Guide to North East Surnames: D

North East Surnames: Dacre to Durham

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Dacre surname

Border Reiver surname

A surname with Cumberland roots where it was recorded in the name of Ranulf Daker in 1212. The surname comes from Dacre near Ullswater to the south west of Penrith and has its roots in a Celtic name for a stream (the Dacre Beck). The seat of the Barons Dacre was Naworth Castle near Lanercost Priory between Haltwhistle and Carlisle. A notable member of this family was Thomas Dacre (1467-1525) who was one of the commanders at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

Flodden Field, battle monument
Flodden Field, battle monument © David Simpson

Only 386 Dacres were listed in the 1881 census with 9 in Cumberland, 6 in Westmorland and 1 in Northumberland. Most of the Dacres in 1881 resided in Yorkshire (196) and Lancashire (83) with the remaining Dacres residing mostly in the south east.

Danby surname

Yorkshire surname

Listed as a Guppy surname in the North or East Riding of Yorkshire. In 1881 there were 1,296 Danbys in Great Britain of which Yorkshire was home to 430. The neighbouring counties of Durham, Lancashire and Lincolnshire were respectively home to 100; 63 and 142 Danbys with the remaining numbers mostly in the midlands and south east.

The name comes from Danby near Whitby a place-name which means ‘settlement of the Danes’. A Rand de Danbi is mentioned in Lincolnshire in the Pipe Rolls of 1189 and a Robert de Danebi mentioned in Yorkshire in the Pipe Rolls of 1212.

Darling surname

Lifesaving Grace

A surname with a notable presence in the Scottish Borders. A famous name is Grace Darling, the famous heroine and lighthouse keeper’s daughter of the Farne Islands. The surname simply means ‘beloved’.

The Farne Islands
The Farne Islands, showing the red and white lighthouse of Longstone and the white lighthouse of Inner Farne © David Simpson

There were 2,882 Darlings in the 1881 Great Britain census of which 823 resided in Scotland. In the North of England the most notable concentration was in Northumberland with 290 individuals. Durham was home to 157 people called Darling and Yorkshire 193 but they were present in relatively small numbers in the other northern counties with 64 in Lancashire; 8 in Cumberland and 2 in Westmorland. The remaining Darlings were spread across England and Wales with most concentrated in London and the ‘Home Counties’ surrounding the capital.

Davidson surname

Scottish surname numerous in North East England

Primarily a Scottish name particularly in eastern Scotland but also  significant in North East England. In the 1881 census it was the 29th most numerous name in Northumberland, a little below Davison which ranked 23rd. However, the Davidson (with the ‘d’) form of the name did not make it into the top 50 names for the County of Durham. Hepple and Holystone in Coquetdale were amongst the places in 1881 where Davidson was prominent along with Sandhoe near Hexham and Haydon Bridge in the Tyne Valley.

Of the 25,275 people called Davidson in the Great Britain census, 16,049 lived in Scotland. In England, Northumberland was home to 1,680 Davidsons; Durham 1,213; Cumberland 1,141 and Lancashire 1,120. Yorkshire was home to 655 and the rest spread across England and Wales primarily in London and the south east.

Davison surname

Primarily Northumberland and Durham

There is a strong presence for this surname in North East England and North Yorkshire with very little influence in Scotland. The Northumbrian suffragette Emily Wilding Davison is a notable name. Davison was the 23rd most numerous name in Northumberland in 1881 (see also Davidson above) and the 22nd most numerous in County Durham. Davison was the most numerous amongst all names in the Morpeth and Rothbury districts in 1881 and also at Kirkharle. It is often included as a minor Border Reiver surname.

Plaque commemorating Emily Wilding Davison, Longhorsley
Plaque commemorating Emily Wilding Davison, Longhorsley © David Simpson

Of the 10,775 people called Davison in the Great Britain census, only 132 lived in Scotland (compare this with Davidson). Over in England, Durham was home to 3,462 Davisons; Northumberland 2,053 and Yorkshire 1,694 with the rest spread across England and Wales but primarily in London and the south east. There were only 46 with this surname in Cumberland in 1881.

Dawson surname

Primarily a North of  England surname

Identified by Henry Guppy as a name of significance in Cumberland, Westmorland and Durham. Also a strong presence in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Cheshire extending into central Scotland. Dawson is in fact another form of ‘David’s son’, Dawe being a pet form of the name David.

In 1881 there were 33,337 Dawsons in Great Britain with their biggest numbers in the counties of Yorkshire (7,130) and Lancashire (6,531). It was a significant surname in the North East too, where there were 2,121 in Durham and 1,054 in Northumberland. Dawson was the 46th most common name in Yorkshire in 1881 and 48th in the County of Durham but did not feature in the top fifty most numerous names for Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmorland or Lancashire.

