Guide to North East Surnames : S

North East England Surnames : S

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Salkeld surname

Border Reiver family surname
A noted name of the Scottish Borders and Cumberland as a reiver name it was associated with the Eden valley near Carlisle.

Salvin surname

The name originates in the silvan landscape of the forests of Nottinghamshire and although it cannot really be described as North East name in origin it has a centuries old connection with Croxdale, Hall, Burn Hall and Tudhoe just south east of Durham City.

Croxdale Hall
Croxdale Hall. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Scott surname

Border Reiver family surname

Widespread in Scotland and eastern England but especially Northumberland and the North East. Guppy found it scattered across England but with the main centres in Northumberland and Cumberland mirrored by Berwick, Roxburghshire and Dumfriesshire on the Scottish side. The surname Scot often appears amongst the names of medieval mayors of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Scottish surnames in North East England

Scottish surnames can be frequently found in the North East of England and in industrial areas of England in general. In the North East some of these may be Border names that have been associated with both sides of the Border for many centuries. Others, however may be names that originated in the Scottish Highlands, often with the Gaelic prefix ‘Mac’ meaning ‘descendant of’ though this can sometimes be Irish Gaelic in origin.

Scrope surname

Seems to be a Yorkshire name and was the name of an important Archbishop of York, the name pronounced ‘Scroop’.

Selby surname

Border Reiver family surname
Associated with Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire and presumably derived from the famous abbey town of nearby Yorkshire. It was also a noted Border Reiver name.

Selby Abbey
Selby Abbey from an old postcard

Sellars and Sellers surname

Both variations of this name are primarily associated with Yorkshire and were listed by Henry Guppy as farmers’ surnames associated with the North or East Riding of Yorkshire.

Shadforth surname

A county Durham name and a notable name of the North East. The name appears amongst influential members of Trinity House in Newcastle. Ultimately the name derives from a village near Durham City.

Shadforth. Photo David Simpson 2016

Shafto and Shaftoe surname

Border Reiver family surname

A North East surname by origin but with a presence in Yorkshire and the home counties. Shafto or Shaftoe, the family surname takes its name from the place Shaftoe found in the upper reaches of the River Wansbeck near Wallington Hall west of Morpeth. It is just to the west of Bolam, another place from which a surname derives.

The surname Shafto came about in the twelfth century when a certain Cuthbert Foliot of Shaftoe Crags changed his name to Cuthbert Shaftoe. Shaftoe the place means ‘Shaft-hoh’ a shaft shaped ridge or crag and the nearby crags seem to confirm this origin. In 1304 the Shaftoes made the nearby Bavington Hall their principal seat. Shaftoes were actively involved in the Border troubles including the Reidswire Fray at Carter Bar in 1575 and were supporters of the Jacobite cause in the eighteenth century.

Carter Bar, Northumberland
Carter Bar, Northumberland © David Simpson 2020

In 1652 the Shafto family acquired the Whitworth estate near Spennymoor in County Durham and this became their principal place of residence. Robert Shafto, an MP for the County of Durham from 1760-68 was born at Whitworth and was immortalised in the famous northern song Bonny Bobby Shafto. The song was used as an election ditty and is thought to be based on the hopes of Mary Bellasis of Brancepeth castle who believed that Bobby Shafto would come back and marry her.

Whitworth Hall.
Whitworth Hall. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Sadly, Shafto married someone else and Mary is said to have died of a broken heart. Robert Shafto was one of a number of Shaftos who became Members of Parliament, his father John Shafto, uncle Robert Shafto and son Robert Eden Duncombe Shafto of Whitworth were all MPs for the City of Durham. Whitworth Hall remained Shafto property until purchased by local businessman Derek Parnaby in October 1981. (See also Belasis)
Bobby Shafto

Shanks surname

Shanks was listed as a Guppy farmers’ surname in Northumberland but seems, however, to be a Scottish surname of North East Scotland parts of south west Scotland and the Scottish Borders. Especially associated with Lanarkshire.

Sharp surname

A widespread name across England but with notable numbers in Northumberland.

Shepherd and  Sheppard surnames

Henry Guppy found these surnames quite widespread with chief centres being Westmorland, Lancashire and the North and East Riding of Yorkshire.

Sheraton surname

The internationally famed furniture of Thomas Sheraton, who died in 1806 and the place called Sheraton on the A19 north of Hartlepool are connected, but the link is by no means direct. Sheraton, the site of a deserted medieval village, has a name which is thought to mean ‘Scurfa’s ton’ – the place inhabited by the one with flaky skin or dandruff. This does not mean that the first person to own the surname Sheraton had dandruff, but merely that they came from the flaky person’s place.

