Mingay History Web Pages (MHWP)





Mingay - Summary Note

By Trevor Hearve Mingay (I believe)


The best and obvious starting point seems to be the "Dictionary of British Surnames", written by P.H. Reaney, and published by Routledge and Kegan Paul.

On page xxviii we find: "The large Breton element which fought at Hastings was rewarded with lands in England. At their head was Earl Alan of Richmond, a cadet of the ducal house, with a fee of the first importance in Lincolnshire, East Anglia and the neighbouring counties." Reaney goes on to quote F.M. Stenton’s "English Feudalism" (pp 24—26). "The Breton colony founded by Earl Alan of Richmond can still be traced, late in the twelfth century, by personal names which give a highly individual character to the country round Boston, itself a town of Breton creation, and Louth."

In twelfth century Lincolnshire Alan was as common a name as Simon was and more popular than Henry and. Adam. Other common Breton names were Brian, Constantine, Jarnegan, Juston, Mengi, Samson and Mengi, all surviving as modern surnames."

On page 223 of the Dictionary the entry for "Mingay, Mingey reads, "Johannes filius Menghi" c 1154—5; Robertus filius Mingghi 1178—81 ~ Clerkenmwell Essex); Andrew Mengy 1262 (Pleas of the Forest unpublished)) in Pub. Recd. Office; Richard Mingay 1276 (Feet of Fines — Essex — unpublished). Mengny, a Breton name, "stone dog", from the Breton "men" meaning "stone" and "ki" meaning "dog".

This account is of interest for a number of reasons. First, it confirms the general impression that most "Mingays" come from East Anglia. Second, it is amusing to think of the name at least being borne at the Battle of Hastings, presumably on the left flank, which is where the Breton contingent were positioned. A little sobering to recall that the first part of either army to give was William’s left flank, but then few Mingays seem to be aggressively warlike —despite a number of martial Mingays appearing in the "Gentleman’s Magazine" in the eighteenth century. In any case, honour is satisfied if we bear in mind that the traditional story of Hastings records that William got his successful idea for luring the Saxons down the hill from the effect of the first retreat on his left flank.

But these early notes also raise questions. Has anyone come across other references in this period? Has anyone indeed come across the name in present day Brittany?

I have met no fourteenth or fifteenth century references. Has anyone else had more luck in this period?

In the following period there is much information in F. Blomfield’s "Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk" 1805—10.

For example, the Rectory Manor at Dickleburgh passed to Thomas Cromwell at the dissolution and in 1567 was bought by William Mingay. Whilst at Wellbourne in 1619 "John Mingay Citizen and Alderman of Norwich held his first court as trustee to the Steward and subsequently sold it to Robert Crash Citizen and Alderman of Norwich". Both examples come from Vol. I.

In Vol. III, there is a reference to a memorial in the fourth aisle of the church at Heckingham, "In memory of William Mingay, Gent: who died, with his arms — or on a bend azure, three leopards faces, argent".

Whilst on the subject of coats of arms one might mention "A Complete Body of Heraldry" by Edmonson published in 1753. This contains a reference to "Mingay, Mingey Gymingham in Norfolk) Or, on a bend


azure or. Another, the heads or, a lance or, headed or, environed with a laurel branch vert". Also "Mingey (Armingdale in Norfolk). Or, on a canton fa, a leopards head of the first, crest as before".

Has anyone found others? Or, better still, has anyone actually seen one whether in a church, or illustrated in a book?

It is possible to trace some later bearers of the name through the records at Cambridge University, e.g. "Biographical History of Gonville and Caius College 1349—1901" by Dr. J. Venn. Or the "Register" of the University itself. In the later, there are nineteen entries at least between 1561 and 1807. Thereafter, the Mingays appear to have become curiously unacademic (what happened?) The entries range from:


MINGAY, JOHN. Adm. Fell.—Com. at Corpus Christi, 1561. Matric.

as pens. Michs. 1562 Fell.—Com. in 1564. Probably s. and h. of

William, of Norwich, brother of Miles (1561) and William (1565).

(Vis. of Norfolk).


MINGAY, HENRY. One of these names, "of Trinity College", scholar of Cambridge, enticed by an Italian, to pass over the seas, c. 1596. (Foley; Dr Jessopp).


