There has been much speculation as to the origin of the family.

One theory is that it is of a typical place name origin, coming from the Parish of Hobkirk, formerly Hopekirk.

Below the picture of the Hobkirk Parish Church, as it appears today, are some papers dealing with the Origins of Hopekirk.


Our thanks goes to Lily Hobkirk of Hawick, and to Ian Londles, the local historian in Hawick for supplying the paper delivered by Walter Deans below.    You may also wish to visit the new Hobkirk Parish website at for more information about Hobkirk

The following interesting paper was read at the March 1874 meeting of the Hawick Archaeological Society, held in the Museum Lecture-room--Mr. David Watson, president, occupying the chair.  The subject was:

The Old Kirk and Kirkyard of Hopekirk, by Walter Deans

The kirk and kirkyard of Hopekirk are situated in the narrowest part of the Vale of Rule, between the braes of Kirknowe, formerly called Clarke's Banks, and Hartsbaugh Mill.  The breadth is only about one hundred and fifty yards, so that the ecclesiatical grounds are situated on the hass or neck of the Hope, from which the vale expands both above and below.  That the church and parish has claims to high antiquity we have abundant evidence to prove.  For a period of six hundred years back the spelling of the name has come down with little variation till the commencement of the 18th century, when it became corrupted.  In 1220, Hoppchirk; 1296, Ecclesia de Roule; 1586, Hopeskirk, Tu Libellus Taxationum Rectoria de Hopekirk; in 1668, Hopekirk; and in the beginning of the eighteenth century vulgarised and corupted into Habkirk, Habskirk, and Hobkirk, which is now, in general, the prevailing name of the church and parish.  The origin of the word "Hope" is from the Saxon, and is a common term to many localities in the parish and district.  Thus we have Hopends, now corrupted with Wopens or Opens, Hopesburn, Wauchope, Hawklawhope, Rouchope.  The more ancient kirk of Hopekirk was situated on a small rising ground in the northeast of the kirkyard, called Cowdies Knowe, and appears to have been built in the Gothic style, for in taking down the latter church in 1862, the ornamental stones of the older edifice were found among the rubble.  These consisted of parts of columns and pilasters, with terminating capitals, wrought in imitation of Corinthian.  One of the bases of the principal doorway was also dug up from the foundations.  This stone measures 3 feet by 2, and is 9 inches thick.  It seems to have formed the basis of double pilasters, the seats of which are formed by the circular wings of a nondescipt animal, with the head or beak appearing at right angles, and on the surface appears the date 1211.  If this is the date of the erection of the kirk in the days of William the Lion, we have the recorded mention of it only nine years later, in 1220, in the reign of Alexander the Second.  Hobkirk, like many other places and parishes, has given a surname, though none of the persons appear in the parish records.  In 1220 the vicarage of Hoppchirk was fixed at 10 marks, or pounds 6  and 13s 4d.  Afterward, the parish was formed into a rectory, and the stipend was raised to 25 pounds, and the teinds were levied from the then existing estates in the parish, which, before the Reformation, amounted to fewer than fourteen, named Wollis(Wells), Westlees, Bullerwall(Billerwell), Haroull(Hallrule), Toun o'Roull, Weinds(Weens), Hoppisburn(Greenriver), Halthornside(Hawthornside), Glestains, Unthank, Appotside, Hova(Howa), Steinleath(Stanledge or Stonedge), Harewood(Harwood), and Walyhope or Wauchope, and amounted to 1 chalder 3 bolls of beer and 1 chalder 6 bolls of meal.  The lands of Langsaw, Easter Swanshiel, and Wester Swanshiel belonged to Jedburgh Abbey, and were the only lands the monks possessed in the parish.  The lands of Kirknowe belonged to the vicarage, and was called the Vicar's Hill and Clark's Banks.  The old manse of the vicarage stood a little west of the farmhouse of Kirknowe, in a field which still goes by the name of Vicar's Wa's, though the real name was Vicar's Hall.  Although the plough has passed over Vicar's Ha' for many a century, the mark of the site can still be discerned.  Only a small portion of Vicar's Hill now belongs to the Crown lands.  Of the vicars and rectors of Hopekirk to the Reformation only slight notices can be obtained.  From an early period the kirk belonged to the Canons of Jedburgh, and was a subject of differences with the Bishop of Glasgow, concerning certain payments.  After a conference in 1220, it was arranged that the vicar of Hopekirk, according to option, should receive 10 marks, with the whole altarage, with its lands and pertinents, and should pay to the canons, in name of recognition, half a stone of wax yearly at the feast of St. James, and that the whole of the residue should go to the use of the canons, saving the right of Master Ada Onidius, who seems to have been an official of Hopekirk who received a salary.  In 1296 Allan was vicar of Hopekirk, and among other clergy of the county swore fealty to Edward the First.  After that one Rodger was vicar, who apeears witness to an instrument of sasine, but without date.  But it is only after the Reformation that a regular succession of ministers of the parish can be traced.  The patronage of the kirk and parish was vested in the Crown, and the first minister after the Reformation was John Douglas, who was presented to the living by James VI, on the 21st of March, 1576.  The next in succession was George Douglas.  He was translated from Soudan, and presented to the vicarage by James VI., on 29th May 1602, and he had also a "tak from His Majestie of the kirk landis, callit the Vicar's Hill, for lyffe."  He died between the 4th January and 19th April, in the thirtieth year of his age.  From this it appears that he had enjoyed the benefice little more than six months.  John Douglas was succeeded by Thomas Thomson in 1609.  He was translated from Soutra, and presented by James VI., before the 1st of March, and installed on the 28th April.  He died between the 18th January and 29th, 1626, aged 49 years, and in the 21st of his ministry--17 years of which were spent at Hopekirk.  William Weir succeeded in 1626.  He was translated from Soudan, and presented to the vicarage by Charles I., on the 29th July, and admitted 25th October.  He died on the 26th September, 1651, after having held the office 25 years.  He was buried at the west corner of the churchyard.  His grave is marked by a flat through stone, now nearly grown over with grass.  The inscription, which he probably dictated before his death, is--

