Guide to North East Surnames : C

North East England Surnames : C

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Carlisle surname

Border Reiver surname

There were 1,587 Carlisles in the 1881 census. In earlier times the surname was often spelled ‘Carliol’ as in Newcastle’s Carliol Square. The surname is of course from the city of Carlisle in Cumberland (now part of Cumbria) and occurs as a Scottish surname (an individual called Odard de Carlyle) around 1160. Cumberland and the city of Carlisle had become part of Scotland before the Norman Conquest and although reclaimed by England it was a part of Scotland again during the reign of King David I.

Only 40 Carlisles resided in Cumberland in the 1881 census with a further 30 in Westmorland. In Durham there were 87 Carlisle individuals in 1881 and 73 in Northumberland. In Lancashire there were 403 and in Yorkshire 234. The whole of Scotland was home to only 199 Carlisles. The surname also has a presence in Northern Ireland.

Carr surname

Border Reiver surname (and Northern England)

Carr is a prominent surname in Northumberland and Durham but also significant in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.

Carr in fact occurs  as a surname in four forms, namely Carr, Kerr, Ker and Carre. Pronunciations of the name include ‘Care’, ‘Car’ and ‘Cur’. All forms of the name derive from an old Viking word ‘ciarr’, meaning marshy, peaty or rough boggy country though it can also sometimes derive from an earlier Celtic word meaning ‘rock’ most notably on the coast.

In place-names, the word Carr is found throughout the north and especially but not exclusively in Viking settled areas. Examples include Bradbury and Preston Carrs near Sedgefield. The surname in all its forms is found throughout the country.

It is not known which marshy area the surname came from, but it is probable that someone was identified in early times as originating ‘from the marshy land’.

As I went to Newcastle,

My journey was not far,

I met with a sailor lad,

Whose name was Andrew Carr.

And hey for Andrew, Andrew,

Hey for Andrew Carr

traditional song

Early records of the surname seem to occur in the form ‘Ker’ in the north of England before they are found as ‘Carr’. An Osbert De Ker is mentioned in connection with records relating to the abbey of Rievaulx in Yorkshire and a Robert Ker mentioned in connection with Northumberland in 1231.

As a surname Carr and Kerr is commonest in Scotland and the North of England where they were once a notorious border reiving clan. Like most border folk of the Elizabethan period, the Kerrs and Carrs lived in fortified houses called pele towers. Pele towers were virtually impregnable stone built tower houses with walls three to four feet thick.

The peles had two or three upper storeys accessed by a narrow spiral staircase, which in most cases ran upwards in a clockwise direction. This gave an advantage to right handed swordsmen defending their peles. The Carrs were different, they were noted for being left handed, so their stairs ran in an anti-clockwise direction.

Looking solely at the spelling Carr, there were around 21,677 individuals called Carr in the 1881 census, predominantly focused on the North of England. There were 4,249 in Yorkshire, 3,109 in Lancashire; 2,893 in County Durham and 1,896 in Northumberland. Scotland was home to 1,190 individuals called Carr with others spread across England.

In the 1881 census Carr was the 27th most numerous name in Northumberland and the 30th most numerous in County Durham but it was not in the top 50 surnames for Yorkshire, Cumberland, Westmorland or Lancashire.

Carr-Ellison surname

(North East family surname)

The surname of an influential North East business family originating in Northumberland with links to Hedgeley Hall (the family seat) near Powburn in Northumberland and Hebburn on Tyneside. Businessman, Sir Ralph Carr-Ellison (1925-2014) was the first Chairman of Northumbrian Water in 1973, as well as Chairman of the Automobile Association (AA) and Tyne Tees Television

Carruthers surname

Border Reiver surname (Scotland and Cumberland name)

There were 4,192 Carruthers in the 1881 census of which 1,753 resided across Scotland. It is a surname that is particularly prominent in the Carlisle and Dumfriesshire areas. There were 963 Carruthers in Cumberland in 1881 and 29 in Westmorland. Northumberland was home to 160 individuals; Durham 248; Yorkshire 65 and Lancashire 547. There is a record of this surname in Scotland around 1320 and it derives from a place in Dumfriesshire. It was the 26th most numerous name in Cumberland in the 1818 census.

