Crichton Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Crichton/Creighton Meaning
Scottish and English surnames Crichton and Creighton seem related, with both coming
place-names. The old barony of Crichton
in Midlothian (initially Kreiton) gave rise to the better-known
Crichton name;
while the Creighton name looks to have originated from a place of that
near Uttoxeter in Staffordshire. 
The root of these names is either the Gaelic crioch
meaning “boundary” or the Celtic creic meaning “rock”
plus in each case tun meaning “settlement.”
Crichton base was
Midlothian; while Creighton has been found in Cumbria, Dumfries and
later in

Crichton/Creighton Resources on

Crichton/Creighton Ancestry

Scotland. The
Crichtons, based in Crichton near Edinburgh, were an important medieval
Scottish family. They first appeared in
records in the 12th century.
de Crichton was recorded in the Ragman Roll swearing
allegiance to
Edward I in 1296. The Crichtons held castles at Crichton and also at
Sanquhar in
Dumfriesshire through a subsidiary line.

Crichton. Sir William Crichton of Crichton
rose to prominence as the Chancellor of Scotland in 1439 during the
minority of
James II. But he then earned the enmity
of the powerful Douglas clan.

organized the infamous black dinner at
Edinburgh Castle
when the Earl of Douglas and his brother were invited as guests of
to a royal banquet there. After the
dinner the two Douglases were dragged from the boy king’s presence and
on Castle Hill.”

grandson William, the third Lord Crichton, backed a rival claimant to
Scottish throne, lost out, and in 1483 was dispossessed of all his
including Crichton castle.
is from a related line, the Crichtons of Frendraught, that the
present line descends. Their seat since
1850 has been at Monzie castle in Perthshire.

Another possibly related line was
that of Patrick Crichton, a saddler and ironmonger in Edinburgh. He prospered enough to set himself up at
Woodhouselee House in the 1740’s. His
son Alexander was a coachbuilder; and his grandson Alexander and great
Archibald both physicians to Russian Tsars in the early 1800’s.

Sanquhar. Sir
Robert Crichton became sheriff of Dumfries
in 1464 and Robert his eldest son was made Lord Crichton of Sanquhar in

the title brought nothing but bad luck to the Crichtons.
William the third Lord was murdered by Lord
Semple around 1552; while Robert the sixth Lord, accused of being
involved in
the murder of his fencing master, was executed in 1612.
The title eventually passed to the family of
Crichton-Stuart, the present Marquesses of Bute.

One line led to Robert Crichton of Nithsdale,
the Lord Advocate of Scotland, who moved to Perthshire.
His son James, born in Perthshire in 1560, was
the Scottish prodigy acclaimed as the
Admirable Crichton.
Other Crichtons
in Perthshire held the position of Bishop of Dunkeld in the mid-1500’s.

The spelling in Dumfries often became Creighton, mirroring the spelling
across the border in England.

England. Carlisle
in Cumbria boasted
a number of Creightons.

Jonathan Creighton was a surgeon there in the
1770’s. Fortunatus Creighton was the
proprietor of the Captain Cook Inn
from the 1770’s until his death in 1828.
James Creighton, a joiner by trade, arrived in Carlisle from the
Scottish borders in the 1820’s. His son
Robert had two remarkable sons:

  • Mandell
    Creighton who became Bishop of London
    and a prominent British historian. His
    life was covered in James Covert’s 2000 book A Victorian
    Marriage – Mandell and Louise Creighton.
  • and
    Robert Creighton who was twice mayor of Carlisle. He
    died at an early age in 1896 and the town
    erected the Creighton Memorial
    him in what became the Creighton Memorial Gardens.

and Sarah Creighton lived in Gosforth,
Cumberland in the late 1700’s. Their son
Thomas was a schoolmaster at Uldale.


The Creighton name prevailed in Ireland,
although most probably came from Scotland.
Many Scottish Creightons had moved to Ulster in the early 17th
century at
the time of the Scottish plantations. The
principal counties for settlement were Fermanagh and Tyrone. The Irish O’Criochain
in Tyrone sometimes got anglicized as Creighton.

John Creighton, from the Frendraught Crichtons,
established himself at Crom castle near Lough Erne in Fermanagh in the
mid-1600’s. His descendant John became
the first Earl of Erne in 1789. This
family later adopted the Crichton spelling.

However, most Creightons in Ireland, less proud and not so ennobled,
not do so. Many emigrated, first to
America and later to Canada.

America. Creightons
came to America, many from Scotland,
but not too many Crichtons.

Creighton had arrived in the Tuscarora valley of Pennsylvania from
Edinburgh as
a young man in 1768. His grandsons Abram
and Samuel were Methodist ministers in Pennsylvania.