Both the surname and the place were originally Scurveton and the change in spelling and pronunciation have come about naturally over the centuries. Scurveton the place was first recorded in 1190 and Scurveton the surname is first mentioned in 1407 in the Register of the freemen of the city of York which records a Robert Scurveton. One of Robert’s ancestor’s will have originated from Sheraton near Hartlepool. All this would seem to make Thomas Sheraton’s link with the North East all the more tenuous, if it were not for the fact that this most famous of all Sheratons was born at Stockton-on-Tees in 1751. The son of a cabinet maker, Sheraton left the region in the early part of his life to seek his fortune in London. His work did not become popular until after his death and he died in poverty.

Shield surname

Listed as a Guppy farmers’ surname in Northumberland. Found in the North East and Cumbria but especially Cumbria. The name is mentioned in connection with the Hexham area in 1663 where Guppy found they were still focused in this area in his time. Presumably a name deriving from a shelter or shieling of some kind.

Notables include the composer William Shield.

Shotton surname

Primarily a North Eastern surname and especially Northumberland, likely derived from one of the places of this name in Durham or Northumberland. Henry Guppy listed it as a farmers’ surname in County Durham.

Simpson surname

Widespread across England and Scotland. According to surname scholars Simpson and Thompson are surnames which have been infected by ‘parasitic glide consonants’. This basically means that the ‘p’ in these surnames was not originally there and has come about naturally from the pronunciation of Simson and Thomson.

Simpson is a fairly common name in Scotland, where it is a minor clan name and was also a family name of the Anglo-Scottish Border on the English side. The earliest recorded owner of the name was a Richard Symmeson of Staffordshire in 1353 and the first mention in the north was Adam Symson of Whitby in 1395.

Simpson with the ‘p’ first occurs in 1397 when a John Simpson is recorded in Yorkshire. In the following century a John Symson living in the City of London was alternatively known as John Sympson showing that two spellings of the same name could exist side by side. Simpson and Simson in all their forms mean son of Sim, a shortened form of Simon.

Other similar names include Simpkin or Simkins, meaning a relative of Sim, but these names are more commonly found in the south of England. A totally unrelated name is the surname Simple which means honest, open and straightforward. Fortunately there is no evidence that Simpson means son of a foolish, gullible, simpleton.

Guppy considered Simpson a surname of the Northern half of England and especially North and East Ridings but also notable in Durham, Lancashire, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire. Widely distributed across Scotland except in the North.

Skelton surname

Derbyshire, Yorkshire East and North Yorkshire with pockets in Cumbria and the surname arose from the place-name there. There is of course also a Skelton in the Cleveland area of Yorkshire.

Smith surname

Widespread, a surname universally distributed across England and Scotland. One of the earliest recorded Smiths was an Ecceard Smith who lived in County Durham in 975 AD, although the name was spelt differently with a runic symbol used instead of the ‘th’.

Smith has many variations not only in Britain but throughout the world. In Germanic countries we have Scmidtts and Schmitts and in the Czech language we have Szmyt. In early England the Latin form Faber often occurred. A smith is of course a someone who works in metals and the root of the name in England seems to be the Anglo-Saxon word Smitan meaning ‘to strike’. Most people called Smiths are descended from someone who worked as a blacksmith, although the variation Smythe can also mean someone who lived near a Smith’s forge. Some Smiths may be descended from someone other than a Blacksmith and often the name gives a clue.

The surname Whitesmith, means a worker of tin, Brownsmith, a worker of copper or brass and Goldsmith a worker in Gold. Greensmith is a surname most closely associated with the midlands and is a nickname for a coppersmith, Sixsmith is a maker of sickles, Arrowsmith is a maker of arrows and Shoesmith is a farrier, that is a maker of horseshoes. An Italian form of the surname Smith, meaning Farrier has given rise to the name of Ferrari cars, which could be translated to ‘Smith cars’.

Other variations on the surname Smith in England include Smithers – a hammerman, Smithson and Smisson, meaning sons of Smith and Smithies, a worker at the forge. Smith is definitely the number one name in Britain but is often thoughtlessly regarded as the most typical English name of all. A scholarly study of Great Britain showed that Smith was most common in the Aberdeen area, but who would think of Smith as a Scottish name?

Snowdon surname

One of Guppy’s ‘District’ surnames of County Durham. Snowdons included a mayor of Hartlepool in 1699.

