Guide to North East Surnames: P

North East Surnames: Pallister to Pybus

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Pallister surname

County Durham surname

Pallister is listed by Henry Guppy as a surname in County Durham. In the 1881 census there were 757 people with this name in Great Britain. Predominantly in the North, there were 347 Pallisters living in County Durham; 260 in Yorkshire; 14 in Cumberland; 14 in Westmorland and 11 in Lancashire. The surname occurs in Yorkshire in 1315 and refers to a maker of palings or fences.

Park surname

Mostly Scottish and Northern English

Predominant in the North of England and Scotland. In the 1881 census there were 9,282 of this name in Great Britain of which 3,798 lived in the six northern counties of England and 3,883 in Scotland. In the North the number of Parks consisted of 1,449 in the county of Lancashire; 708 in Yorkshire; 578 in Cumberland; 528 in Durham; 321 in Northumberland and 214 in Westmorland. Of the rest many were concentrated in London and the south east. The name refers to someone who lives in or near a park.

Parnaby surname

Durham and Yorkshire surname

Primarily a Durham and Yorkshire name and listed by Henry Guppy as a surname peculiar to the North or East Riding of Yorkshire. In the 1881 census there were 185 Parnabys in Yorkshire and 159 in Durham. Of the other northern counties, Northumberland was only home to 4 Parnabys and Lancashire only one.

A similar surname Farnaby occurred 113 times in the 1881 census with 87 individuals in Yorkshire; 25 in Durham and 1 in Northamptonshire. A George Farnaby was mayor of Newcastle in 1591 and 1598.

Patterson, Pattinson and Pattison surnames

Strong Northern distribution

All of these similar surnames essentially mean ‘son of Patrick’ and have a strong distribution in the North of England. Another variation, Paterson with the single ‘t’ is primarily Scottish.

The most North Eastern and most widespread of the three Northern English surnames is Patterson with the ‘tt’ of which there were 10,491 in Great Britain in the 1881 census. Of these, 2,795 resided in Scotland and 5,224 in the six northern counties of England. Their numbers in the northern counties were 1,803 in Northumberland; 1,439 in Durham; 1,252 in Lancashire; 472 in Yorkshire 472 and 29 in Westmorland with many of the remaining Pattersons focused upon London and the south east.

Patterson was the 28th most numerous surname in Northumberland in the 1881 census but did not make it into the top fifty names in any of the other northern counties of England.

Paterson with the single ‘t’ is the more numerous Scottish variant of the above name and in 1881 consisted of 20,458 individuals in Great Britain of which 18,237 resided in Scotland and only 880 in the six northern counties of England (Lancashire 432; Durham 155; Yorkshire 141; Northumberland 88; Cumberland 59 and Westmorland 5) with the remaining Patersons spread across England especially in the south east.

Pattison with an ‘i’ but no ‘n’ is another numerous name significant in the North East. There were 4,778 people with this name in the 1881 census of which 682 resided in Scotland and 3,043 in the six northern counties of England. Of these 1,281 resided in Durham; 990 in Yorkshire ; 492 in Northumberland; 205 in Lancashire; 61 in Cumberland and 14 in Westmorland.

Pattinson consisted of 2,684 individuals in the 1881 census of which only 49 resided in Scotland. The six northern English counties were home to 2,297 Pattinsons with 916 in Cumberland; 454 in Durham; 264 in Northumberland; 250 in Yorkshire and 186 in Westmorland.

In the 1881 census Pattinson was the 29th most numerous surname in Cumberland and 47th in Westmorland but it did not make it into the top fifty names in any of the other northern counties of England.

Other variations of these surnames such as Pateson; Patison and Patinson occur only in very small numbers.

Pearson surname

Widespread Northern name

Henry Guppy considered this name notable in the North and East Riding of Yorkshire, though proportionally it seems to have had an important presence in Cumbria. In the 1881 census, Pearson was the 27th most numerous surname in Cumberland; 28th in Westmorland; 29th In Yorkshire and 46th in County Durham. It was not in the top fifty names for Northumberland; Lancashire or Cheshire. A Thomas Pearson was mayor of Durham in 1604.

Pease surname

Yorkshire surname

A famous name in the history of Darlington and Teesside through the noted Quaker family of this name (see Edward and Joseph Pease). The name was connected with Darlington from the eighteenth century. The surname originated in the Wakefield area of the West Riding but is notable in North Yorkshire. It was listed by Henry Guppy as a surname ‘peculiar’ to Durham.

There were 1,133 people called Pease in the Great Britain census in 1881 of which 554 lived in the six northern counties of England. These were mostly in Yorkshire where there were 425 individuals; Durham 60; Northumberland 36; Lancashire 27 and Westmorland 6. There were only 3 of this name in Scotland. Many of the remaining Peases were located in the south east of England.

