Guide to North East Surnames: C

North East Surnames: Carlisle to Cruddas

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North East Surnames C

Carlisle surname

Border Reiver surname

In earlier times the Carlisle 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 briefly a part of Scotland again during the reign of King David I.

Border Reiver surnames showing Carlisle, Carnaby, Carruthers and Kerr
Border Reiver surnames showing Carlisle, Carnaby, Carruthers and Kerr © David Simpson

Several members of the Carliol (De Carliol) family were mayors of Newcastle in medieval times as follows: Henry of Carliol 1252-58, 1258-59 and 1260-63; Thomas of Carliol 1260, 1264-1265, 1272 and 1278; Hugh of Carliol 1291-92 and 1294; Nicholas of Carliol 1303-04 and 1309 and Thomas of Carliol in 1313. A Henry Karlell (a merchant whose surname was presumably a variation on Carliol/Carlisle) was mayor of Newcastle in 1399-1400 and he was the MP for the town in 1388 and 1394. A John Carlell was mayor of Newcastle in 1453, 1475, 1476, 1480 and 1483.

There were 1,587 Carlisles in the 1881 census of which only 40 Carlisles resided in Cumberland and a further 30 in Westmorland. In Durham there were 87 Carlisle individuals 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.

Carnaby surname

Border Reiver surname

Sir William Carnaby, a Northumberland MP was the owner of Halton Tower in Northumberland in 1415. A Northumberland MP of the name Sir William Carnaby also served the county from 1628. The surname derives from Carnaby in the East Riding of Yorkshire and occurs in the Yorkshire Assize Rolls in 1219 and in a Register of the Freemen of York in 1370. Carnabys were influential men in the Hexham area notably at Nibbock and at Halton and were a Northumberland family in the Border Reiving era of Tudor and Elizabethan times.

There were only 152 Carnabys in Great Britain in the 1881 census and they were most numerous in Northumberland where there were 49 individuals. Elsewhere they were of small significance in Durham with 18 individuals and in Lincolnshire with 20 and in London with 10. Others were thinly spread across England as well as 18 in Scotland.  Surprisingly there were no Carnabys in Yorkshire, though there were 2 people of the name Carneby in that county. A small handful of people with this variation of the name also resided in Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Berkshire.

Carr surname

Left-handed Border Reiver surname of 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 may 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 (or perhaps rocky) 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. In the 1415 list of castles and towers in Northumberland, Lilburn Tower in north Northumberland (Turris de Lilborn) is the home of a John Carr.

As a surname Carr and Kerr is commonest in Scotland and the North of England where they were once a notorious Border Reiver 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.

Carrs were notable in the Hexham area at Hencoats and at Slaley and at Bondi Carrs on the Northumberland coast. The surname is very prominent in the civic history of Newcastle upon Tyne with several mayors of this name over the centuries. Mayors of this name in Newcastle were as follows: George Carr 1481, 1484, 1486, 1487, 1489, 1491, 1492, 1493, 1498, 1500, 1502; Ralph Carr 1534; William Carr 1565, 1670.

A Sir Ralph Carr was Newcastle mayor in 1676 (he was also MP for Newcastle in 1679, 1881, 1689 and 1690). William Carr was mayor in 1689 and also MP for Newcastle, 1690 to 1710. Sir Ralph Carr was mayor in 1693 and William Carr in 1702 (also an MP for Newcastle from 1690 to 1710). Sir Ralph Carr was again mayor in 1705. William Carr was mayor in 1724 and 1734 and also MP for Newcastle from 1722 to 1727 and from 1729 to 1734.

Newcastle Guidlhall
Guildhall, Newcastle © David Simpson 2015

A William Carr was Mayor of Hartlepool in 1733; a John Carr was mayorof Newcastle in 1839; a Robert Bell Carr was a mayor of Durham City in 1969 and a Mary Jane Carr mayor of Newcastle in 2001.

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.

See also Ellison surname.

Ellison Hall, Hebburn
Ellison Hall, Hebburn © David Simpson

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.

A record of this surname occurs in Scotland around 1320 and it derives from a place in Dumfriesshire. It was the 26th most numerous name in Cumberland in the 1881 census.

The surname Cruddas is a variation of Carruthers that is much more closely associated with Durham and Northumberland. See the entry for Cruddas below.

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 broadly 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.

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.

