Online Editions

2nd Aug, 2021

What’s in the England team’s names? English Heritage explains all

Rob George 11th Jul, 2021

KANE, Sterling, Pickford and Phillips; these are four of more than 32,000 surnames which feature on an England flag flying at English Heritage’s historic properties nationwide to cheer on the England football team.

The charity designed the flags to feature the surname of almost everyone living in England today – either in the red or white of the St George Cross – and is flying the flag at its castles and palaces around the country as a nation unites under one hope: football’s coming home.

The English Heritage sites flying the flag include Dover Castle (the “Key to England”), Stonehenge and Carlisle Castle, a mighty stronghold which has endured more sieges than any other place in the British Isles and which surely must inspire England’s defenders as they face the Italian onslaught.

As the England football players prepare to don shirts emblazoned with their surnames and to make history by appearing in the country’s first Euro finals, English Heritage asks; what’s in a name? For thousands of years people have moved over land and sea to make England their home, from the Romans to the Anglo-Saxons, the Huguenots to the Windrush generation, and a surname can map those journeys.

A surname can reveal a long forgotten family trade, whether Smith, Thatcher, Tailor, Baker or Brewer, or football fans may take hope from Harry Kane whose surname means ‘warrior’ or watch the quick footwork of Kieran Trippier whose surname means ‘to dance’.

Our surnames are living personal links to the history of this country and a recognition that everyone living here today – including those taking to the pitch at Wembley on Sunday – will help to shape the England of tomorrow.

The surnames on English Heritage’s England flag – from Aamir to Zyla, arranged alphabetically – capture more than 32,000 family names in England, all those with over 100 occurrences in the country, and provide a snapshot of England and its people today and a window into their stories, whether long forgotten or held dear in living memory.

English Heritage has also created a digital flag on the charity’s website where people will be able to explore the history and meaning of their surname, and for those whose surname is particularly rare, add to the record by submitting it for inclusion.

Matt Thompson, English Heritage’s Head Collections Curator, said: “History may be made at Wembley on Sunday and English Heritage is cheering on the team by flying the England flag at our castles and palaces across the country. The surnames on our England flag connect the country’s past, present and future and we hope that our flag will remind people that everyone living here today – including the Kanes and Sterlings – will shape the England of the future. Hopefully, that immediate future will be one in which England have won the Euros!”

Professor John Denham, Director of the Centre for English Identity and Politics at the University of Southampton and who originally suggested the idea to English Heritage, said: “At a time when the telling of history can spark controversy, this flag symbolises an essential truth: England and its people have been shaped by our shared histories and England’s future story on and off the pitch will be told by all the people who are making their lives here today.”

Visit https://namesofengland.english-heritage.org.uk to find your name and discover its meaning.

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