Arden Surname Meaning, History & Origin

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Warwickshire’s Forest of Arden (from the old Celtic word ard meaning “high”) is the origin of the Arden surname and family in the same county. This Arden family is one of only two families in England that can trace their lineage in the male line back to pre-Norman Anglo-Saxon times, the other being the Berkeley family in Gloucestershire.

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England. Aelfwine was Sheriff of Warwickshire in the year 1050, just before the time of the Norman Conquest. He was succeeded by his son, Thorkell of Arden, and his son and heir, Siward de Arden, was the forebear of the Arden family of Warwickshire. Subsequent
generations of the family were prominent in Warwickshire affairs and on many occasions held its shievalty. From the time of Sir Henry de Arden in the 14th century the Ardens had their primary estate at Park Hall.

The Arden line at Park Hall continued until 1643. Later Ardens suffered for their support of the Catholic faith. Edward Arden was in
fact accused of plotting against the Queen and was brutally executed in 1583 in the fashion of the day. His father had been William Arden, second cousin to Mary Arden of Wilmcote, the mother of William Shakespeare.

Although the senior line died, the Arden family survived in branches that were descended from younger sons of earlier generations, most notably at Longcroft near Yoxall in Staffordshire. From the line at Bredbury,near Stockport in Lancashire, came Richard Arden, a lawyer and politician, who was made Baron Alvanley in 1801. His nephew who inherited the title dissipated the family fortune, however.

Possibly related were:

  • Thomas Arden of Arden of Faversham in Kent
  • the Ardens of the village of Bourne in Lincolnshire
  • and the Ardens in Cheshire.

An Arden family held pride of place in Dorchester in the west country, starting with Daniel Arden in the 17th century. He was elected mayor of Dorchester in 1691. No fewer than sixteen times was an Arden to hold that post between then and 1852.

There were also Ardens in Beverley, Yorkshire. John Arden, a schoolmaster and “teacher of experimental philosophy,” settled there in 1756. His daughter Jane was a friend of the feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft. A later John Arden was nine times mayor of Beverley. He helped start a wine and spirits business in Beverley that ran until 1936.

America. The Arden name appeared in 18th century New York, dating back to Jacques Arden who had married Abijah Bouquet in 1715. The origins were uncertain. The families appear to have been a mix of Dutch Reformed and Huguenot. Richard Dean Arden of this family moved into a new home at Garrison along the Hudson in 1819. Mary Antoinette Arden married into the Parrott family and she gave her name to the Arden estate of the Harrimans nearby.

However, the best-known Ardens in America have been those with assumed names – Elizabeth Arden the cosmetics magnate (born Florence Graham) and the movie actress Eve Arden (born Eunice Quedens).

Australia. In 1838 George Arden of the Longcroft Ardens emigrated to Melbourne, where, after an initial career in journalism, his life went downhill and he was found dead at the gold diggings in Ballarat in 1854. His brother Alfred followed him to
Melbourne, married, and settled down at the Higay station near Merino, Victoria.

 

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Thorkell of Arden.  The Ardens were of Saxon origin.  Thorkell of Arden was a Saxon thane who held the town of Warwick when William the Conqueror came to England.  He did not support King Harold in the ensuing conflict (some called him the “Traitor Earl”).  As a result, he was allowed to keep his lands, although Warwick castle did go to one of William’s Norman knights.

The Arden Line in Warwickshire

1. Aelfwine, sheriff of Warwickshire died before 1087
2. Thorkell of Arden died around 1100
3. Siward de Arden, of Curdworth flourished in ealy 1100’s
4. Henry de Arden, of Curdworth died after 1156
5. Wiiliam de Arden, of Radbourn
6. William de Arden, of Radbourn died around 1233
7. Sir Thomas de Arden, of Hanwell,
Oxon.
8. Ralph de Arden died after 1290
9. Ralph de Arden, of Curdworth
10. Sir Henry de Arden, of Park Hall died around 1400
11. Sir Ralph Arden, of Park Hall died in 1420
12. Robert Arden, of Park Hall executed in 1452
13. Walter Arden, of Park Hall died in 1502
14. Sir John Arden, of Park Hall courtier of Henry VII who died
in 1526
15. Thomas Arden, of Park Hall died in 1563
16. Edward Arden, of Park Hall executed in 1583
17. Sir Henry Arden, of Park Hall died in 1616
18. Robert Arden, of Park Hall died in 1635
19. Robert Arden, of Park Hall died in 1643

The senior Arden Park Hall line became extinct in 1643.