Border Reivers : The Charltons
Border Reivers : The Charltons © David Simpson

Remember that it is the place-name that means ‘place of the peasant’ not the surname. The surname simply means ‘person from Charlton’, and doesn’t necessarily mean they were a peasant or of low birth. It is likely that the place acquired its name long before any person came to be known as Charlton.

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 a strong contender for the origin of the surname. Indeed, Charltons have been seated at this Charlton and the nearby Hesleyside in North Tynedale since the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

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.

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

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 at all 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. Famous Charltons of more recent times are of course the Ashington footballing brothers Sir Bobby Charlton, Jack Charlton OBE.

The place-name Charltons (near 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. The whole of Scotland was home to only 98 Charlton individuals and the rest were spread across England and particularly the south east.

Charlton was the 21st most numerous surname in Northumberland in the 1881 census 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 Robert Carlton and a John Carlton are noted at Norton near Stockton-on-Tees in Bishop Hatfield’s survey of Durham (1377-80) and are presumably named from nearby Carlton. This may also be the case for a Thomas Carlton at nearby Sedgefield and perhaps the John Carlton mentioned in that survey in connection with Newton Juxta Dunholm (Newton Hall near Durham City).

A slight variation was Carleton (196 in Great Britain in 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 of 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

Chaytor is 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. In the 1575 Visitation of the county of Durham, Butterby to the south of Durham City was the seat of Christopher Chaytor.

Chaytor was the surname 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. A Sir William Chaytor was MP for the City of Durham in 1831 and MP for Sunderland in 1832 and 1834.

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).

Chipchase surname

Durham and Northumberland surname

There were 416 individuals called Chipchase in the 1881 census of which 175 resided in the County of Durham; 32 in the county of Northumberland and 82 in Yorkshire. Lancashire was home to 27 and in London there were 67 with others spread across the midlands and south east. A minor variation Chipchaise was found only in Durham and Yorkshire. The surname derives from Chipchase, the home of Chipchase Castle near Wark on Tyne in Northumberland.

A William De Chipchesse featured in the Register of the Freemen of the City of York in 1279 and a Thomas Chipchase was mayor of Durham City in 1790, 1802, 1803, 1811, 1821 and 1830.

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 the 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 surname. There were only 362 Claspers in Great Britain in the 1881 census 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, the 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 but a family connected with the region since medieval times. Only 85 individuals are listed in the 1881 census. Of these, 21 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. Durham MPs were abolished when the monarchy was restored and for may years Durham was without parliamentary representation.

Cooperage and House of Tides
Former merchant’s house of the Clavering family in Newcastle © David Simpson

In Newcastle the family name is recalled in the name of Clavering Place (on land 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 © David Simpson

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 where a Sir John Clavering was recorded as the owner in a list of Northumberland castles and towers compiled in 1415.

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.

The Claverings featured prominently in the civic and political history of Newcastle and the North East. In medieval times, a Sir Robert Clavering was Member of Parliament for Northumberland from 1386 and a Sir John Clavering was the county’s MP from 1406.

In later times, a James Clavering was mayor of Newcastle in 1607 and in 1618; a John Clavering was mayor in 1629 and Sir James Clavering mayor in 1663. This James was also an MP for Durham from 1658 and another Clavering called Sir Thomas Clavering served as that county’s MP from 1768. Sir Thomas Clavering was the mayor of Hartlepool in 1761, 1770, 1783 and 1801.

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 of Hadrian’s Wall © David Simpson

However, the surname is predominantly associated with Yorkshire’s West Riding and with Lincolnshire. In the 1881 census 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.

Nathaniel Clayton was mayor of Newcastle in 1725 and 1738; William Clayton was mayor in 1755 and 1763; Robert Clayton was mayor in 1804; 1812 and 1817.

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 the population notes at the end of this page). 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.

Clennell surname
North East surname

A very rare surname in the 1881 census with only 82 individuals in the whole of Great Britain. It was mostly found in the County of Durham where there were 53 individuals. The others were 7 in Northumberland; 6 in London; 4 in Edinburgh and 1 in Northamptosnshire. Clennell is the name of a place in the valley of the River Alwin (in upper Coquetdale) in Northumberland and is the site of Clennell Hall.

Clennell Hall © David Simpson

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. Their 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 in 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 (they are called ‘cleughs’ in Northumberland and Scotland). Clough can be found in the Pennine uplands with which the Yorkshire and Lancashire areas are associated. Just slightly further south, there were 346 people called Clough 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 and south Durham area and there is a record of it there in 1613. In the form Cotesworth the surname is also connected with the Hermitage near Acomb in Hexhamshire.