Chapman surname

(Widespread surname primarily associated with Yorkshire)

Chapman was a name for a merchant or ‘cheap-man’ in medieval times. Interestingly, the word ‘chop’ or ‘cheap’ in place-names often refers to trading places. Henry Guppy considered Chapman a name of the eastern counties from Kent to the North Riding of Yorkshire. A Hugh Chapman occurs in Yorkshire in 1206, one of the earliest occurrences of the name.

In 1881 there were 42,827 Chapmans in Great Britain and in terms of numbers only London had more Chapmans (5,330) than Yorkshire (4,710). However, Kent was home to 3,017 Chapmans and Surrey home to 2,840 Chapmans. In the North East there were 1,508 Chapmans in Durham and 314 in Northumberland with only 1,807 Chapmans in the whole of Scotland.

Other Chapmans were distributed throughout England with a very small number (526) in Wales. Despite the high number of Chapmans in Yorkshire in the 1881 census it did not make the top 50 most numerous surnames for that county for 1881.

Charlton surname

Border Reiver surname (Northumberland and Durham surname)

The surname Charlton is almost solely North Eastern in its geographical distribution and derives from a place-name Charlton, which means ‘farm belonging to a churl’ – a free peasant or person of low birth. It is from churl that we get the word churlish meaning ill-bred.

Several places called Charlton can be found in England but the surname is so closely associated with Northumberland that the hamlet of Charlton near Bellingham in North Tynedale would seem to be strong contender for the origin of the surname. Indeed, Charltons have been seated at this Charlton and close by Hesleyside in North Tynedale since the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Hesleyside Hall, North Tynedale
Hesleyside Hall, North Tynedale © David Simpson 2021

In the Elizabethan days of Border reiving, the Charlton clan were active in North Tynedale and carried out sheep and cattle thieving forays throughout the north. Favourite victims were the Scott family of Buccleugh near Hawick in Scotland.

Hesleyside Hall near Bellingham was the seat of the Charltons and is the subject of a Northumbrian tune called ‘The Hesleyside Reel’. Visitors to the National Trust’s Wallington Hall near Morpeth can see a huge Pre-Raphaelite painting depicting the Charlton family assembled for lunch at Hesleyside. The lady of the house has brought in a salver and dish for her hungry family but the salver has been lifted to reveal an empty dish; empty that is except for a riding spur.

It was a great tradition of the Charlton family that when the larder was empty the spur would be presented in this way as a hint that it if the family wanted food they would have to go raiding. In the painting, the Charltons don’t seem all that disappointed at the prospect of raiding enemy territory for mutton or beef. In the violent past famous Border raiding Charltons included John of the Bower and Thomas of Hawcop but Charltons can still be found throughout the Borders today and are a well-known family name in the North East. Among famous Charltons of more recent times are of course the Ashington footballing brothers Sir Bobby Charlton, Jack Charlton OBE.

The place-name Charltons (or Charltons Bank) in the North York Moors near Guisborough is named from a man called Charlton who established the village as an iron mining settlement.

In the 1881 census there were around 8,608 individuals called Charlton in the Great Britain census of which 2,343 resided in Durham; 2,132 in Northumberland; 769 in Yorkshire and 614 in Lancashire. In the other two northern counties of Cumberland and Westmorland there were only 98 and 9. Scotland was home to only 98 Charlton individuals and the rest were spread across England and particularly the south east. In that census Charlton was the 21st most numerous surname in Northumberland and the 42nd most numerous surname in County Durham but was not in the top fifty names for Yorkshire, Cumberland, Westmorland or Lancashire.

The Charleton surname

Charleton is a variation of the surname that also has a prominence in the North East and is found in Northern Ireland too. There were 183 with this surname in the 1881 census for Great Britain including 55 who lived in Northumberland; 29 in Durham and 40 in Scotland. An R. J Charleton was the author of a History of Newcastle upon Tyne.

