The name Wigglesworth derives from the village of Wigglesworth in the north west of the county of Yorkshire. The name means ‘someone who comes from Wigglesworth’. It may indicate a relationship with the Lords of the Manor of Wigglesworth or simply be the name of a peasant from the village. However since the village is little more than a hamlet, and as it has never been of any great size, it is possible that most people called Wigglesworth have a dash of Norman blood, and very possible that they are all related.
The history of the family that acquired the area as a result of the Norman Conquest begins about 950 in Normandy. There lived, at that time, in the area of Rouen, a man named Herfast ‘the lucky forester’. His good fortune was to have five beautiful daughters who all married into the Norman aristocracy. Most of the English aristocracy descend from these five girls. The youngest of the five (whose name has been lost) married Godfrey de Neversheim. Godfrey’s brother William built the castle of Arques and subsequently rebelled against William, Duke of Normandy. As punishment the castle was given to William de Arques’ nephew, William son of Godfrey who then became known as William Visconte de Arques. William’s son (another William) fought at the Battle of Hastings and in return his father and his heirs were granted lands in Wigglesworth. The property at Wigglesworth passed through the family, sometimes passing down the female line through a series of dynastic marriages. By 1240 the de Arches (anglicised from the Norman) were calling themselves de Arches de Wykelesworth and that name gradually passed into normal use. In the early 1300s Elinor de Arches married first a Stephen de Hammerton, by whom she had a son Adam, then, after Stephen’s death remarried to her cousin John Wigglesworth, probably one main branch of the family derives from this second marriage. With the marriage to Stephen the manor passed to the de Hammertons. The manor passed out of the hands of the de Hammertons when in 1536 Sir Stephen de Hammerton (of Wigglesworth Hall) became involved with the revolt known as the Pilgrimage of Grace and was subsequently executed for treason.
As the Wigglesworth family moved out of the village they spread mainly to the east, north and south. Few of them moved to the west since the Forest of Bowland, largely uninhabited to this day, lies to the west of Wigglesworth. In the 1672 Hearth Tax lists most Wigglesworths are in the area immediately around Wigglesworth itself, though there are a few families further away. There were also, by that time,Wigglesworths in America, where Edward Wigglesworth emigrated in the early 1600s. His descendants are there to this day. It is believed that Edward and his family moved from Lincolnshire – though they clearly had strong links with Yorkshire. There was a branch of the Wigglesworth family in north Lincolnshire from the earliest parish records. They were found in closely adjoining parishes and all called their sons by the same names, so it is believed that they were related, and it is unlikely that they had been there very long – perhaps between 50 and 100 years, which would mean that they arrived there between 1500 and 1550.
Even in 1881 there were three times as many Wigglesworths in Yorkshire (around 1000) as there were in Lancashire (300), the county to the east. The main concentrations were in the Aire valley, a natural route from Wigglesworth into the heart of the industrial area to the south.