There were 256 Coatsworths in Great Britain in the 1881 census. Of these, 117 lived in County Durham with 21 in Northumberland; 51 lived in Yorkshire and 16 in Lancashire; there was only one in Scotland and the remainder lived 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.

College surname

North East distribution

There were 116 people with the surname College in the 1881 census primarily found in County Durham where there were 45 individuals. There were 7 in Yorkshire; 7 in Lancashire and 2 in Northumberland. The similar surname Colledge (with a ‘d’) was more numerous and more widely distributed across England with 783 individuals including 76 in Yorkshire; 72 in Durham and 28 in Northumberland. There were 26 people called Colledge in Scotland. The Colledge surname at least is thought to derive from Colwich in Staffordshire or Colwick in Nottinghamshire, though there is of course the College Burn (from cold letch – a cold watercourse) in Northumberland.

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 was listed as a Guppy ‘County name’ in County Durham.

Collingwood Street, Newcastle
Collingwood Street, Newcastle © David Simpson

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

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. A Robert Collingwood was a Member of Parliament for Northumberland from 1529. The Collingwoods of Abberwick and Etal were known supporters of the Rising of the North rebellion in 1569. In the Visitation of the County of Northumberland in 1615 the family are noted in connection with Eslington Park.

Collingwood Border Reivers surname
Collingwood Border Reivers surname © David Simpson

Common surname

Northumberland and Durham surname

Ironically, Common is not a common surname at all. It is listed by Henry Guppy as a surname in Northumberland and is associated with Cumberland, Dumfriesshire and Northumberland. The best-known Commons were the Tyneside writer Jack Common and the Sunderland-born footballer Alf Common who became the first £1,000 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 names 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 © David Simpson

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 wyvern called the Sockburn Worm, perhaps a distant relation of the Lambton Worm.

Conyers Falchion
The Conyers Falchion © David Simpson

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 wyvern-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 wyvern or worm called Jabberwocky.

In 1575, Horden in east Durham was the seat of a Christopher Conyers. In the 1569 Rising of the North, Ralph Conyers of Layton (near Sedgefield) and Ralph Conyers of Coatham Mundeville (near Aycliffe) and Long Newton near Stockton were known supporters of the rebellion. A Thomas Conyers was elected a Member of Parliament for the City of Durham in 1529 and 1702.

Conyers School is the name of a Secondary school at Yarm-on-Tees. It traces its origins back to a Free Grammar School founded in 1590 by Thomas Conyers of nearby Egglescliffe. The present school is on a different site to the original.

Brigadier-General Sir Herbert Conyers Surtees (1858-1933) was a noted historian of the County of Durham.

See also Baker Baker and Surtees

Cook surname

Widespread name, especially 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

Corbridge surname

Yorkshire and Lancashire surname – likely Northumberland root

Despite the probable connection with Corbridge in Northumberland this surname is predominantly associated with southern 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.

A Thomas De Corbridge was the Archbishop of York from 1299-1304. A Robert and a John Corbridge are mentioned in connection with Bishop Auckland (North Auckland) in Bishop Hatfield’s Survey of Durham (1377-80).

The River Tyne at Corbridge
The River Tyne at Corbridge © David Simpson

Cordner surname

Rare North East surname

There were only 86 people called Cordner in the 1881 census of which 32 resided in Durham; 21 in Lancashire; 20 in Scotland; 8 in Northumberland; 3 in London and Surrey and 1 in Devon.

The similar surname Cordiner (with the ‘i’) was more numerous and more Scottish, with 375 of the 401 Cordiners in the Great Britain 1881 census residing north of the Border. There were 25 in Lancashire; 10 in Yorkshire; 8 in Durham; 5 in Lincolnshire and 1 in Surrey. Both surnames mean ‘maker of cords’.

Corner surname

North East surname

The Corner surname was particularly prominent in County Durham in the 1881 census where 414 Corners resided out of a Great Britain population of 2,191 resided. In Yorkshire there were 360; in Lancashire 320; in Northumberland 20 and only 153 in the whole of Scotland. Other Corners were spread mostly across the south and south east. The surname may derive from an old word for a Coroner or ‘Crowner’ (an officer who supervised the pleas of the Crown) or from ‘Corneor’, a musician or horn blower.