The Carlton surname

In Viking settled areas such as Yorkshire and south Durham the place-name Carlton occurs and has the same meaning as the place-name Charlton. At least one of these places will have given rise to the surname Carlton. There were 1,349 with this surname in Great Britain in 1881 with 373 in Yorkshire and 117 in Scotland. Durham was home to 117 individuals with this name. There were 110 in Lancashire and 117 in Lincolnshire but there were only 22 people with this name in Northumberland.  A slight variation was Carleton (196 in Great Britain inn 1881) notably with 43 in Scotland; 28 in Cumberland; 22 in Lancashire and most of the others in the south east.

The Charlston and Chorlton surnames

The similar sounding but relatively rare surnames Charlston and Charleston are both found in Lancashire in the 1881 census. There were 75 Charlstons with only Lancashire (56) having significant numbers. Similarly of the 206 Charlestons (with an ‘e’) there were 41 in Lancashire; 22 in Cheshire and 79 people of this name in Scotland. However, there were also 40 with this name in the counties Devon and Cornwall with the remainder mostly found in the south east.

Another surname, Chorlton consisted of 973 individuals in Great Britain in 1881. Of these, there were 630 in Lancashire and 236 in Cheshire. This is very likely from the nearby Chorlton-cum-Hardy or Chorlton on Medlock in the Manchester area, unless the surname Charlton has been changed at some point due to local pronunciation from association with these familiar places.

Chaytor and Chater surnames

(Durham and Northumberland surnames)

A surname historically associated with the North East and especially Durham but not Northumberland where it seems to have taken the form Chater. In 1881 there were around 129 Chaytors in Great Britain of which 75 resided in Durham but only 17 in Northumberland.

Chaytor was the name of a notable family of coal owners remembered in the name of Chatershaugh (also sometimes recorded as  Chaytor’s Haugh) near Washington on the River Wear, an important colliery associated with mining as early as the eighteenth century.

The surname Chater was much more numerous in Northumberland than Chaytor and generally more widespread in England than the Chaytor variant. In 1881 there were 918 Chaters in Great Britain in the census of which 114 lived in Northumberland and 40 in Durham. Other than London (111) and the rest of the south east there were significant numbers in the Midlands, notably in Warwickshire (120) and Northamptonshire (102).

Clark surname

(Widespread English surname, numerous in the North East)

A name for a cleric that is widespread as a surname in England and numerous in the North East of England. Along with the variant Clarke, there were 46,605 individuals with this name in Great Britain in 1881. Durham was the home to 4,217; Cumberland 1,382; Northumberland 2,177; Westmorland 491; Yorkshire 11,357; Lancashire 11,012.

Both Clark and Clarke are numerous everywhere but Clark seems to be dominant over Clarke in the North and North East. Henry Guppy (1890) described the Clarke / Clark surnames as widespread but especially numerous at the centre of England and found them widespread across Scotland too except for northern parts.

In 1881 Clark was the 23rd most numerous surname in County Durham; 25th in both Northumberland and Cumberland; 41st in Yorkshire and 17th in Westmorland. It did not feature in the top fifty names for Lancashire.

Clasper surname

(Durham and Northumberland surname)

A North East name. There were only 362 Claspers in Great Britain in 1881 of which 220 resided in the County of Durham and 60 in the county of Northumberland. There were 30 in Scotland and others were scattered across the Midlands and South East England. The most famous Clasper was Harry Clasper, a nineteenth century champion rower of Dunston near Gateshead who is buried at Whickham.

Clavering surname

(Surname with strong historical North East connection)

Not a particularly common surname. Only 85 individuals are listed in the 1881 census. Twenty-one lived in County Durham and 44 in Northumberland. There were 6 in Yorkshire; 6 in Lancashire, 3 in Scotland and 5 in Surrey. Despite this definite North East connection the surname seems to have originated in Essex from a place of this name and occurs as a surname in Essex as early as 1230.

In the North East, Claverings were most noted as a coal-owning family of Axwell Hall near Blaydon and also owned Swalwell from the 1620s and in earlier times owned Gateshead House in Gateshead. In 1656, when the County and City of Durham first elected MPs after the Civil War, James Clavering of Axwell became Durham City’s first MP along with Thomas Lilburne of Offerton. Two county MPs were also elected. The Durham MPs were abolished when the monarchy was restored.