Scotland was home to 3,121 Dawsons and the remaining numbers were focused in the east and south east. The name appears (Thomas Daweson) in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield in Yorkshire in 1326. In Bishop Hatfield’s survey of Durham (1377-1380) a John Dawson features in connection with Wolsingham.

Dawson was a notable name in Newcastle’s civic affairs in the mid seventeenth century when a Henry Dawson was mayor in 1646 and in 1652 (he died in office). A George Dawson succeeded him. A William Dawson had been the Newcastle mayor in 1649.

Delaval surname

The ‘Wicked Delavals’

A family of Norman origins, a Guy Delaval was married to a niece of William the Conqueror. Originally they hailed from the Maine area of France where a Guy de la Val (it means ‘of the valley’) built a castle called ‘La Val’. On arrival in England this family developed a long association with Northumberland but the line died out in 1814 and the name does not feature in the 1881 census.

Seaton Delaval Hall
Seaton Delaval Hall © David Simpson

The Delavals owned land in the Hartley area of Northumberland and were involved in local industry from early times, owning salt pans and a fishery at the mouth of the River Blyth. A Robert Delaval commanded the defence of Tynemouth Castle against the marauding Northumbrian, Gilbert Middleton in 1318 and a William De La Val was the owner of Seghill Tower (near Seaton Delaval) in south east Northumberland in 1415.

In the seventeenth century, Sir Ralph Delaval instigated the construction of a small harbour at the mouth of the Seaton Burn at Seaton Sluice and built the sluice gates that give the little haven its name.

The grand Seaton Delaval Hall (National Trust) is the principal legacy of the family in the North East today. Built between 1718 and 1729 for Admiral Lord Delaval by the renowned architect John Vanbrugh neither the admiral nor the architect lived to see its completion.

In that century the practical joking brothers Lord Delaval and Sir Francis Blake Delaval known as the ‘wicked Delavals’ resided at the hall and were noted for the impressive surprises they sprung upon wary but unsuspecting house guests.

Other places in Northumberland associated with the Delaval family include Ford Castle and village which was a Delaval property until 1808 and Bavington Hall a former property of the Shaftos that the family acquired after 1715.

A Robert Delavale (sic) esquire was the mayor of Durham in successive years in the late seventeenth century in 1686, 1687, 1688 and 1689.

Delavals numbered amongst Northumberland’s MPs in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries with Sir John Delaval, a Northumberland MP in 1626; Sir Ralph Delaval in 1659, 1660 and 1677; Sir John Delaval in 1705 and Francis Blake Delaval in 1716.

Dinning surname

North East surname

Listed as a Guppy farmers’ surname in Northumberland and it is a North East surname in general. It was notable, according to Henry Guppy, in Corbridge during the reign of Charles II. There were 668 individuals called Dinning in the 1881 census for Great Britain. Of these, 224 lived in Scotland; 214 in Durham; 169 in Northumberland; 62 in Yorkshire; 11 in Lancashire; 7 in Cumberland with the rest distributed across the south west and south east.

Dinsdale surname

Durham and Yorkshire surname with a Tees origin

A name of North Yorkshire. It comes from the place called Dinsdale on the River Tees on the historic county border of Yorkshire and Durham just to the south east of Darlington. In the 1881 census it was primarily found in those two neighbouring counties. Of 1,585 Dinsdales in Great Britain in 1881, some 939 lived in Yorkshire followed by Durham with 214. There were 147 in Lancashire and 51 in Northumberland. A Geoffrey Dynnesdale is mentioned in connection with the City of York in 1496. The surname Surtees also originated from Dinsdale.

Church of St John the Baptist, Low Dinsdale
Church of St John the Baptist, Low Dinsdale © David Simpson

Dixon surname

North of England surname

This surname has a strong presence in the North and especially Northumberland and Cumbria. In 1881 Dixon was the 11th most numerous surname in Northumberland and the 16th most numerous in County Durham but did not feature in the top 50 surnames for Yorkshire or Lancashire. It was 8th in Westmorland and 14th in Cumberland.

Many English surnames derive from the Christian name Richard. It is a name with a Germanic root meaning ‘strong king’ or ‘powerful brave’, but was really introduced into England by the Norman French. The surname Richardson is especially common in the north and the earliest records of this name occur in Scotland and Yorkshire. Ricardus, the Latinized form of Richard has resulted in pet forms like Rick and Hick and Dick which have given rise to names like Hicks, Hix, Hickson, Dicks, Dix, Dickson and Dixon. Dickson and Dixon were both originally Dicson and are thought to have originated in the Dumfries and Cumberland area and spread out from there.