Thomas Creighton and his
wife Jenny came to the Lancaster district of South Carolina from county
in 1772. Their son Thomas moved to
Kentucky and then to Illinois and their grandson John to Clarke county,

Daniel Creighton came to Perth in upstate New York from Perthshire in
in the early 1800’s. His son James lived
on the Creighton homestead farm in Perth until his death in 1871.

Creighton, originally McCraren, was an Irish Catholic from Monaghan who
arrived in Canada in 1806 and then moved with his wife Bridget to farm
America – first in Pennsylvania and then in Ohio.

  • their
    two sons Edward and John Creighton were prominent early businessmen in
    Omaha, Nebraska.
  • Edward
    had initially become
    involved in the freight shipping/telegraph businesses and by the 1850’s
    was one
    of the largest builders of telegraph lines in America.
    He and his wife Mary arrived in Omaha in
  • Edward relied on Mary to carry
    out his request to create a college there. This
    eventually became Creighton University.

Creighton came to
Tennessee from Dumfries in Scotland sometime in the 1820’s and farmed
in Sumner
county. His grandson Robert “Pop” Creighton who
grew up in
Nashville was a builder, notably of the centerpiece of the Tennessee
Exposition held in Nashville in 1898.

James Creighton arrived from Ireland in the 1830’s,
became a marine engineer and followed steam-boating for many years
settling in Ohio. After the death of his
wife Maria he took his family west in 1855, going to California via the
route. His son David prospered as a
farmer in Oregon.

. It was the same story about Creightons and
Crichtons in Canada. Among
the Creighton arrivals were:

  • John
    Creighton from
    Somerset who arrived with the British army in Nova Scotia in 1753,
    stayed, and
    was one of the founders of the town of Lunenburg.
  • James
    Creighton who was in
    Halifax, Nova Scotia by the 1790’s, running a ship chandlering business
    there. His grandson James, a lawyer
    journalist, is credited with organizing the first indoor ice hockey
    match in
    1875 in Montreal.
  • William
    Creighton from Tyrone who came with his family
    in 1846 and settled in Haldimand county, Ontario. He
    called the farm he purchased Tyrone.
    Descendants have developed prize-winning shorthorn cattle
  • William
    Creighton from Belfast who came around 1850
    and established himself as a merchant in Toronto. One
    son John became a prominent lawyer there,
    another son William was a lumber merchant in Winnipeg.
  • and
    Creighton from Fermanagh who came in 1869 and settled in Essex county,
    Ontario. Later Creightons moved to Yale,
    British Columbia.

. Francis Creighton, a seaman from Dublin, was
an early arrival in New Zealand, first coming in the late 1820’s and
settling there in 1835 and marrying Jane Cook.
He lived on in Auckland to the grand age of 99, dying in 1908


Select Crichton/Creighton Miscellany

Crichtons and Creightons Today

Numbers (000’s) Crichtons Creightons Total
UK    4    4    8
America 1    3 4
Elsewhere    3    4    7
Total    8   11   19

The Crichton Castles in Scotland.  There are two ancient castles, both now ruins, that the Crichtons once held.

Crichton Castle

castle stands tucked away out of sight, on a terrace above
the Tyne river near the village of Pathhead in Midlothian.  The
castle was built
as a home for the Crichtons and served as their residence from the late
until 1483.   John de Crichton
the oldest part of the present castle complex – the lofty tower house
dominated the east range of the castle’s quadrangle.

son William became a
leading statesman and in 1439 was made Chancellor of Scotland, a
position that
brought him great wealth and power.  Sir
William added greatly to his father’s castle, building an innovative
great hall
and kitchen around a new courtyard.  He also built a collegiate
church nearby
where he paid priests to pray for his family’s salvation.

However, the 3rd Lord Crichton was a
supporter of
Alexander Stewart, Duke of Albany.  His
lands and titles were forfeit in 1483 when Albany was sentenced for
treason.  Crichton castle was thus lost
to the Crichton family.

Sanquhar Castle

de Crichton swore fealty to Edward
I of England in the Ragman Roll of 1296. Thomas had three sons, each of
extended the family holdings.  William his second son married
Isabel de Ross, the
heiress to the barony of Sanquhar in Dumfriesshire.

Sanquhar castle was built by this line of the
Crichton family sometime
in the 13th century.  The castle was a
stronghold that was bounded to the west by the river Nith, to the north
by a
burn, and made strong by a deep ditch running the remainder of the
boundary.  It was visited by many notable
figures including Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, Edward I, Mary
Queen of
Scots and James VI of Scotland.

The castle was sold by the Crichtons
in the
mid-17th century to Sir William Douglas, the first Duke of Queensbury.

The Admirable Crichton. 