Cooperage and House of Tides
Former merchant’s house that belonged to the Clavering family in Newcastle : Photo © David Simpson 2015

In Newcastle the family name is recalled in the name of Clavering Place (which belonged to Sir Thomas Clavering of Axwell) while nearby on the Newcastle Quayside, a sixteenth and seventeenth century former merchants’ house was the home of the Claverings before they moved to Axwell. It is now the House of Tides restaurant.

Aydon Castle
Aydon Castle. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Other places associated with the Claverings included Aydon Castle near Corbridge which is a fortified manor house. The Claverings were briefly the owners of Corbridge itself in medieval times – they were also amongst the medieval owners of Rothbury and the castle or pele at Calally near Alnwick.

Clavering’s Cross near Longhorsley in Northumberland marks the spot where Robert Clavering, a High Sheriff of Northumberland was shot dead in a border feud by William Selby of Berwick in November 1586.

Clayton surname

(Yorkshire surname and a notable Newcastle man)

The surname Clayton is remembered in the name of Newcastle’s Clayton Street and recalls the name of John Clayton, the nineteenth century town clerk who was instrumental in supporting the ‘Grainger Town’ developments. He was also a noted antiquarian who helped preserve and protect Hadrian’s Wall.

Corner of Westgate Road and Clayton Street West
Corner of Westgate Road and Clayton Street West , Newcastle upon Tyne, Westgate Road follows the line fo Hadrian’s Wall © David Simpson 2021

However, the surname is predominantly associated with Yorkshire’s West Riding and with Lincolnshire. In  the 1881 cebsus there were 16,320 Claytons in Great Britain of which only 269 lived in Durham and 56 in Northumberland. Yorkshire was home to 4,155; Lancashire 3,547 and Lincolnshire home to 840 Claytons with the midlands and south east soaking up most of the remainder.

Cleasby surname

(Durham, Yorkshire and Cumbria)

Very much a name associated with Cumbria and especially that area that was historically the county of Westmorland. Of the 332 Cleasbys living in Great Britain in 1881 a remarkable 68 resided in Westmorland (a county with a very small population see our introduction). County Durham was home to 54 Cleasbys; Cumberland 22; Yorkshire 76 and Lancashire 46.

The surname very likely comes from Cleasby in the Richmondshire area of North Yorkshire a little to the south of the River Tees near the County Durham town of Darlington. A Robert Clesebi is mentioned in the Feet of Fines in relation to Yorkshire in 1202.

Clough surname

(Northern surname, especially Yorkshire and Lancashire)

A surname predominantly of Northern England and especially Yorkshire and Lancashire. Of the 6,961 Cloughs (and a few variant Cluffs) in 1881 there were 2,525 living in Yorkshire and 2,599 living in Lancashire. The Numbers in Durham (357) and Northumberland (200) were relatively modest by comparison with only 6 in Cumberland. Clough does not feature in the top 50 most numerous surnames for any of the six northern counties of England in 1881 including Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Clough the surname comes from a place of origin, a ‘clough’ being a valley or ravine (called Cleughs in Northumberland and Scotland) in just the kind of uplands with which the Yorkshire and Lancashire areas are associated. Just slightly further south, there were 346 Cloughs residing in Cheshire and 71 in Derbyshire.

Notable Cloughs include the Middlesbrough-born footballer and football manager Brian Clough OBE.

Coatsworth surname

(Durham surname)

Listed by Henry Guppy as a surname peculiar to Durham. It is a North East surname and does indeed have a strong association with County Durham. Within the county Guppy identified it as being a surname of the Darlington area and there is a record of it there in 1613.

There were 256 Coatsworths in Great Britain in 1881. Of these, 117 lived in County Durham with 21 in Northumberland; 51 in Yorkshire and 16 in Lancashire; one in Scotland and the remainder living across the midlands and the south east.

Cockburn surname

(Mostly a Scottish surname)

Listed as a Guppy farmers’ surname peculiar to Northumberland but mostly a Scottish surname that is prominent in the Lothians, Berwickshire and the Borders but with a significant presence in North East England. Of the 3,980 Cockburns in the 1881 census almost half (1,989) resided in Scotland. The figures for the northern English counties were Northumberland 549; Durham 514; Yorkshire 169; Lancashire 138; Cumberland 18 and Westmorland 12. The surname derives from the name of a stream.

