M*CH*MORE One Name Study

What does M*CH*MORE mean?

by Mike Mitchelmore

 

It is not known for sure what the name M*CH*MORE means. Four hypotheses have been advanced.

The Great Moor

M. A. Lower, in Patronymica Britannica: A dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, published by J. R. Smith in 1860, explains the meaning of two M*CH*MORE variants as follows:

  • Michelmore: Local: "the great moor" [mickle and muckle from Anglo-Saxon mucel, "great", "big"]
  • Muchmore: the great moor [ME muchel "big"]

Several other English names use the same prefix, for example the surnames Mickelborough and Muckleton and the place names Michelstow and Much Wenlock. The 1813-1837 Holne parish register contains references to two villages called Michaelcombe / Michael Combe / Mucchicombe /  Mucchacombe / Muchacombe / Mitchelcombe / Michelcombe  and Littlecombe / Little Combe / Little Coombe, clearly showing the use of michel and its variants as the opposite of "little". In fact, there are several records of M*CH*MORE places elsewhere in England:

  • a Michamore meadow in Cheshire (1668)

  • Michlemore Close (1678) and a  Michelmore Lane  (1860) in Nottinghamshire

  • a close or meadow called Michimore in Berkshire (1743)

  • Muchmore Farms in West Sussex (1798, 1867) and Essex (1826, 1840)

  • Michaelmore Brook and a parcel of land called Michaelmore in Staffordshire (1892, 1906)

  • the parish of Muckamore in County Antrim, Northern Ireland

There are also several other common Devon surnames with the -MORE ending, including BLACKMORE, LONGMORE, MORTIMORE, NORTHMORE and PASSMORE. It is generally agreed that -MORE in this context indicates a moor, marsh or lake, from the Anglo-Saxon mor (march, fen or area of uncultivated land) or mere (lake). Thus BLACKMORE (also a place name) indicated someone living near a black marsh, MORTIMORE lived near a "dead sea" or drained swamp, and PASSMORE lived on the far side of a marsh.

Which great moor M*CH*MORE refers to is unknown. It could have been Dartmoor, near where the earliest M*CH*MOREs were to be found. However, the surname seems to have originated near Salcombe, on the coast about 20 km south of Dartmoor. It seems more likely that M*CH*MORE referred to a large marshy or uncultivated area near Salcombe.

Michael of the Moor

Bob MUCHAMORE, the founder of the M*CH*MORE One Name Study, believed that the name derived from Mitchel (or perhaps Michael) of the Moor.

In support of this argument, some of the earliest known spellings (MUCHELEMOR and MOCHELEMORE) may have been attempts to transcribe a surname sounding like "Michel-le-Moor" (a common form among early surnames).

Great St Michael

William John MITCHELMORE has advanced a third explanation: One of the Celtic tribes that occupied the South West of England followed a saintly person known to them as Great St. Michael, whose name in Celtic sounded like MYGHAL-MUR. It is possible that the later Anglo-Saxon invaders changed the name to sound more like MITCHELMORE.

The large man of the sea

A fourth explanation comes from John Kenneth MITCHELMORE: Perhaps the surname means "large man of the sea", with MITCHEL coming from the Anglo-Saxon muchel (as above) and MORE coming from the Cornish mere, meaning sea. Possibly the first MITCHELMORE was a MITCHELL who became a sailor—we certainly have large number of seafarers among our ancestors.