Cromwell Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Cromwell Meaning
The surname Cromwell in England
originates from the village of that name in Nottinghamshire some five
north of Newark. The root is the Old
English crumb, meaning “bent” or
“crooked,” and waella, a “spring” or
“stream” – thus a winding stream. There
was indeed a Ralph de Cromwella, recorded in 1177, who was lord of the
manor there.
Although the Cromwell
surname is well known through historical personages, the Cromwell
numbers today
are relatively few in England. There are more in America.

Cromwell Resources on

Cromwell Ancestry

Cromwells were lords of the manor of Cromwell in Nottinghamshire from the 12th
century and possibly earlier. Later
made their home at Tattershall castle in Lincolnshire. Lord
Ralph Cromwell served as Treasurer of England
from 1433 to 1443. But the male line died
out on his death and the Cromwell name did not survive in
Nottinghamshire. Indeed there were no
Cromwells recorded in
Nottinghamshire in the 1891 census

There followed, unconnected, two famous Cromwells.

Thomas Cromwell.
Cromwell’s birth
occurred around the year 1485 was on Putney
Hill in the outskiirts of London. His father was a blacksmith and
sometime brewery owner. From these somewhat obscure origins came
a man who held the highest office in the land
during the reign of Henry VIII. The TV adaptation of the
book Wolf Hall portrayed him
as a brilliant lawyer and a masterful political operator.
But his time at the top ended abruptly when he was tried and executed
for treason in 1540.

Despite Cromwell’s downfall, his line did continue through his son
Gregory who was created Baron Cromwell. The later line, ennobled
as the Earl of Ardglass, made their home in Staffordshire. The
male line here died out in 1687.

Oliver Cromwell.
Oliver Cromwell was distantly and indrectly related to Thomas
Cromwell. Thomas’s older sister Katharine and her husband Morgan
Williams, a Welsh lawyer, had a son named Richard who was brought to
court by Thomas. Richard was soon a King’s favorite and came into possession of Hinchinbrooke nunnery in Huntingdonshire at the time of
the dissolution of the monasteries. He changed his last name from
Williams to Cromwell at this time.

The line from Richard Cromwell led to:

  • his son Sir Henry Cromwell, one of the two wealthiest landowners
    in Huntingdonshire
  • his grandson Robert Cromwell, a man of more modest means
  • and his great grandson Oliver Cromwell, the man who led
    the Parliamentary side during the Civil War and ruled England as Lord
    Protector from 1653 until his death in 1658.

Oliver’s son Richard followed him as Lord
Protector, but lasted only two years in the position. The male
descent from Oliver was via his fourth son Henry who retired to Spinney
Abbey in Cambridgeshire after the Restoration. Later Cromwells
made their home in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. The last male
survivor of the Lord Protector was apparently Oliver Cromwell, a London
solicitor, who died in 1821.

James Waylen’s 1897 book The House
of Cromwell
covered this family history.

The Cromwells in New York and Maryland each claimed
a descent from the family of Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector.

New York. John
Cromwell the emigrant came to Westchester
county in 1686 in an area that later was known as Cromwell’s Neck. His grandson John was an active patriot
of the Revolutionary War.

David Cromwell of this family, a Quaker, married
Rebecca Bowman in the 1820’s and produced two sons who both perished at
the time of the Civil

  • Henry B. Cromwell had started the
    Steamship Company with ten ships in 1854 at the tender age of 26. Ten years later in 1864, at the age of 36, he was
    dead. His steamship company was thriving
    continued to thrive after his death as one of the main steamship
    companies of the East Coast.
  • his younger brother James
    meanwhile, a major in
    the Union army, was shot through the heart as he was leading his men on
    a charge at
    the Battle
    of Gettysburg in 1863. A gold locket
    bearing the picture of his wife Anna was found around his neck.
    She had just given birth to a son that James would never meet.

Another line via Charles Cromwell survived the Civil War
and led in
the 1930’s to Oliver Cromwell, a noted American mountain climber, and
his brother
James Cromwell
who married the tobacco heiress Doris Duke
. Their sister
Louise was the first wife of General Douglas MacArthur.

John Nelson Cromwell from Brooklyn died at the Battle of Vicksburg in
1863. His son William Nelson Cromwell was a lawyer who was
active in the promotion of the Panama Canal project for which he was
richly rewarded. He is remembered by the Cromwell Book
Prize awarded annually in the field of American legal history.

William and John Cromwell came on the Benona
to Maryland in 1671 and their descendants were local
gentry in Anne Arundel county. Cromwell Valley Park north of
Baltimore was named after the family. Later Cromwells would
spread into Kentucky and Indiana (their lines covered in Jean Cromwell
Price’s 1984 book The Cromwells of
Maryland, Kentucky, and Indiana
). Still, Maryland has the
largest number of Cromwells in America today.

Philemon and Rebecca Cromwell moved from
Maryland to Twin townshiip in Darke county, Ohio in 1838. They purchased 156 acres in a wild state near
Ithaca where they built their home and raised
nine children. Henry
and William Cromwell fought in the Civil
War. Henry died in 1864 at the Battle of
Wilderness in Virginia.
His remains were never recovered from the
battlefield. William survived.