Collingwood surname

Border Reiver surname (Northumberland and Durham)

Historically a North Eastern surname especially in County Durham. The most famous Collingwood was the Newcastle-born Vice Admiral Lord Cuthbert Collingwood, second in command to Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar and commemorated in the Collingwood monument at Tynemouth and in Newcastle’s Collingwood Street which is of course mentioned in ‘The Blaydon Races’ song.

Collingwood Street, Newcastle
Collingwood Street, Newcastle © David Simpson 2021

Collingwood is listed as a Guppy ‘County name’ in County Durham. Collingwood College at Durham University is named from the mathematician Sir Edward Collingwood who was a chair of the council of the university. He was a Northumbrian who was born (and died) at his family seat of Lilburn Tower near Chillingham, Northumberland.

Collingwood Arms, Cornhill-on-Tweed
Collingwood Arms, Cornhill-on-Tweed, north Northumberland © David Simpson 2021

There were 1,721 Collingwoods in Great Britain in the 1881 census and despite the apparent Border connections there were only 60 Collingwoods in Scotland. Northumberland was home to 73 and Cumberland only 6. However, Durham was home to  313 Collingwoods in 1881, with 326 in Yorkshire and 117 in Lancashire. In the midlands there were 350 Collingwoods of which 174 resided in Lincolnshire (59 in Staffordshire) with most of the remaining families residing in London and the home counties.

The surname ultimately has its roots in Staffordshire where a Richard de Calangwode is mentioned in the Assize Rolls in 1323. The surname derives from a place-name in that county.

Common surname

(Northumberland and Durham surname)

Ironically, Common is not a common surname at all. It is listed by Henry Guppy as a farmers’ surname in Northumberland and is associated with Cumberland, Dumfrieshire and Northumberland. The best-known Commons were the Tyneside writer Jack Common and the Sunderland-born footballer Alf Common who became the first £1000 footballer on his transfer from Sunderland to Middlesbrough.

There were only 671 people called Common in the Great Britain census of 1881. Northumberland was home to 224 of these and Durham 97; and 160 were born in Scotland, mostly in the Border counties and Lothian. Apart from 60 or so in London and the south east this was mostly a northern Borders name and may be a variation of the possible Norman name Cumming(s)/ Cummin(s)/ Comine(s)/ Comyn(s) etc.

In one outlying group in 1881 there were 2 people called Common residing in Devon and 98 residing in Cornwall of which all but one (born in Devon) was also born in Cornwall.

Conyers surname

(Historic Durham baronial surname)

Not a particularly numerous name. In 1881 there were around 410 Conyers living in Great Britain and a small proportion of these used the spelling Conyer without the ‘s’. Taking the two variations of the surname as a whole there were 233 Conyers in Yorkshire. The rest were spread out across England and Wales with 11 in Scotland but no Conyers were resident in Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland or Westmorland in 1881 and there were only 9 residing in Lancashire.

Despite this, the surname Conyers has important historic connections to the County of Durham. The surname Conyers derives from either Cogners or Coignieres which are places in France. Members of this family came to England at the time of the Norman Conquest when William the Conqueror appointed one Roger de Conyers as a Constable of Durham Castle. A castle at Bishopton near Stockton-on-Tees was built by the Conyers which has an interesting story connected with the usurping of the Prince Bishopric of Durham by an imposter.

Earthworks of motte and bailey castle at Bishopton
Earthworks of motte and bailey castle at Bishopton. Photo © David Simpson 2018

The Conyers family also have an important association with a County Durham legend. Sometime in the twelfth century the Conyers were granted the manor of Sockburn on Tees near Middleton St George. According to legend this place was rewarded to a certain John Conyers after he slew a fierce local dragon called the Sockburn Worm, perhaps a distant relation of the Lambton Worm.

Conyers Falchion
The Conyers Falchion © David Simpson 2020

In commemoration of this event each new Bishop of Durham is presented with the sword called the Conyers Falchion (on display in Durham Cathedral) which was reputedly used in the dragon slaying act. The presentation ceremony is carried out on the bridge at Croft on Tees near Darlington, with the following speech:

“My Lord Bishop, I hereby present you with the falchion wherewith the champion Conyers slew the worm, dragon or fiery flying serpent, which destroyed man, woman and child; in memory of which, the King then reigning gave him the manor of Sockburn to hold by this tenure, that upon the first entrance of every new Bishop into the County the falchion should be presented”.