Other diminutives of Richard are the surnames Dicken, Dickens, Dickin and Dickins all variations of the same with early occurrences in Yorkshire. Dickenson and Dickensons are also developments of these diminutive forms. Less obvious is the surname Higgins, which derives from a kinsman of Hick, though this along with the variations Higginson and Higgs are likely to have originated from the south of England.

A few other unexpected derivatives of Richard include the surname Ricketts, but some names which appear to derive from Richard are misleading. Dickman for example means one who lives or works near a dyke, while Dicker and Dickers were the diggers of the dykes.

Henry Guppy considered Dixon a surname of the English counties on the Scottish Border noting that Dickson was found in central and southern Scotland. Dickenson he also considered a ‘North country surname’.

There were 32,916 individuals called Dixon in the 1881 census. Only 886 of these resided in Scotland. The name is primarily focused upon the north of England with others distributed across the midlands and south east. In 1881 there were 5,996 Dixons in Yorkshire; 4,948 in Lancashire; 3,872 in Durham; 3,029 in Northumberland and 1,894 in Cumberland. Even Westmorland, with its relatively tiny population was home to 607 Dixons where it was the 8th most numerous name in that county.

The surname is often included in the list of Border Reiver surnames on the Scottish side of the border to the north of Berwick. A notable Dixon from County Durham was the surveyor Jeremiah Dixon of Cockfield from whom the Mason-Dixon line in the United States is partly named.

Cockfield village
Cockfield village © David Simpson

The variation Dickson has a stronger Scottish presence. In 1881 of the 11,126 individuals with this name there were 7,729 residing in Scotland. Lancashire was home to 805 Dicksons; Yorkshire 400; Northumberland 279; Durham 174 and Cumberland 66 with others mostly distributed across the midlands and south east.

Dobson surname

A surname of Yorkshire and the North

Most widespread in the north and particularly Yorkshire and the North East though there is no definite evidence that it originated in the North. It means ‘son of Dobbe’. Notable North Easterners with this name include John Dobson and Scott Dobson.

There were 13,232 people called Dobson in the 1881 census of which 3,966 resided in Yorkshire; 2,195 in Lancashire; 1,344 in Durham; 556 in Northumberland and 277 in Cumberland. The relatively small county of Westmorland was home to 346 Dobsons where it was the 18th most numerous name in that county. It did not feature in the top fifty names of the other five most northern English counties. In Scotland there were 632 individuals called Dobson with the rest mostly spread across the midlands and south east.

A Roger Dobson was mayor of Hartlepool in 1655, 1657, 1659, 1662, 1664 and 1666. A Wheatley Dobson was mayor of Durham in 1692, 1693, 1696 and 1697.

Dodd surname

Border Reiver family surname 

The North East example of this surname is found especially north of Hexham in Tynedale. Also of significance (perhaps with a separate origin) in Lancashire, Cheshire and the western midlands.

Dodd is a surname closely associated with Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria and like the similar name Todd may derive from an old word for a bush or a bushy-tailed fox. It is most likely that the surname Todd refers to a fox rather than a bush and it may be that the first bearer of the name Todd was noted for his or her fox-like features.

Perhaps they had bushy hair or were elusive, and sly like the fox. Another possibility is that like many foxes they were inclined to solitary behaviour, and were often seen ‘on their tod’ but this phrase is Cockney rhyming slang and derives from the name of an American jockey called Tod Sloan. ‘Fox’ surnames connected with the north include the surname Fox itself, which is primarily associated with the north of England and north midlands. Todd does not feature in the top fifty names for any of the six northern counties of England in 1881.

North Tynedale scenery near Tarset
North Tynedale scenery near Tarset © David Simpson

The form Dodd is strongly associated with Northumberland where the Dodd family were one of the four major Border clans of North Tynedale and is almost certainly named from a hill called a dodd of which examples can be found close to the area associated with the Northumberland Dodd family. However, there is a good legend linking the name to a fox.

Burnbank Peel, a fortified tower on the Tarret Burn near Bellingham was the ancestral home of the Dodds in North Tynedale. Legend has it that the Dodds here were descended from Eilaf, an Anglo-Saxon monk who was one of the carriers of St Cuthbert’s coffin who fled from Lindisfarne at the time of the Viking raids in the ninth century.

It is said that Eilaf pinched some cheese from his fellow monks who prayed that that the culprit be revealed by turning him into a fox (a dodd). Prayers were answered and for a short while Eilaf was turned into a fox. From that day on Eilaf and his descendants were known as Dodd.