Canada. A
Loyalist Cromwell family came from America to Weymouth,
Nova Scotia in 1783. Curiously, this
was African American and descended from freed slaves. The
Cromwells are still there and held a family reunion in 1988


Cromwell Miscellany

The Cromwells of Cromwell in Nottinghamshire.  The Cromwells were first recorded as lords of the manor of Cromwell in 1177.  It was said that they were descended from Healfdene, the main landowner in Cromwell at the time of the 1086 Domesday Book.

It was
Ralph de Cromwell who was summoned to the House of Lords as the 1st
Cromwell in 1375.  He made his home at
Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire.  This
home was made quite splendid by Ralph, the 3rd Lord Cromwell, who
served as
Treasurer of England from 1433 to 1443.When
Lord Ralph died in 1456, he left no male heirs.

The Cromwell estates passed to one of two joint-heiresses, his niece Lady Maud Willoughby.

Thomas Cromwell’s Birthplace.  It is believed that Thomas Cromwell was born at the
top of Putney Hill, on the edge of Putney Heath.  In
1878 his birthplace was still of note:

“The site of Cromwell’s birthplace is still
pointed out by tradition and is in some measure confirmed by the survey
Wimbledon Manor for it describes on that spot ‘an ancient cottage
called the
smith’s shop, lying west of the highway from Richmond to Wandsworth,
being the
sign of the Anchor. The plot of
ground here referred to is now covered by the Green Man
public house.

Cromwell was born there to Walter Cromwell, a blacksmith and
brewery-owner, and his wife Katherine.  Some reports have
his father as Walter Smith who changed his name to Walter Cromwell.

Sir Richard Cromwell, a King’s Favorite.  On May Day 1540 Sir Richard Cromwell eminently
distinguished himself by his military skill and gallantry during a day
jousting at Westminster.

He and five
other challengers had each of them, as a reward for their valor, 100
annually with a house to live in for them and their heirs forever,.  This house had been granted out of the
monastery of the Friary of St. Francis at Stamford which had been
dissolved two
years prior.

It was said that when the King
saw Sir Richard’s prowess he exclaimed:   “Formerly thou wast my Dick, but
hereafter thou shalt be my diamond.”  He
a diamond ring from his finger, bidding him afterwards bear such a one
in the
fore gamb of the demy lion in his crest. 

Oliver Cromwell’s Reputation.  Oliver Cromwell is one of the most controversial
figures in the history of the British Isles, considered a regicidal
dictator by
historians such as David Sharp, a military dictator by Winston
Churchill, but a
hero of liberty by John Milton and Samuel Carlyle, and a class
revolutionary by
Leon Trotsky.

In a 2002 BBC poll in
Britain, Cromwell was selected as one of the ten greatest Britons of
all time.  However, his measures against
Catholics in
Scotland and Ireland have been characterized as genocidal or
and in Ireland his record is harshly criticized.

John Cromwell’s Patriotism During the Revolutionary War.  John Cromwell’s name cropped up in 1777 when he suffered severely from the maltreatment of the British troops and their allies
the Cow
Boys because of  his well-known
attachment to the American cause.

At one time then,
it was said, a party of Cow Boys entered his house and demanded that he
tell them where he kept his money concealed.  Upon
Mr. Cromwell’s refusal, they seized him and,
heating a shovel red-hot in the kitchen fire, applied it to his naked

John Cromwell lived to relate this
and other incidents he experienced during the war, telling them with
relish at a good old age.  He died in 1805 at the age of seventy

James Cromwell and His Four Wives.  Jimmy Cromwell was the son of the Palm Beach society doyenne Eva Stotesbury.

His first wife was the automotive company
heiress Delphine Dodge.  She was the only daughter of Horace Dodge
of Grosse
Pointe, Michigan, co-founder of the Dodge Motor Company.  They
had one daughter Christine in
1922 and divorced in 1928.

He married the 22-year-old tobacco
heiress Doris Duke in 1935.  After
their marriage in New York they undertook a six month honeymoon cruise
of the world.  The couple were both supporters of
Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.  Jimmy
published books to present his economic ideas and used her fortune in
finance his political career. In
1940 he entered the election for U.S.
Senator from New Jersey, but lost the race.

Three years later they entered into bitter and protracted divorce
proceedings.  Doris Duke, asserting that her husband
wanted a $7 million ”endowment,” won a decree in Reno but that was
voided by a court in New Jersey. Cromwell then obtained a divorce that
became final in 1948.

Jimmy Cromwell was
married to his third wife, Maxine MacFetridge, from 1948 until her
1968.  Germaine Benjamin was Cromwell’s
fourth wife, from 1971 until her death in 1987.  Cromwell
himself died in California in 1990
at the age of 93.


Cromwell Names

  • Thomas Cromwell was
    chief minister to King Henry VIII from 1532 to 1540. During that
    time he was one of the strongest and most powerful advocates of the
    English Reformation.
  • Oliver Cromwell
    led the Parliamentary side during the English Civil War and ruled
    England as Lord Protector from 1653 to 1658.
  • Henry B. Cromwell founded the
    Cromwell Steamship Company in New York in 1854.

Select Cromwell Numbers Today

  • 1,500 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 3,000 in America (most numerous in Maryland)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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