W is for …

The latest in my ad hoc series on surname origins.

Based on: Reaney, P H, (ed. Wilson, R M), 1997, Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames, 3rd ed., OUP, Oxford, unless otherwise stated or implied.

Some commentators on this topic go into lots of detail about derivations, but it seems to me to be unnecessary, in most cases, to go further than the obvious, e.g. Sawyer was a man who used a saw to cut wood.


Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  Charles Wainwright, born about 1868, Walsall, Staffordshire. In 1911 Charles was an iron worker, living at Pargeter Street, in the Birchills area of Walsall.  Pargeter is itself occupational, referring to one who applied plaster rendering, such as whitewash or pebbledash, to the outside of buildings.

There was an Alfred Wainwright, born 1899, but no connection to the famous author and champion of Lakeland fells.

Old English:  wain, an old word for wagon (as in the famous painting by John Constable The Haywain), plus wright, therefore wagon builder.


Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  Phoebe Walker, born about 1798, Birmingham.

From Old English waelcere, meaning fuller, a person who thickened raw cloth, including making felt, originally by trampling in a trough of water.  This was later done by machinery.  Walker was more frequently used in the north and west.


Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  Samuel Wall, father of Sarah Maria Wall, born about 1851, Hammerwich, Staffordshire.

Usually someone who lived by a wall.  In the West Midlands Old English walle was a dialect variation of welle, so some type of water source might be relevant.  However, very near to Hammerwich is the village of Wall, where there was once a Roman station, Letocetum.  If you are passing it is well worth a visit (free to enter any time).

wall from churchyard
Wall, Staffordshire, as seen from the churchyard. In the middle ground is the Roman station site, with houses on Watling Street beyond.


Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  George Frederick Walton, father of Frederick George Walton, born 1900, Coventry, Warwickshire.  I knew Frederick George “Pop” Walton as a retired policeman.

From one of the many places named Walton.


Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  Elizabeth Ward, born about 1836, Moira, Leicestershire.

Probably from Old English weard, watchman or guard,


Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  Sarah Warrenor, born about 1788, Longdon (near Lichfield), Staffordshire.

From Old French warrenier, a person watching over game, though connection with a rabbit warren seems more likely.


Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  William Warwick, born about 1810, Solihull, Warwickshire.

From Warwick.

Wassall / Wassel

Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  John Wassell, born about 1819, Codsall Wood, Staffordshire.

From Old French wastel, or g(u)astel.  In modern French gateau.  A cake or bread made from the finest flour.  So, someone who made and/or sold bread and/or cakes.


Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  Emily Watson, born about 1869, Chasetown, Staffordshire.

Son of Wat.


Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  William Watterson, born about 1870, Willenhall, Staffordshire.

Son of Walter.


Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  Thomas Wellings, born about 1866, Princes End, Staffordshire.



Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  Thomas Wenlock, born about 1797, Blymhill, Staffordshire.

From Wenlock, Shropshire, birthplace of the modern Olympic Games (hence the mascot for the Olympics London 2012).

Wetton / Whetton

Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  Richard Whetton, born about 1834, Measham, Derbyshire.

Not specified in Reaney.  Likely from a place named Wetton, Derbyshire.


Earliest in Andrew’s Kindred:  Eleanor Wilbraham, born about 1821, Clay Cross, Derbyshire.

From Great or Little Wilbraham, Cambridgeshire.


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