Dodd : Border Reiver surname
Dodd : Border Reiver surname © David Simpson

There were 12,196 individuals called Dodd in the 1881 census. Only 181 of these resided in Scotland. Northumberland was home to 815; Durham 569; Cumberland 418 and Westmorland 125. In Yorkshire there were 443 people with this name.

Dodd in the North West

A more significant grouping of the Dodd surname can also be found in the North West of England and west midland counties which may all have a separate origin. In 1881 Lancashire was home to 1,720 people called Dodd and Cheshire home to 1,614. The neighbouring west midland counties also had significant numbers of people called Dodd: Staffordshire 795; Shropshire 511; Warwickshire 486 and even Worcestershire was home to 93 individuals. Further south, London was home to 1,023 people called Dodd with many of the remaining numbers focused in the home counties around the capital. The variation Dod with a single ‘d’ was quite rare (only 185 in 1881) and was primarily found in Cheshire, Lancashire and the London area.

Dodds surname

Northern surname

Dodds with the ‘s’ is the most North Eastern of all the ‘Dodd’ (see above) and ‘Dod’ variations in its distribution. In the 1881 census there were 6,317 people with this name. Of these, there were 1,559 in Scotland but the name was much more significantly localised in the North East of England with 1,927 in Durham and 1,390 in Northumberland. It was the 42nd most numerous name in Northumberland in 1881.

There were 485 people called Dodds in Yorkshire in 1881 – a relatively small number for such a populous county and this was even more notable in Lancashire where there were only 176 people called Dodds. In Cheshire there were only 26 people called Dodds. Cumberland was home to 53 people called Dodds with a further 13 residing in Westmorland. The only other county of note for this surname was Lincolnshire where there were 129 people called Dodds. Most of the remainder resided across the midlands and south east.

A variation Dods (one ‘d’ and an ‘s’) was quite rare (503 individuals in 1881) was mostly found in Scotland (312) with the remainder scattered across England and particularly the south east,

Donkin surname
North East surname

Primarily a North East surname but also notable in eastern parts of Yorkshire. It is thought to be an English variation of the Scottish surname Duncan. There were 1,115 people called Donkin in the Great Britain census of 1881 of which only 4 resided in Scotland. Durham was home to  355 people called Donkin; Northumberland 265; Yorkshire 213 and Lancashire 34. In London there were 59 people with this name, with the rest found across the midlands and south east.

Douglas surname

Border Reiver family surname : a Scottish surname

Still primarily a Scottish name from just over the Border. The following rhyme was seemingly sung by worried mothers to comfort children in the days of Scottish raids. It refers to a friend of Robert the Bruce called Jamie ‘the Black Douglas’ (1286-1330), who was much feared in England:

‘Hush thee! Hush thee!

little pet thee, do not fret thee,

the Black Douglas shall not get thee’

Douglases have long been associated with the Border country and the name originates from Douglas in Lanarkshire. This place-name derives from Dubh Glas, meaning ‘black stream’ and as well as being the origin of the surname has also given rise to Douglas, the Christian name. William de Duglas is the first known member of the family and lived in the twelfth century. Other Douglases include William Douglas ‘The Hardy’, father of the Black Douglas and Governor of Berwick in 1296 when the town fell to the English.

Percy's Cross on the Otterburn battlefield site
Percy’s Cross on the Otterburn battlefield site © David Simpson

At the Battle of Otterburn on the 19 August 1388 the famous rivalry between the Douglases and the Percy family of Northumberland reached a dramatic climax. James Earl Douglas invaded England with an army of 4,000 soldiers and burned Northumberland and Durham as far as Brancepeth.

At Newcastle Douglas taunted Harry Hotspur Percy who was safely protected behind the defended town walls. Later, Hotspur attacked Douglas and his army at their camp at Otterburn and the battle commenced. James Douglas was killed in the battle but only after he had correctly predicted a Scottish victory:

‘I hae dream’d a dreary dream,

beyond the Isle of Skye,

I saw a dead man win a fight,

I think that man was I’

(Sir Walter Scott)

In 1881 there were 16,857 individuals called Douglas in Great Britain of which 7,833 resided in Scotland. Significant numbers resided in the northern counties of England with 1,368 in Northumberland; 1,211 in Durham; 1,025 in Yorkshire; 972 in Lancashire; 438 in Lancashire and 29 in Westmorland with the remaining Douglases spread mostly across the midlands and south east.

Drummond surname

Scottish surname – a Wearside connection

A Scottish surname first and foremost and associated especially with Perthshire, though there is an interesting link with the Sunderland area of North East England concerning the possible hiding place of an Earl of Perth at Fatfield near Washington, whose descendants can be found throughout the North East region. An eighteenth century Wearside highwayman was also known by the name of Drummond but whether there was a connection to the aforementioned earl is not known.