Percy surname

Northumberland and Northern baronial name

A famous Northumberland baronial surname associated with the Percy Barons and Earls and of course, Harry Hotspur, with an historic link to Northumberland notably at Alnwick and at Warkworth. The name is Norman French in origin and on arrival in England was initially more closely associated with Yorkshire. This surname originates from Percy-en-Auge, near Caen, in the Calvados area of Normandy in northern France.

The Lion Bridge and Alnwick Castle
The symbolic Percy Lion on the Lion Bridge at Alnwick with Alnwick Castle  behind © David Simpson

In the 1881 census there were 2,803 people called Percy in Great Britain of which the six most northern counties of England were home to 832. There were 281 Percys in Northumberland; 252 in Lancashire; 202 in Yorkshire; 87 in Durham and 10 in Cumberland. Scotland was home to 230 Percys and many of the remaining Percys were focused upon the south east.

See the Percy Earls and Dukes in our Hall of Fame.

Phillipson surname

Northumberland surname

A name Henry Guppy regarded as peculiar to Northumberland and notably Allendale. One of the medieval crosses that surrounded the City of Durham marking the sanctuary of the city was called Phillipson’s Cross. The others being Neville’s Cross and Charley’s Cross. A William Phillipson was mayor of Durham in 1627 and a Ralph Phillipson was mayor of Newcastle in 1855.

There were 1,954 people of this name in the 1881 census and it is most prominent in Northumberland where there were 421 individuals. In Lancashire there were 292 Phillipsons; in Durham 247; in Yorkshire 205; Westmorland 139 and Cumberland 82. There were only 7 of this name in Scotland and most of the remaining Phillipsons lived in East Anglia and the south east.

Pickering surname

Northern name with Yorkshire origin

The surname Pickering derives from the town of Pickering in North Yorkshire but has a significant presence in the North East. In the 1881 census there were 11,240 people with this name especially in its county of origin where Yorkshire was home to 2,749 individuals. In Lancashire there were 1,886 individuals; in Durham 820; Cumberland 314; Northumberland 270 and Westmorland 15. There were 110 Pickerings in Scotland with others spread across the English midlands and south.

Pickering North Yorkshire
Pickering © David Simpson

Pigg surname

Northumberland and Durham surname

The name Pigg is noted in connection with Haydon Bridge in the seventeenth century. In the 1881 census there were 939 of this name in Great Britain, mostly found in the North East of England with 255 in Northumberland and 235 in Durham. There were 71 in Cumberland but only 5 in Yorkshire; 4 in Lancashire; 1 in Westmorland and 15 in Scotland. The remaining Piggs were stretched across England’s east and south east. This surname derives from a nickname in a similar way to Hogg.

Potts surname

Border Reiver family surname

A Northern surname with a strong presence in the North East. There were 10,005 people with this name in the 1881 census of which 6,106 resided in the North of England and 497 in Scotland with others spread across the rest of England. In the North there were 1,460 in Durham; 1,188 in Lancashire; 1,051 in Northumberland; 693 in Yorkshire; 355 in Cumberland and 26 in Westmorland. The name comes from a pot – someone who lives near a hole or pit. A John Potts was mayor of Durham in 1787 and 1798.

Pringle surname

Border Reiver family surname

Pringle is a Borders surname that is predominantly Scottish but also found in North East England and especially Northumberland. There were 4,736 people of this name in the 1881 census of which 2,255 lived in Scotland. Northumberland was home to 941 Pringles; Durham 560; Yorkshire 170; Lancashire 143; Cumberland 22 and Westmorland 3 with many of the Pringles that remain found in the south east.

Proud surname

County Durham  surname

Proud seems to have been a surname of North East Yorkshire with a noted Durham presence too and listed by Henry Guppy in Durham. There were 1,593 people with this name in the 1881 Great Britain census. Most of these lived in Durham where there were 709 people called Proud. There were 205 in Yorkshire; 113 in Northumberland; 91 in Cumberland and 23 in Lancashire. There were 18 in Westmorland and 51 in Scotland. Proud is a byname or nickname for someone who is haughty or proud.

The surnames Prudom and Prudham are thought to derive from the Old French, Prudhomme meaning ‘honest and upright man’. Relatively rare surnames there were only 30 people called Prudom in the 1881 census with 28 in Yorkshire, 1 in Dumfriesshire and 1 in London. There were slightly more people called Prudham in 1881 with 28 in Cumberland; 8 in Northumberland; 7 in Durham; 1 in London and 1 in Norfolk.

Pybus surname

North Yorkshire surname

A surname predominantly of northern North Yorkshire. Listed as a Guppy surname in the North or East Riding of Yorkshire. In 1881 Yorkshire was home to 481 people called Pybus; Durham 193; Lancashire 64 and Northumberland 45 with most of the remaining people focused in the south east.

Quelch surname

Rare surname

A rare surname that appears in Henry Guppy’s list of surnames for County Durham and seems to have been most notable in the Quarrington area of the county.

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