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. A Francis Cornforth was mayor of Durham in 1711, 1717 and 1723.

Cornforth village
Cornforth village, County Durham © David Simpson

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 occurred in the 1881 census in Scotland.

Coulson surname

Northern surname

There were 5,374 people with this name in the 1881 census of which 62 resided in Scotland and 2,967 resided in the six northernmost counties of England. They were found predominantly in the County of Durham with 1,140 individuals, followed by Yorkshire with 983 and Northumberland with 636. In the other Northern counties there were 165 in Lancashire; 42 in Cumberland and 1 in Westmorland. Others were spread across the midlands and south east including 401 in London. The name means ‘son of Coll’ which is a pet form of Nicholas. A Stephen Coulson was mayor of Newcastle in 1728.

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 person called 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

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 and Newcastle MP Joseph Cowen. He was the son of Sir Joseph Cowen, who was also a Member of Parliament for Newcastle.

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 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 Isle of Man) census of 1881 in which 418 resided in the Isle of Man and 86 resided in Lancashire (32 of the Lancashire Cowins were born on the Isle of Man).

Coxon surname

North East England and the Midlands

This surname occurs in the Subsidy Rolls of Cumberland in 1332 and occurs in County Durham in 1539. In the 1881 census there were 2,297 individuals with this name and it was most numerous in the County of Durham with 553 individuals followed by Northumberland with 395. In Lancashire and Yorkshire there were respectively only 158 and 82, a very small representation in these highly populated counties and there were only 3 individuals in Cumberland.

Outside the North East the main representation for this surname was in the midlands including 309 in Derbyshire; 306 in Staffordshire and 105 in Nottinghamshire. Unusually, there was very little representation for this surname in the populous counties of London and the south east.

The perhaps similar sounding surname Cookson is a Northern England surname but was almost overwhelmingly found in Lancashire with only modest representation in the North East. Cookson was of course the married name of the famed South Tyneside author, Catherine Cookson. A Christopher Cookson was mayor of Durham in 1641.

Craggs surname

County Durham surname

There were 1,543 people with this name in the 1881 census and it was predominantly found in County Durham where there were 722 individuals. In Yorkshire there were 338 people called Craggs; in Northumberland 133 but in Lancashire there were only 38 and Scotland was home to only 2. The rest were spread across the south east, south west and midlands.

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. An Edmundi Crasestr is recorded as the owner of the Tower of Craster in 1415.

Craster © David Simpson

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 were listed, 5 were born in Northumberland, 2 in Durham (one a female), 2 were born in Yorkshire, one was born in Hampshire (living in Buckinghamshire) and one male was living in Edinburgh giving his birthplace as England. Three of the Craster heads of household gave 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.

Also occurring in the form Croser, the surname occurs as a Border Reiving surname in Cumberland and in Scotland. 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.

Cruddas surname

Durham and Northumberland surname

The surname Cruddas is one of a number of variations of the surname Carruthers (see entry above) and is especially North Eastern in its distribution. In all its forms (not including Carruthers) there were 362 individuals in the 1881 census with the most numerous variants being Cruddas; Cruddace; Croudace and Crudace.

Cruddas occurs 144 times in the 1881 census with 64 in Durham; 37 in Northumberland; 28 in Yorkshire and 2 in Cumberland. There were 9 in Gloucestershire, 1 in London and 1 in Oxfordshire. A William Cruddas was elected Member of Parliament for Newcastle in 1895.

Cruddace occurs 64 times with 59 in Durham and 5 in Northumberland. Crudace with the single ‘d’ consisted of 8 individuals in Durham; 14 in Northumberland; 1 in Hampshire and 1 in Yorkshire.

Croudace occurs 57 times with 32 individuals in Durham; 9 in Northumberland; 2 in Lancashire and the remainder in London, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Surrey.

Other variations included Cruddice, Cruddus, Cruddies, Crudass and Cruddes. All found predominantly in Durham followed by Northumberland and a handful in Yorkshire.