Interestingly Croft on Tees was the place where Lewis Carroll lived as a boy and it was here that he wrote the first verse of his famous nonsense rhyme about the killing of a dragon called Jabberwocky.

See also Baker Baker

Cook surname

(Widespread name, epecially notable in Yorkshire)

A very widespread surname though there is a notable density in North Yorkshire, which was of course the birthplace of the famous explorer Captain James Cook who was born at Marton, now a suburb of Middlesbrough. There were 76,886 Cooks and Cookes in Great Britain in 1881. Henry Guppy considered Cook and Cooke to be surnames primarily of the south-central counties.

Surprisingly Cook did not feature in the top fifty most numerous surnames for any of the six northern counties of England in the 1881 census, including Yorkshire.

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum
The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, Stewart Park, Middlesbrough © David Simpson 2021

Corbridge surname

(Yorkshire and Lancashire surname – likely Northumberland root)

Despite the probable connection with Corbridge in Northumberland this surname is predominantly associated with souther parts of Yorkshire.  Of the 303 individuals called Corbridge in the 1881 census, 138 lived in Yorkshire; 90 in Lancashire and 14 in Durham. Only one person called Corbridge actually resided in Northumberland. Most of the remaining individuals called Corbridge lived in the Midlands.

Cornforth surname

(Durham surname)

This surname comes from the village of Cornforth in County Durham which was sometimes called Cornford in the past. A Thomas De Corneford is mentioned in the Assize Rolls of Durham in 1242. There are two variations of the surname namely Cornforth and Cornford with Cornforth being the predominant name and especially in the North.

Cornforth village
Cornforth village, County Durham © David Simpson 2018

Grouping the two variations of the surname together, there were 1,361 Cornforths (and Cornfords) in Great Britain in 1881. The distribution of Cornforths and Cornfords in the northern counties in 1881 was as follows with the figures showing the number of individual Cornforths in each county and the additional number of Cornfords in brackets: Durham 122 (0); Northumberland 27 (0); Yorkshire 282 (0); Lancashire 71 (4); Midland counties 146 (8).

In Essex; South West England; Hampshire; Wales and East Anglia the surname in both its forms occurs in quite small numbers with no more than twenty of either surname in each area, though Cornford predominates in each of these southern regions by around 3 to 1.

The situation is quite striking in the far south east where there are very significant numbers of Cornfords (especially in Sussex) but few Cornforths (there’s only 1 in Sussex) suggesting that this variant of the name may have developed independently in the south east: London 6 (53); Surrey 5 (67); Kent 3 (129); Sussex 1 (313).

Neither Cornford nor Cornforth occur in the 1881 census for Scotland.

Coverdale surname

(Yorkshire and Durham surname)

The Coverdale surname derives from the dale of the River Cover which is a tributary of the River Ure in Wensleydale. In historic times the most famous Coverdale was the Protestant reformer Myles Coverdale (1488-1569) who was born in Yorkshire. From a more recent age a famous Coverdale and also a Yorkshireman is David Coverdale (born 1951) the singer and songwriter with the rock group Whitesnake who was born at Saltburn by the Sea.

Scenery from the Cam Gill Road
Scenery from the Cam Gill Road along the route from Coverdale to Wharfedale © David Simpson 2021

In the 1881 census Coverdale is clearly a Yorkshire surname although proportionally more significant in County Durham (see county populations in 1881). There were 820 Coverdales in Great Britain in 1881 with 460 residing in Yorkshire and 205 residing in County Durham. Only 5 resided in Northumberland. Other than Yorkshire and Durham most of the remainder lived in either Lincolnshire (38) or London (89).

Cowan, Cowen and Cowans surnames

(Scottish, Northumberland, Durham and Northern names)

These surnames are likely Gaelic – Irish, Scottish or Manx and are thought to be a shortening of ‘MacOwen’, meaning a descendant of Owen.

