Craven Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Craven Meaning
Craven surname in England derives from the district of Craven around
Skipton in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The place name was
recorded as Crave in the Domesday Book of 1086 and is thought to have
come from the Welsh word craf
meaning garlic (in the Middle Ages the Craven area was known for its
wild garlic). Other origins for the Craven name
have been suggested.
Craven can also be Irish. It has its roots from the O’Crabhadain sept in county
Galway. In English this name would be pronounced Cravane (and anglicized to Creavan
or Craven).

Resources on

Craven Ancestry

The first mention of Craven as a surname in Yorkshire appears to be a
Thomas de Craven, son of Ragnald de Rawdon, in the early 13th

Yorkshire William Craven
was born in the village of Appletreewick near Skipton in the year
1548. He came to London as an apprentice at the age of fourteen
and it was there that he made his fortune. He died one of the
richest men of his time.

With the money his widow Elizabeth
acquired the estates of Coombe Abbey near Coventry and Uffington in
Berkshire. These were to remain the family seats for
generations. His son William, a soldier, used the family wealth
in support of
Charles I. Although the estates were sequestered in 1652, he and
the family returned
to favor and privilege with the Restoration. William died
unmarried in 1664. The estate passed to his cousin William from
whose brother John the Craven title is descended.

These Cravens were rich and powerful for many centuries. They
left their name to Craven county in North Carolina (in 1712), Craven
Cottage in London (in 1780), and Craven A cigarettes (in 1860),
as well as to many Craven-named pubs around the country.

There were other
Cravens from Yorkshire of course:

  • one Craven
    family history traces back to the Dewsbury area in the early
  • another Craven family were weavers in Keithley.
    John Craven of this family started a cotton spinning business at Walk
    Mill in the 1780’s. These Cravens lived in Steeton.
  • other
    Cravens from Colne on the Yorkshire/Lancashire moved to Keithley in the
    early 1800’s and prospered in the building trade. John Henry Craven
    built his country home Beeches
    in 1913. He was a renowned orchid grower. His wife Nan in
    1906 was one of Keithley’s first women drivers.

Ireland. The
Craven numbers are relatively small in
Ireland. The name has tended to be Creavan or Creavans rather
than Craven in
Galway. As one descendant described their circumstance:

“They remained poor, Gaelic-speaking,
Catholic, subsistence farmers, and mainly living in the vicinity of
Corrandulla on the east bank of Lough Corrib.”

There were some Cravens in county Offaly and elsewhere. These
Cravens may represent English implants.

The noble Craven family of England
generally stayed at home (although Lord Craven was one of the lords
proprietors of North Carolina). There does not appear to be any
confirmed connection between this family and the Cravens who came to
America. These Cravens have been of various origins – English,
Irish and even possibly Dutch (this being the Jacobus Craven from
upstate New York who built himself Craven Hall in Warminster,
Pennsylvania in the 1720’s).

The widowed Ann Craven and her two sons Thomas and Peter had arrived
from London in 1677 and settled in John
Fenwick’s Quaker colony in Salem, New Jersey:

  • fifty years later
    Thomas Craven, also from London, came to Monmouth county. He was
    an early professor at Princeton University.
  • his son Gershom
    practiced as a doctor and was the war surgeon to George
  • from Gershom came the naval Cravens of Maine (after
    whom several US warships have been named).

Robert Cravens (of possible Irish stock) had been born in 1696 in that
part of Pennsylvania which became Delaware. He later moved to
Augusta county, Virginia and his descendants to Kentucky and
Missouri. In the 1830’s Jeremiah Cravens of this family was one
of the first settlers in what was then still Arkansas territory; while Mary Cravens
headed south to Texas
a decade later with her

Another Craven family, originally from Leeds in
Yorkshire, came to Texas in 1854 and settled in Bagdad and Leander
(where they still remain).

Peter Craven, often referred to by his descendants as the Patriarch,
come to
Randolph county, North Carolina in the mid 1700’s and there followed
from him a
long line of
Craven potters
in that area. Two books have been
written to recount this family history:

  • Mary Craven Purvis’s Craven
    in 1985
  • and Quincy Scarborough’s The
    Craven Family of Southern Folk Potters
    in 2005.

There has been a reunion of the
descendants of Peter Craven each year.

From Preston in Lancashire in 1865 came a young
Richard Craven in search of his fortune. He went gold prospecting
in Queensland and struck lucky in 1872. He became wealthy, moved
to Sydney, and became well-known in Australia’s horse-racing
circles. From county Galway in Ireland two years later came
Timothy Creaven and his wife Sabina. They became Cravens in
Australia and settled in Geelong, Victoria.

South Africa. Danie
Craven, the country’s rugby supremo until 1993, was the grandson of a
Yorkshire farmer from Steeton who had come to farm in Lindley, Orange
Free State in the 1890’s. He grew up on the family farm
Noorspoort that lay just outside Steytlerville.


Craven Miscellany

Possible Origins for the Craven Name.  There have been many suggestions for the derivation of the Craven name. The most obvious one is that is descriptive – of a person who is
craven.  The dictionary gives craven, from the Old French cravant, as one is defeated and
vanquished (in jousting probably) and hence is cowardly. However,
craven in this form
did not come into general use in England until the 13th century and
Craven as a
place-name and surname pre-dates that time.

Someone has suggested that Craven is an abbreviation of “Eric the
Raven” and describes a Viking in landed in Devon in early times
(unlikely if the name was originating in Yorkshire); another that
Craven originated from a Norman baron named de Craume.