North East Surnames beginning with:

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Historic counties of Great Britain and Ireland
Historic counties of Great Britain and Ireland showing the six northern counties of England © David Simpson and England’s North East 2021
Note on the populations of English counties in 1881

When comparing figures for individual numbers of a surname in 1881 it is important to be aware of the actual population of each of the Northern English counties. As you can see from the figures below, 500 individuals with a particular surname in Westmorland would be proportionally much more significant than 500 people of the same surname residing in Lancashire. You might well describe such a surname as a ‘Westmorland name’ but the numbers would not be significant enough to describe it as a ‘Lancashire surname’, at least not as defined by the 1881 distribution. The 1881 northern county populations were as follows:

  • Northumberland: Population 434,658. The county included Newcastle upon Tyne, Wallsend, North Shields, Tynemouth and Whitley Bay and a mining district in the south east of the county including the port of Blyth. As well as indigenous Northumbrian surnames, ‘Border names’ are often abundant in this county, occasionally taking on a form that is distinct from similar Scottish surnames.
  • Durham: Population 869,130. The county included Sunderland, Gateshead, South Shields, Jarrow, Darlington, Stockton-on-Tees and Hartlepool. Numerous small mining towns and villages lie across the county between these major centres of population and like the industrial centres were often the home to surnames that originated in Northumberland and North Yorkshire as well as home-grown in County Durham.
  • Yorkshire: Population 2,895,049. This county included the iron town of Middlesbrough on the south bank of the River Tees in the north east corner of the county as well as ‘West Riding’ towns like Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Halifax, York, Huddersfield to the south. Most of the population of Yorkshire was and still is focused upon the urban and industrialised south west of the county where there is a close relationship in terms of surnames with neighbouring Lancashire across the Pennines. The far south of the county around Sheffield is also very populous. The rural East Riding along with the city of Hull may have a close relationship with neighbouring Lincolnshire. From a North East point of view many of the surnames we describe as ‘Durham and Yorkshire’ are almost always specifically focused upon North Yorkshire and south Durham, though often stretching across the whole of Durham in distribution.
  • Cumberland: Population 251,520. The main centres in this county included Carlisle and the industrial coastal towns of Whitehaven and Workington. As in Northumberland, ‘Border surnames’ have a strong influence here, often originating from or stretching into Scottish counties of the western borders, notably Dumfriesshire.
  • Westmorland: Population 64,204. This was a relatively small and rural county in terms of population. Characterised by small market towns and farming villages, it has its own distinct surname distribution. Along with Cumberland it is now part of Cumbria.
  • Lancashire: Population 3,466,597. This highly populated county included Liverpool and Manchester as well as major towns such as Bolton; Preston; Burnley; Oldham, Rochdale and a number of mill towns. The historic county also stretched into the south Lakeland area in what is now (along with Cumberland and Westmorland) part of Cumbria. The industries of Lancashire were a great draw for immigration from Scotland; Ireland and Wales, particularly in the nineteenth century.
  • Cheshire: We occasionally include details of surname distribution in Cheshire (its population in 1881 was 644,895) where relevant, though surnames in Cheshire and indeed Lancashire and to some extent West Yorkshire often take on a distinctly different character and pattern of distribution to surnames in the other northern counties. Welsh surnames are also quite significant in Cheshire given its location on the Welsh Border. In fact some suburbs of the city of Chester are located within Wales.
  • Counties of the Midlands and South: In addition to the six northernmost counties plus Cheshire, there were a further 32 other counties in England as follows: Bedfordshire; Berkshire; Buckinghamshire; Cambridgeshire; Cornwall; Derbyshire; Devon; Dorset; Essex; Gloucestershire; Hampshire; Hertfordshire; Hertfordshire; Huntingdonshire; Kent; Leicestershire; Lincolnshire; London (Middlesex); Norfolk; Northamptonshire; Nottinghamshire; Oxfordshire; Rutland; Shropshire; Somerset; Staffordshire; Suffolk; Surrey; Sussex; Warwickshire; Wiltshire and Worcestershire.
  • The South East: Of these other English counties, London and some of its neighbouring counties were particularly populous as of course they still are. There were just short of 3 million people in Middlesex (London) and additionally in Surrey there were 1.4 million people. In Essex there were more than half a million people and the population in Kent (996,770) was just short of a million. Such a populous region as the South East often inevitably includes Northern surnames that have gravitated southward but rarely do these surnames have any proportional significance within the population of the South East.
  • Scotland: The total population of Scotland in 1881 was 3.4 million, focused primarily on the central lowland belt stretching from Glasgow to Edinburgh.
  • Wales: The total population of Wales in 1881 was just over 1.5 million and focused upon Cardiff, Swansea and the industrial mining valleys of the south.

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North East Surnames C

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