Cowan surname (principally Scottish)

Cowan with the ‘a’ is predominantly a Scottish surname. Of 6,110 people called Cowan in the 1881 census some 4,339 lived in Scotland. In the north of England there were 434 in Lancashire; 245 in Cumberland; 211 in Durham; 181 in Northumberland and 145 in Yorkshire with the others spread more thinly across the midlands and south east.

Cowans surname (mostly Northumberland and Durham)

Cowans with the ‘s’ is more northern English and consisted of 329 individuals in the Great Britain census of which Northumberland (154) and Durham (90) had the most numbers. Only 55 people with the surname Cowans resided in Scotland.

Cowen surname (North and North East England)

Cowen with the ‘e’ is especially notable in the North East and also Cumbria. Of the 1,654 people called Cowen in the Great Britain 1881 census, there were only 73 individuals called Cowen in Scotland. Lancashire was home to 293; Yorkshire 270; Durham 224; Cumberland 202 and Northumberland 109 with the others again spread thinly across the midlands and south east. A notable North Easterner with was the newspaper proprietor Joseph Cowen.

Cowens surname (Northumberland, Durham and North Yorkshire)

Cowens with the ‘s’ consisted of 257 individuals in the Great Britain census with Northumberland (101); Durham (70) and Yorkshire (44) having the most numbers. The rest were mostly in the south east.

Cowin surname (Isle of Man surname )

Cowin seems to be a surname of the Isle of Man. There were 647 people called Cowin in the Great Britain (plus the Isle of Man) census of 1881 in which 418 resided in the Isle of Man and 86 resided in Lancashire (32 of these Lancashire Cowins were born on the Isle of Man).

Cranston surname

Border Reiver family surname (predominantly Scottish)

Found predominantly in Scotland as a Borders and lowlands name. There were 1,546 in Great Britain in 1881 of which 718 resided in Scotland. In Northern England there were 178 in Durham, 100 in Yorkshire, 78 in Lancashire, 73 in Northumberland. Most of the remaining Cranstons lived in the London area. Sometimes the surname occurs as Cranstoun. The surname is also found in Northern Ireland in the County Down area. It is mentioned in Somerset in 1327 but noted in Scotland in the following century and derives from a place in Midlothian.

Craster surname

(Surname with a Northumberland origin)

Quite a rare surname, originating from the coastal village of Craster in Northumberland, a place that derives its name from ‘craw-cester’ : ‘the crow’s fort’. The surname occurs in a thirteenth century medieval manuscript of records relating to the Priory of Gisborough in North Yorkshire where an Albert de Craucestre and an Ivo de Crawecestre are mentioned.

Craster © David Simpson 2020

There were only 61 individuals with the surname Craster in the 1881 census with 14 in Yorkshire, 11 in Northumberland, 13 in the London area and 10 in Scotland plus others scattered across England and Wales. It is best to examine the families here given the small numbers.

Looking at the ‘heads of household’ of which 14 are listed, 5 are born in Northumberland, 2 in Durham (one a female), 2 are born in Yorkshire, one is born in Hampshire (living in Buckinghamshire) and one male living in Edinburgh giving his birthplace as England. Three of the Craster heads of household give their birthplace as ‘Ireland’, namely a female living in Northumberland and two males living respectively in Surrey and Northumberland.

Crozier surname

Border Reiver family surname (Northumberland and Durham)

The Crozier surname is most frequently found in the Northumberland and Durham areas. Crozier is also found in the southern counties of Northern Ireland. There were 1,819 Croziers (sometimes with the spelling Crosier) in Great Britain in 1881. Of these, 296 lived in Northumberland, 241 lived in County Durham, 177 in Lancashire, 122 in Yorkshire and 75 in Cumberland with the remainder focused in London and the South East and to a lesser extent the Midlands.

The surname refers to a bearer or seller of a bishop’s crook or bearer of a cross in a monastery. Medieval records of the surname occur in Oxfordshire and Staffordshire.

North East Surnames beginning with:

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 M | N | O | P | R | S | T | UV | W | Y

Introduction to North East surnames

Border Reivers

Guppy’s surnames

North East Notable People


Border Reiver Surnames of the Anglo-Scottish Border. Poster Print.


North East England History and Culture