MINGAY, MILES. Adm. Fell.—Com. at Corpus Christi, 1561. Probably matric. as pens. Michs. 1562. Fell.—Com. in 1564. Probably 2nd s. of William, of Norwich, and brother of John (1561) and William (1565). (Vis. of Norfolk).




MINGAY, GEORGE. Adm. pens. (age 19) at Caius, Oct. 17, 1807. S. of

William Robert, of Thetford Norfolk. B. there. School, Bury St.

Edmunds, Matric. Micha. 18O~ B.A. 1812; M.A.. 1815. Ord. deacon

(Norwich) Dec. 20, 1812; priest, Dec. 29, 1813. H. of Kennett,

Cambs., 1813—36. H. of Wistow, Hunts., 1828—40. R. of Wilby,

Suffolk, 1838—69. R. of West Barkwith, 1869—73. Chaplain to the

Duke of Rutland. Availed himself of the Clerical Disabilities

Relief Act, 1873, and retired from his living. Married, Oct. 15,

1818, Mary Webb, dau. .of Richard H.Giraud, of Sunbury, Middlesex.

Died May 17, 1879, at Bury St. Edmunds. (Bury St. Edmunds Gr.

Sch. Reg.; Venn, II. 149; Foster, Index Eccles.; P.B.G. Binnall.)


Part of the reason for this association with the University could lie in the entries recording early schooling in the 1640s under

"Mr Lovering" at Norwich. Lovering was a Pembroke man who later became the first master of the Perse school in Cambridge. Stephen Perse, who died in 1615, was a physician and property owner of Great Massingham in Norfolk.So there was apparently for a time and in the entries recording early schooling in the 1640s under "Mr Lovering" at Norwich. Lovering was a Pembroke man who later became the first master of the Perse school in Cambridge. Stephen Perse, who died in 1615, was a physician and property owner of Great Massingham in Norfolk. So there was apparently for a time a patronage link between this part of Norfolk and the University.

The most interesting entry in the Register is undoubtedly that for "James Mingay" in 1768.


MINGAY, JAMES. Adm. pens. (age 17) at Trinity, Nov. 29, 1768.

(2nd) s. of James, of Thetford, Norfolk. School, Thetford. Matric.

Michs. 1769; Scholar, 1769. Adm. at the Inner Temple, May 14, 1770.

Called to the Bar. K.C. Bencher, 1785; Treasurer 1791 Recorder

of Aldeburgh, Suffolk, 1788. M.P. for Thetford, 1A06—7. J.P. for

Thetford, 1806. Died July 9, 1812, at Ashfield Lodge, Bury St Edmunds.

(W.R. Williams; "Inns of Court"; "G. Mag."; 1812, II. 187.)



At some stage in his life James Mingay lost an arm, since it is with a hooked arm that he features in Charles Lamb’s essay "On the Benchers of the Inner Temple", to the terror of the young children who were of more interest to Lamb.


More information on James appears in a pamphlet published in London in 1794 under the title, "Sketches of the Characters of the Hon. Thomas Erskine said James Mingay Esq. Interspersed with Anecdotes and Professional Strictures". The writer was not enamoured of Mingay. He refers to his father, a surgeon in Thetford; to the patronage of the Duke of Grafton; and then deals with his legal career. "As a public man Mr Mingay not only stands in the first rank ...." but apparently had the "same ideas of diffidence as a blind man has of colours." And again, "Nothing could be clearer than his definitions Mr Mingay’s strong though often incorrect metaphors .....; but their effect on a jury is great." Or again, he had an "Abundant possession of impudence ... very similar in many ways to ... Sir Bull Face Double Fee." The writer states that Mingay "much opposed" Erskine in the court of King’s Bench. Among others, Erskine defended Lord George Gordon, the Dean of St. Asaphs, and Tom Paine. It would be fascinating to know whether Mingay appeared for the prosecution, particularly in the last case.


After this period, the bearers of the name seem to have sunk more or less out of any public prominence — perhaps one James Mingay was enough! However, has anyone come across a picture of him — or any other of the people referred to above? Has anyone managed to extend a family tree back to link up with any of them?


At least one Mingay appears to have gone to Australia, as mentioned in my covering letter. At Least one went to the U.S.A., since there was a newspaper report in November 1967 that Texaco of America had placed a 7m. tanker contract with Britain, and the Texaco Vice— President commenting on the order was one J.I. Mingay. Has anyone developed their researches to pursue those Mingays who remigrated (or were these two cases perhaps the results of some later independent migration from Brittany?)

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