently, there is some confusion as to the meaning of the name. Kevin Lancaster, who lives at Dowbiggin outside Sedbergh, told me that despite oral history that claims the name means "gathering of buildings (Biggin) near the dovecote (Dow)," the name really means "gathering of buildings near the cave." Apparently Dowker may have been the first part of the place name originally.
I have found or been told of the following surname variants.
(It seems the only letters they have in common are the D, the B, and the N!)
This list is arranged alphabetically:
Dabkin, Dalbikin, Daubigan, Daubiggin, Daubigin, Daubikin, Dawbigen, Dawbiggan, Dawbiggin, Dawbigin, Dawbikine, Dewbiggin, Dobacan, Dobbakin, Dobbakins, Dobbigin, Dobbikin, Dobbikine, Dobbinkin, Dobbykin, Dobbykyn, Dobekin, Dobiggen, Dobiggin, Dobikin, Dobikine, Dobykine, Doubekin, Doubigan, Doubiggin, Doubigin, Doubikin, Doubinghin, Dowbacakan, Dowbaken, Dowbakin, Dowbeggin, Dowbegin, Dowbekerkin, Dowbekin, Dowberkin, Dowbickin, Dowbiggan, Dowbiggen, Dowbiggens, Dowbiggin, Dowbigging, Dowbigin, Dowbiken, Dowbikin, Dowbygin, Dowbykyn, Dowfbyging, Dowkin, Dubiggin
(Lots more at the Society Website)
Additional Article concerning Surname
The Dowbiggins (Yorkshire Surname)
from the Dalesman, Vol. 38, No. 3, June 1976
By George Redmond
The hamlet of Dowbiggin is in Sedbergh parish. A family name dreived from it is on record over 650 years ago. Adam of Dowbiggin was mentioned in deeds concerning Sedbergh and Bentham in 1321 and 1325, and it was in this neighbourhood that much of the family's early history took place. In the Poll Tax of 1379, for example, John de Dowfbygyng of Bentham paid 12 pence and Cristiana Dewfebygyng of Clapham 4 pence.
These spellings make the meaning of Dowbiggin quite clear. Dowf or Dewfe were from an old word meaning "dove," while biggin -- still used in dialect -- was simply a building. Colloquial pronunciations of the surname gave rise to numerous variant spellings in the parish registers of Yorkshire and Lancashire from the 16th century, and survivors from this period are Dowbekin, Dowbakin and the even stronger Dobkin. This last name has sometimes been thought to derive from a diminutive of Robert but there is no doubt that it is identical locally with Dowbiggin.
Note Correction Above to this derivation
At different times throughout the Middle Ages, branches of the Dowbiggin family moved away from the dales of the north-west and forsook the traditional role of farming for a variety of occupations. John Dowbiggin, for example, became a priest in the North Riding in the 1400s.
However, most of the moves were to important commercial centres. We find Dowbiggins as shoemakers in York (1541), tanners in Selby (1679) and watermen in Doncaster (1623).
In Bentham were men who took up cotton weaving during the 19th century, but the family's links with farming in this remote area have remained strong. In recent years there has been one branch of the Dowbiggins at Home Farm and Robert Hall in Low Bentham, and a second at Chapel-le-Dale, Ingleton.