River Wear at low tide, Fatfield
River Wear at low tide, Fatfield with Penshaw Hill in the distance © David Simpson

There were 6,423 Drummonds in Great Britain in 1881 of which 4,247 resided in Scotland. Only 1,023 could be found across all the counties of the entire midlands and south east England and East Anglia but in the North there were significant numbers with 374 in Lancashire; 260 in Durham; 183 in Northumberland and 155 in Yorkshire.

Dryden surname

Scotland, Northumberland, Durham

Possibly derived from a place near Roslin, Edinburgh. There were 1,810 people of this name in the 1881 census with 536 in Scotland. The county of Northumberland was home to 416 Drydens; Durham 357;  Yorkshire 181; Cumberland 33; Lancashire 28 and Westmorland 6. Others were spread across the south west and south east including 83 in London.

Duck surname

Name of a Durham colliery owner

Listed as a Guppy surname in the North or East Riding of Yorkshire it certainly shows a presence in North Yorkshire. It was the name of a seventeenth century mayor of Durham City called Sir John Duck, whose origins are thought to have been in the Kilton area of Cleveland in Yorkshire. He was known as ‘Durham’s Dick Whittington’ and was an important coal owner in the Rainton area of Durham where he operated an early colliery called ‘Duck’s Main.

Plaque commemorating John Duck
Plaque commemorating John Duck in Durham’s Silver Street © David Simpson

Of the 1,613 people called Duck in the 1881 Great Britain census, Yorkshire was home to 375 Ducks and London 315. Scotland was home to 11; Northumberland 4 and Durham 55. Lancashire was home to 48. There were 153 in Wiltshire and 126 in Somerset with most of the remaining individuals called Duck found in the midlands and southern and south east counties.

Dunn surname

Border Reiver family surname

A widespread surname but especially noticeable in the North East and North Yorkshire. It was identified by Henry Guppy as having three separate ‘homes’: Northumberland was the principal ‘home’ according to Guppy along with the North and East Riding of Yorkshire. The other homes according to Guppy, being Warwickshire and Worcestershire with a third home in Dorset and Devon.

In the 1881 census there were 25,047 people called Dunn. Of these 4,189 lived in Scotland and over 4,000 spread across London and the counties of the south and south east. The populous northern counties had significant numbers with 2,851 in Lancashire; 2,277 in Yorkshire; 2,065 in Durham and 1,418 in Northumberland. In Cumberland there were 101 and Westmorland there were 19.

Dunn was the 40th most numerous surname in Northumberland in 1881 and 49th in County Durham but did not feature in the top fifty names for Cumberland, Westmorland, Yorkshire or Lancashire.

Of the other individual counties there was certainly a significant number in Devon (864) and Cornwall (405) but it did not feature in the top fifty names for either of those two south western counties. Other less significant numbers were spread across the south west and the midlands.

Thomas Dunn was the name of a mayor of Durham in 1741, 1747, 1784, 1807 and 1813. A Martin Dunn was mayor of Durham in 1801 and 1809 and Thomas Dunn, a mayor of Newcastle in 1842.

The variations Dun (334 in the Great Britain census of 1881) and Dunne (985) do not have any significant North East distribution. Of the 334 people called Dun in 1881 there were 158 in residing in Scotland with the rest scattered across England. Dunne however did have a northern England presence with 437 of the 985 people of this name living in Lancashire and 100 living in Yorkshire. Scotland was home to only 57. In Northumberland there were only 13 people called Dunne, Durham 23 and Cumberland 29. Most of the rest lived in the south east and midlands.

Durham surname

Rare in North East England

Ultimately this name must have referred to someone from the county or city of Durham but the name does not seem to have any obvious connection with either in terms of distribution.

Wallsend Village
Wallsend Village © David Simpson

A family with the surname Durham was connected with Wallsend from the fourteenth century where a John De Durham features in 1368. The Durhams still owned land in Wallsend into the early eighteenth century and were connected with nearby Howdon from the 1740s before moving on to Newcastle. Wallsend was historically in Northumberland but was connected with Durham in medieval times through the monastery at Jarrow so perhaps the family link has its roots in this connection.

Despite this, the Durham surname seems to have little presence in the North East. Of the 2,621 Durham individuals in the 1881 census only 56 lived in the County of Durham and 27 in Northumberland. However, there were 445 in Yorkshire and 283 in Lancashire with the surname spread across the numerous remaining counties of England.

Durham Cathedral © David Simpson

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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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