Arden of Faversham.  Arden of Faversham is an Elizabethan play which depicts the murder of Thomas Arden by his wife Alice Arden and her lover and their subsequent discovery and punishment.

The play was based on real people.  Thomas Arden was a successful businessman of the early Tudor period.  Born in 1508, probably in Norwich, he took advantage of the tumult of the Reformation to make his fortune, trading in the former monastic properties dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538.

However, his wife Alice had taken a lover and they plotted to murder her husband. After several bungled attempts, Arden was finally killed in his own home on 14 February 1551.His  body was left out in a field during a snowstorm, the murderers hoping that the blame would fall on someone who had come to Faversham for the St Valentine’s Day fair. The snowfall stopped, however, before the killers’ tracks were covered and the tracks were followed back to the house. Bloodstained swabs and rushes were found and the killers quickly confessed.

Alice and her lover were put on trial and convicted of the crime.  He was hanged and she burnt at the stake in 1551.

There is a plaque at Thomas Arden’s house on Abbey Street in Faversham (which still stands) commemorating him:

“Here lived Thomas Arden (Mayor 1548, Comptroller of the Port of Sandwich and customer of Faversham) and herein on February 15, 1551 he was murdered at the instigation of his wife.  This house is immortalized in the Elizabethan drama Arden of Faversham.

The Courtship of Mary Arden and John Shakespeare.  John’s father, Richard, was a tenant farmer who lived in Snitterfield and grazed his animals, on various sections of land nearby. Some of this land belonged to Mary’s father, the wealthy Robert Arden of Wilmecote.  Son John initially started work as a farmer with his father before making a move to Stratford.

Mary and John, the Bard’s parents, would have had various opportunities to meet and start their courtship. Their courtship would not have been without problems as John was only of yeoman stock and Mary was part of the aristocracy.

It is extremely doubtful that Mary’s father would have approved of the liaison.  But Robert Arden died in 1556. Convention decreed that any marriage in the Arden family could take only place after the mourning period of one year.  So it was that Mary Arden, the heiress, and John Shakespeare, the yeoman, married in 1557 to become the Bard’s mother and father.

George Arden’s Duel.  Arden was a member of the newly-formed Melbourne Club.  In 1839, a year after his arrival in Melbourne, he dueled with fellow club member Barry Cotter on the racecourse at the foot of Batman’s Hill.  Dr. Cotter was the challenger.  So it must be assumed that Arden had given offence.  Cotter’s bullet hit the hat of his second and then Arden fired intentionally wide.  However, after the duel, Arden either resigned or was expelled from the club.

Eunice Quedens aka Eve Arden.  Allegedly inspired in 1934 by a container of Elizabeth Arden cold cream in her dressing room, Eunice Quedens reinvented herself as Eve Arden. Several successful appearances in the annual Ziegfeld Follies followed and her film career was launched.

In July 1948 she starred in the popular radio situation comedy Our Miss Brooks. She was a sensation. Her performance inspired letters from thousands of real-life teachers and led to speaking engagements before the PTA and other educational groups. The show lasted from 1948 to 1957 on radio, with overlapping success on television from 1952 to 1956.

 


Select Arden Names

Edward Arden was the head of the Arden family in Warwickshire martyred for his Catholic faith during Elizabethan times.
Mary Arden was the mother of William Shakespeare.
Elizabeth Arden was the Canadian-American businesswoman who founded the Elizabeth Arden cosmetics firm. She was born Florence Graham.

Select Arden Numbers Today

  • 1,200 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 800 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 500 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

 

 

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