Last name: Hitchens
This unusual and interesting surname is of early medieval English and Welsh origin, and has two possible sources. Firstly, it may derive from the Middle English personal name "Hicke", a pet form of Richard, common in the 12th Century (particularly in Cheshire), itself derived from the Germanic elements "ric", power, and "hard", hardy, brave, strong, with the diminutive suffix "-en". The personal name from this source was ecorded as "Hichoun" in the 1286 Assize Court Rolls of Cheshire. The name may also be a variant of Hitchin, itself of English locational origin from a place of that name in Hertfordshire, which appeared as "Hiccam" in the "Cartularium Saxonicum", circa 944. This placename was composed of the tribal name "Hicce", which probably derived from an old name for the river "Hiz", related to the Welsh "sych", dry, a word common in stream-names. Locational surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Geoffrey de Hicchen appeared in the 1321 Calendar of Letter Books of London, and John Hychen was recorded in the 1332 Subsidy Rolls of Warwickshire. Recordings from London Church Registers include: the christening of Elline Hichinge on October 14th 1599, at St. Andrew's, Holborn, and the christening of Elizabeth Hitchen on February 18th 1617, at St. Katherine by the Tower. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Hichun, which was dated 1279, in the "Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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The name 'Hitchens' or sometimes 'Hitchins' (the variation is random and presumably depends on who first wrote the name down) is common in the County of Cornwall, where I believe it is a diminutive equivalent of 'Dickens', meaning 'Richard's Son' or 'Richardson'
In his 'Hitch22: A Memoir" Christopher Hitchens wrote: "The old man's forebears hailed from the backlands of Thomas Hardy's Wessex and perhaps even further west - Hitchens being in its origin a Cornish name- . . ."
Among my own ancestors and originating around Langton Maltravers (originally Mautravers) near Swanage in Dorset, UK is the unusual name Chinchen - a variation on Hitchen maybe?