The 1500’s

James Crichton, born in
Perthshire in 1560, was
a Scottish polymath who was known for his
extraordinary accomplishments in languages, the arts, and sciences.  He was known as “the Admiral Crichton.”  By the age of twenty he was an expert in just
about every field and had mastered around ten languages.
If that wasn’t enough he was also renowned
for his horsemanship and sword skills.

On a visit to Rome he impressed the Pope and the Duke of Mantua – so
much so that the Duke asked him to be tutor to his son Vincenzo.  Alas Italian youths were less impressed with
such showmanship then Popes.

In 1582, at
the tender age of twenty-one, Crichton was attending a carnival when he
ambushed by a gang.  He rapidly
dispatched five of them and was preparing to finish off the sixth when
revealed himself as young Vincenzo. Shocked by the discovery James was
unprepared for Vincenzo’s attack and Vincenzo promptly stabbed and

And in 1902.

The Admirable Crichton was a comic stage play written
1902 by the playwright J.M. Barrie.

Barrie took the title from the
sobriquet of a fellow Scot, the polymath James Crichton.   The epigram-loving Ernest was probably a
caricature of the title character in Oscar Wilde’s The
Importance of Being Earnest
The plot may have derived from Robinson’s Eiland, an
German play.

In Barrie’s play a group of Berlin officials – including a
capitalist, a professor and a journalist – were shipwrecked on an
island, where
a secretary, Arnold, became the natural leader of the group.

The Creighton Memorial.  The memorial
was erected in 1898 following the death in 1896 of JR
Creighton, Alderman, twice Mayor of Carlisle, and the leading figure in
local government projects. The decision to commemorate his life was
taken at a
special public meeting within weeks of his death.  The
cost of the memorial is understood to
have been between £500 and £600, raised by subscription.

memorial was
unveiled on 8 October 1898 and the Mayor, the Speaker of the House of
Commons (who was the
MP for Carlisle) and Creighton’s brother, the Bishop of London, gave

Creighton was a council member for 22 years and initiated many
projects for the improvement of the city, including the new Market Hall
and the
Tullie House Library and Museum.

monument was erected upon a high stepped
base within a large triangular ornamental garden at the center of the
Street Improvement Scheme, and at the entrance to Carlisle from the

Pop Creighton of Nashville.  Mr. Bob
or Pop Creighton was described by his son Wilbur as follows:

was a man of powerful physique, strong mind, firm conviction
and inflexible will.  At times he was a
rough as pig iron and always as strong as steel.”

was a builder.  The masterpiece of his
construction was the
Parthenon in Nashville, a
full-scale replica of the
original Greek temple in Athens and the centerpiece of the Tennessee
Exposition in 1898.  It remains today a
singular achievement.

stone foundations for the Parthenon were built
stronger than the other buildings in the Exposition.
One room, the Cella, was built of brick since
it as to house precious art works on loan for the occasion.  In 1922, when the building was being made
permanent, these foundations could still be used to support the newer

Creighton’s salary as Chief Engineer of the Exposition was $100 a
week on which to raise a family of six children.  He
was responsible for all the buildings, not
just the Parthenon, as well as miles of road and water lines, several
and four lakes.  

The Nashville Banner reported:

Creighton had the distinction of
being selected as the Chief Engineer of the Centennial Exposition and
personally supervised the layout of the grounds and buildings.

interest in Centennial Park and the other parks of the city never
waned, and
especially fitting him for his work on the Park Commission to which he
appointed in 1913.  He was made chairman of the Commission in 1925
and held that
position until he was forced to resign this year on account of bad

beauty and convenience of Nashville’s Park system is due in great
measure to
Mr. Creighton, who gave his entire attention to the Parks in Nashville
the last few years of his life. The parks were his care and he loved
them. The
wonderful system of the parks in Nashville will remain as a lasting
tribute to
his good work in their behalf.”



Crichton/Creighton Names

  • Sir William Crichton
    was appointed

    Chancellor of Scotland in
    1439 during the minority of James II.   
  • James Crichton was the
    16th century Scottish prodigy known as the
    Admirable Crichton. 
  • Mandell Creighton was one of the leading British historians and churchmen in the
    late 19th century. 
  • Donald Creighton was a
    prominent 20th century Canadian historian. 
  • Michael Crichton was an American author in the thriller and science fiction genre. His best-known work, Jurassic
    came out in 1990

Select Crichton/Creighton Numbers Today

  • 8,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Crichton and Like Surnames 

These are surnames from the Scottish Lowlands.  Some are clan names; some – like Gordon, Graham and Hamilton – have Anglo-Norman antecedents that crossed the border into Scotland; and some – like Douglas and Stewart – were very powerful in early Scottish history.  Stewart in fact became the royal Stuart line.





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