The Shedden Name

“Shedden” contains the Anglo-Saxon root word “shed”, meaning “thin strip of” (wood or land) or “separate” (cf. hair shed, watershed etc). Although “Shed” forms part of many English and Scottish surnames the name “Shedden” appears to be essentially of Scottish origin. True, “Shedon” is found occasionally in early English records, but “Sheddens” do not appear until the end of the 18th century and almost all can be definitely ascribed to a Scottish ancestor.

In old Scots a “shed” was a strip of land and a “sheddin(g)s” was a place where sheep were separated or where roads divided. The old name for Parkhead Cross in Glasgow was “The Sheddens”. Also, Sheddens roundabout in Busby, Renfrewshire, is sited at “Sheddens”, where the road forks to Eaglesham and to East Kilbride. This seems to suggest that “Shedden” means “dweller by the road fork” or even “dweller on the ridge”, but it has been also suggested that the name may derive from OE “sceaden” (separated) or “scead-dene” (boundary valley). For example, Shadingfield in Suffolk appears in some early records as “Scaddenfella”, “Shadenefeld” and “Schadenfeld”. Curiously, such placenames do not seem to have given rise to the surname “Shedden” in England, nor are there comparable placenames in Scotland that I am aware of from which the name in Scotland might have been derived.

As with most surnames, early spellings were erratic, often varying within the same document. In general, however, the spelling of Shedden (if not the pronounciation) seems to have changed over the years from Schaddan (Shaddan) through Sheddan to Shedden. Shaddan had virtually disappeared by 1700 while by 1820 most Sheddans had changed to Shedden. The pace of change varied by family and location. However, to this day some families retain the Sheddan spelling (notably those who emigrated to New Zealand). Surprisingly, the variant spelling, Sheddon, is rarely found in older records although nowadays it is a common misspelling.