What’s In A Name? Discovering the Story Behind the Origin of “Southwick”

Author: Peter Gibson is a local historian and the Chairman of the Southwick Village Green Preservation Society, a group dedicated to reviving and promoting the heritage of Southwick on Wear and greater community cohesion. The group have funded dozens of blue heritage plaques and other projects improving the area.

The origins of place names are difficult to analyse, and particularly in County Durham where educated guesses are sometimes required rather than concrete evidence that has been lost in time. The name Southwick is a strange anomaly. It is said to take the “wick” part from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning settlement. It is the south village but sited on the north bank of the River Wear! However, Southwick could have been south of something.

There is overwhelming evidence that the Romans were hereabouts. During the quarrying for limestone for at least 250 years leading up to the 1950s, numerous artifacts have been unearthed from the Roman period. It is feasible that there was something substantial on the site of the Carley Hill, Southwick, and Fulwell quarries. Within the neighbourhood of a larger Roman settlement or fort was a vicus that supplied the fort. Southwick with its rich farmland, good drainage, freshwater springs, and an abundance of fish could have been the south vicus.

The Anglo-Saxon word “wick” was an early loan word from the Latin “vicus” meaning dwelling place, village, hamlet,or dairy farm. The Saxons named other places in England using the old pre-7th century version wic.There is also the suggestion that Witherwack is a Saxon source and will have been Witherwick – and it was the Northwick with its neighbour Southwick situated nearer to the river.More confusion is added to pinpointing the source of the place name Southwick with the existence of a Southwick on the south side of the river on the site of Liebherr cranes at Deptford (the deep ford). In 1904 the antiquarian G.W. Bain was inclined to believe the original Sudvik was there.

The etymological derivation of the name would be natural as a settlement or place south of the river. This place was known for generations as South Southwick. There was a prominent building at South Southwick called Southwick Lodge.  The illustration confirms the existence of South Southwick. Ancient Latin documents show how the name Southwick evolved as our English language evolved. eg,

1195 AD Suthewic. 

1296 AD Suthwyk.

1266-1384 Suthwyk, Suthwik

1596 Sidik

In 1698 Suddick Glasshouse was opened. In 1737 Burleigh and Thompson’s map of the River Wear records Suddick Town and Suddick Ferry. In 1737 both versions were in use – Suddick, and Southwick. Finally, there are other versions to the source of the place name – those being south bend in the river, and a settlement on a stream.