Sotheran surname

Found in the North East of England and Shropshire.

Spedding surname

Most frequently found in Cumbria.

Stainthorpe surname

A surname of North Eastern Yorkshire. Listed as a Guppy farmers’ surname in the North or East Riding of Yorkshire.

Stamper surname

Border Reiver family surname
Mostly a Cumbrian name.

Stapleton surname

Border Reiver family surname
A name of the Yorkshire and Lancashire Dales but also a Border Reiver name in times past.

Stephenson surname

A surname of the northern half of England especially frequent in the  County of Durham followed by North and East Ridings of Yorkshire. Stevenson is the preferred Scottish spelling. The Tyneside engineers George and Robert Stephenson were men of great note.

George Stephenson's birthplace at Wylam
George Stephenson’s birthplace at Wylam. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Stobart surname

Found predominantly in the Cumbria area which is of course the home county for a ubiquitous road haulage firm. Stobart was listed as a Guppy farmers’ surname in Northumberland. Stobert is a variation of the name.

Stokoe surname

Border Reiver family surname
A North East surname of south Northumberland but also found in the Scottish Borders around Dumfresshire as well as in the Lothians. A notable Stokoe was the former Newcastle United FC footballer and Sunderland FC manager Bob Stokoe who played a part in FA Cup final wins for both clubs.

Storey surname

Border Reiver family surname
Predominantly a North East name and particularly Northumberland. As a Border Reiver name it was primarily associated with Redesdale below Otterburn. The name could also be found on the Borders in the Eskdale area near Gretna. The name Storey thought to have described someone who was very tall, thought that may of course be a tall story.  A Samuel Storey was the founder of the Sunderland Echo.

Straughan surname

A North East surname especially in Northumberland and listed as a farmers’ surname in that county by Henry Guppy.

Strother surname

A surname with a strong association with northern Northumberland.

Suggett surname

Found in England especially in the Durham and Cleveland areas however it is very significant in eastern Scotland. It was listed by Henry Guppy farmers’ surname in Guppy North or East Riding of Yorkshire.

Sunderland surname

This is predominantly a West Yorkshire name, though it may well have originated from Sunderland in the North East. The first record of the Sunderland surname was in Essex in 1230.

Surtees surname

Listed as a Guppy farmers’ surname in Durham, Surtees is very much a North East name. Being of distinctively northern origin it derives from the Norman French ‘Sur Tees’ meaning ‘on the Tees’.

Originally the Surtees family were called Siward, a name of Anglo-Viking origin, but acquired the name Surtees when they settled by the River Tees at Dinsdale near Darlington.

Descendants of this Dinsdale family included Robert Smith Surtees (1805-1864) of Hamsterley near Shotley Bridge, County Durham. R.S. Surtees was the creator of ‘Jorrocks’ the fox hunting cockney grocer, whose antics appeared in the New Sporting Magazine and Jorrocks Jaunts and Jollities.

Robert Surtees of Mainsforth near Ferryhill (1779-1834) the greatest historian of County Durham and the author of the History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham. His four volume history of the county is still the most important historical reference work covering the County of Durham.

Bessie Surtees window, Newcastle
Bessie Surtees window, Sandhill, Newcastle © David Simpson 2021

On Tyneside, Bessie Surtees, the daughter of a wealthy Newcastle quayside merchant achieved great fame in that city in 1772 when she defied the wishes of her father and sneaked out of her bedroom window in the middle of the night to elope with a humble young man by the name of John Scott. John Scott went on to become a wealthy peer, acquiring the barony of Eldon near Bishop Auckland and subsequently giving his name to Newcastle’s Eldon Square.

In 1801 Scott became Lord Chancellor of England. The historic Bessie Surtees House from which Bessie eloped can still be seen on Newcastle’s quayside. It is now the headquarters for the regional office of English Heritage.

Redworth Hall.
Redworth Hall. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Redworth Hall in south Durham near Darlington, (now a hotel) was one of the former noted homes of the Surtees family.

Swan surname

In England this surname is especially noted in Newcastle and the North East but is very significant in the Scottish Borders and South west Scotland. Notable North Easterners include Sir Joseph Swan and  Robert Swan.

Swinburne and Swinburn surnames

Very much surnames of Northumberland and Durham. These surnames derive from the place called Swinburne (Great and Little Swinburne) in Northumberland. The famous poet Algernon Charles Swinburne was a Northumbrian.

Scenery near Great Swinburne
Scenery near Great Swinburne © David Simpson 2021

North East Surnames beginning with:

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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