   COURSE    W.  W.  M..  1651

or William Weir, minister.  from this modest and simple tale we must infer that Mr William Weir was a modest man, and possessed a large share of the Christian grace of humility.  A grandchild of Mr. Weir's called William Wilson, who seems to have been left destitute, is recorded to have received charity from the Prebytery of Kelso.

The paper goes on with later successions.

Below is another paper, of more recent origin, by John S. Hopkirk of New Zealand

The Parish of Hobkirk, by J S Hopkirk, 1977

The Parish of Hobkirk, anciently and properly Hopekirk, is in Roxburghshire, Scotland

There are places called Bonchester Hill, Ruberslaw and Waughchope which are old Roman fortifications. Hobkirk is in the Presbytery of Jedburgh, in the Synod of Meuse and Teviotdale. Information comes from the Topographical, Statistical and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland, Vol 1, Edinburgh, Dublin and London, published by A Pullerton and Co, 1854.
There is a summary by someone unknown: it is believed that the small ancient parish of Hopekirk in Roxburghshire in Scotland gave rise to the surname of Hopkirk. This name in its turn was probably derived from the kirk in the hope (small vale).
In the case of many old surnames, change in the local pronunciation, etc, etc..... though the schoolhouse and kirk still retain the name Hopekirk, the parish is called Hobkirk. There is a known number of families bearing the names of Hopkirk, Hobkirk and Hopekirk respectively.

The church and monastery of Hopekirk are old and of uncertain age and belonged from an early date until the reformation to the canons of Jedburgh. Jedburgh Abbey, together with the Abbeys of Dryborough, Kelso and Melrose, were founded by King David 1, the son of King Malcolm Conmore in the year 1124. The monks of border abbeys fought valiantly against English invaders who from time to time ravished the Borderland with fire and sword, laying waste its sacred places. All the border Abbeys were pillaged and burnt during the sixteenth century, but the ruined remains still show evidence of architectural beauty.

The soil of the Hope is of a fairly fertile nature. Farms, plantations and cultivated areas present a picturesque appearance. The Hartshorn mill stands on the bank of the rural stream, a few yards distant from the kirk and the old school house.

The year in which the surname Hopkirk was first assumed is uncertain. Scottish records reveal that a James Hopkirk was a reidare (which is a minor cleric) at Carrington in the year 1574. It is assumed, based on Parish records, that a Laird, William James Hopkirk, residing in the Parish of that name, is a common ancestor to two surviving branches of the family. This ancestor, being a professed covenanter, was informed upon by the neighbouring Laird of Cavers, was arrested for subversive activities and imprisoned. Although subsequently released, he was again arrested and exiled. He was drowned off the Orkneys in the year 1679.

Hopkirk tombs are to be found in Hobkirk, Jedburgh, Dryburgh and Melrose.

Fortunately, due to the retention of personal correspondence and family records an amount of family history pertaining to the last century is available. With regard to earlier periods, much must be assumed. Dates of births and deaths of ancestors do permit the tracing back of ancestry to the year 1639, and if aligned with records of Scottish rural life, will provide some understanding of the fluctuations in family fortunes, and the effects which both religious and political unrest had there too. This is especially so if we remember that the Hopkirks were of a border family and were no doubt from time to time involved in the many disputes peculiar to that part of Scotland. For generations life was a hard one and the struggle for survival difficult. By the year 1650 the population of Scotland was 900,000. It is not surprising that following the exile of the covenanter James in 1679, we find evidence of the uprooting and dispersing of the family.

William, born 1660, moved into the parish of Melrose in 1682, where in 1690 he is recorded as an elder. A Francis is recorded in the parish of Cranstown in 1689. It is certain from the parochial records that from 1680 several generations of the descendants of this William resided either in Melrose or adjacent parishes.

The Stuart risings also may have affected the family to a degree. It is recorded of William, born 1714, that of his first marriage a first son and one daughter died in infancy in 1745, although a son born in 1745 survived; from a second marriage contracted in 1752, this William had issue which thereby created a second branch of the family, which is represented by those Hopkirks now resident in England and South Africa respectively.

Economic conditions appear to have been responsible for the dispersal of the family of William, born 1776; this family consisted of one daughter and seven sons. The daughter Elizabeth and one son David died at sea. Of the remaining sons, James, John, William and Walter emigrated to and settled in USA and Robert and Alexander settled in New Zealand. This dispersal took place between the years 1835 and 1876. Contact remained between the brothers and subsequently their descendants, provided an interesting record of this family in the new lands in which they settled.

{This account was taped by me from Diedrich Hopkirks records, in 1977 when staying with him. I do not know who assembled the information, but it is at least traditionally correct and consistent with what I otherwise know. JSH\



This page last updated on Maarch 21, 2006