AN INCREASING number of women are opting for double-barrelled surnames to maintain their independence after marriage.

The Deed Poll Office said requests to retain maiden names rose by 30 per cent between 2020 and 2021 - the biggest annual rise it has ever seen.

I can’t understand why women want to change their names at all.

I’ve had the same name since birth. When I got married I didn’t even consider changing my surname to that of my husband. I’m in no way a feminist, but to me it’s like losing your identity. It’s as though you are your husband’s property.

For my parents’ generation and beyond, it was the norm for a woman to change her surname after tying the knot.

In fact it went beyond that - when people addressed the married woman in correspondence, they would not only use her acquired surname, but also her husband’s initial.

My grandma would be known as Mrs R Mead, referring to my grandad Randall, rather than using her initial, T for Thea. And as a couple, my mum and dad used to receive letters to Mrs and Mrs H (Harry) Mead. From a young age it struck me as odd.

I can’t understand how women can be bothered to change their names. Having to alter their bank details, passports, tax records and a million and one other things. This bureaucratic nightmare alone would put me off.

Yet the majority of women still like to take their spouse’s surname upon marriage. A 2016 You Gov poll found that 59 per cent prefer to do this - and 61 per cent of men still want them to.

Thankfully, my husband doesn’t care either way.

Why should the woman have to be the one to lose her surname? Over the centuries, so many family names have died out due to this archaic practice.

It was quite refreshing when Kate Winslet’s husband Ned - who at one time changed his surname from Smith to RocknRoll - changed his name again to incorporate hers, and Brooklyn Beckham recently changed his name after marrying Nicola Peltz, by taking his wife's surname as a new middle name. But neither made the ultimate moniker sacrifice by replacing their surname. It’s not unheard of - some men do take their wife’s surname, but it’s rare.

The habit of women changing their names began as late as the 15th century and had become widely adopted by the 17th century - prior to this, a married woman was considered to lose her surname upon marriage and have no surname whatsoever. Now that really is losing your identity.

For women who don’t want to relinquish their names, a difficult decision has to be made when children appear. Hating double-barrelled surnames, we decided that our daughters would have my name as their middle name and my husband’s surname. I didn’t want my family name to disappear altogether and, should they have children I hope that they will also try to retain the Mead name.

I confess there was a time, long ago, when I would have willingly taken a man’s surname. In my teens a boy on my class went by the name of Wayne Diamond. I thought he was gorgeous, and loved his glamorous-sounding name. I used to sit at my desk writing ‘Helen Diamond’ in preparation for our future union.

Amusingly, when I got married in 1994, my parents stopped thinking of me as Mead, and changed my name on letters, parcels and cheques to that of my husband. “I’m still Helen Mead”, I repeatedly told them. Like I said, it’s a generational thing.

Also what happens when double-barrelled surname marries double-barrelled surname? There wouldn’t be enough room to sign the register.