Then Craven could have come from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning
“hard-headed” or “stubborn;” or from the Middle English crave,
a cleft.  Perhaps a Craven was someone with a split lip or a
cleft palate; or, alternatively, someone who lived on a cleft in a

The most likely explanation is that Craven has derived from the Welsh
word craf
meaning garlic – as the Craven area in Yorkshire was known in medieval
times for its
wild garlic. 

William Craven and Harriette Wilson.  Unfortunately, this William Craven’s main claim to fame was that
he was the first lover of the famous courtesan Harriette Wilson.
He was 31 and unmarried at the time.  Harriette was much younger
and did not give William a good press in her writings.

Her memoirs began with this famous line:

“I shall not say why and how I
became, at the age of fifteen, the mistress of the Earl of Craven.”

She leaves the reader in no doubt that she found the Earl
boring and old-fashioned, with his nightcaps and his endless talk of
his cocoa trees on his estates in the Indies.  What Harriette must
have made of Ashdown House when William took her to the country in
1801, is anyone’s guess.  It is hard to imagine that Ashdown’s
rural isolation could appeal to this precocious and materialistic
urbanite in any way.

He had his excuses.  The son of the 6th Baron Craven and
his beautiful, scandalous wife Lady Elizabeth Berkeley, he was a man
whose family background was what would be referred to today as
dysfunctional. Both parents took lovers.  In 1783 they finally
separated after thirteen stormy years of marriage and his mother went
abroad.  When the 6th Baron died in 1791 and Lady Elizabeth, now
the Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth, returned to England,
her daughters refused to receive her.  William, the new Lord
Craven, was also for a time not on speaking terms with her.

The Craven Potters of North Carolina.  Tradition asserts that Peter Craven moved to the
Piedmont in North Carolina in the mid 1700’s and settled in Randolph
County.  Although there is debate as to whether Peter and his son
Thomas were potters, the craft definitely emerged with the Rev. John
Craven.  Within John’s generation, some of the family spread out
to Tennessee and Georgia while a few of his descendants remained in
North Carolina.

There were many possible reasons why the Cravens might have
left North Carolina.  Some could have been trying to escape the
Civil War, some may have wanted to move to places where potters were
more in demand; some may have wanted more land; and some possibly
wished to distance themselves from slavery.

Rev. John’s children who did stay in North Carolina were
Enoch and Anderson.  They continued the potting tradition and
passed it onto their children.  Various family members married
into other prolific North Carolina potting families such as the Hayes,
the Coles and the Foxes.

There have been nine generations of potters
since the mid 1700’s and living descendants still carry on the
traditions.  Most of the early pieces that can be seen today are
or cylindrical jugs meant for everyday use.  The
later pieces exhibit a bit more color and are not the large utility
pieces that were once the norm. This is due to increasing demand for
more artwork as well as the influence of the Temperance Movement. There was no longer any need for the typical moonshine jugs
and the advent of the American Art Pottery movement
gave rise to more decorative pieces.

From Kentucky to Texas.  The Darnalls had come to Texas before the fall of the Alamo.  But
the Indians gave them so much trouble that in 1837 they decided to
return to Kentucky.  Wiliam and his family were crossing the Red
river when the waters began to rise and his wife was drowned.
William returned to Kentucky alone with his children.

Then Mary Cravens – after the death of her husband in 1845 – also left
Kentucky for Texas, in her case with her son Gershom, their slaves and
a party of friends.  Gershom had left behind his sweetheart
Zerelda Darnall.  He was nineteen and she sixteen and her father
William judged them
too young for marriage.  But Gershom missed Zerelda greatly.
When their train came to the Cumberland river in Montgomery county
Tennessee, Gershom slipped away in the night to return for
Zerelda.  They were married nearby in Clarksville.

The Cravens settled on Bois d’Arc Crook north of Windom.  Soon the
remaining Darnall children joined them. They were all buried in the
Cravens cemetery in Fannin county.  The following were the Cravens
recorded there:

Name Birth Death
Mary Cravens  1793  1868
Gershom C. Cravens  1826  1871
Zerelda Cravens  1829  1898
William H. Cravens  1846  1901
Mary E. (Eliza) Cravens  1847  1918
James N. Cravens  1859  1862
Mary (Ella) Cravens  1867  1892

Users of Craven A.  Craven A is an English brand of cigarette still popular in Canada and Jamaica.  The cigarette was named after the third Earl of Craven in 1860.  Here are some of the people who smoked it:

  • Charles de Gaulle was said to be smoking two packs of Craven A
    cigarettes a day while he was in London during World War Two as leader
    of the Free French.
  • Norwegian resistance worker Dagmar Lahlum was smoking Craven A
    when she met the British double agent Eddie Chapman in Oslo in 1943.
  • American actress Tallulah Bankhead always smoked Craven A
  • So did the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
  • Craven A appears in the Bob Marley song Craven Choke Puppy.  From a
    Jamaican context the line “Craven Choke Puppy” is a colloquial metaphor
    of the actual action of a dog and “cravin” too much beyond one’s means.


Select Craven Names

  • William Craven, born near Skipton,
    was a London merchant who became Lord Mayor of London in 1610 and
    founded the Craven family fortunes.
  • T.T. Craven was a 19th century US naval officer who rose to prominence during the Civil War.
  • Danie Craven was the formidable
    head of South African rugby, as coach and administrator, from the 1950’s to the 1990’s.

Select Craven Numbers

  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 6,000 in America (most numerous
    in Pennsylvania)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).


Select Craven and Like Surnames

Many surnames have come from Lancashire.  These are some of the noteworthy surnames that you can check out.





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