Crowther Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Crowther Surname Meaning

The surname is derived from crowder, a musician who played a 14th century three string violin called a crowd or crowthe.   

Crowther Surname Resources on The Internet

Crowther Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Yorkshire)
  • to America, West Africa, Australia and New Zealand

England. The West Ridings of Yorkshire, especially Huddersfield where the name is believed to have originated, has by far the greatest concentration of Crowthers. A novel, The Crowthers of Bankdam, written in 1940, describes the woollen industry of Huddersfield in the 19th century. John Crowther made his money as a mill-owner later in the century. He used his wealth to buy Yorkshire football teams.

There are also clusters of Crowthers in and around Halifax, dating from the 1500’s. A Crowther family held lands in Elland nearby and Jane Crowther founded the local almshouse in 1610. Another Crowther family lived at the Steps in Sowerby Bridge in the late 1500’s. And a Crowther family in Cleverly can be traced to the early 1600’s.

The 19th century records one sad Crowther story. Philip Crowther, who had fought in the Peninsular War, had met and married an Irish Catholic girl. This aroused much hostility in his home town of Todmorden. One day around 1839, he was walking to Rochdale to collect his army pension, but never returned home. Many years later, a dying man confessed that he and another worker at the Summit tunnel had lured him into their huts, robbed him, and left his body hidden in a dump cart.

There were a number of Crowthers who emigrated from Yorkshire in the 19th century.  And in England the Crowther numbers dropped by 30% over the course of the 20th century.

America. Thomas and Sarah Crowther from Worcestershire, who had converted to Mormonism, set off west for Utah in 1855. Sarah died enroute but Thomas and his young daughter Mary Ann made it to Salt Lake valley. Thomas was the forebear of the Fountain Green Crowthers, including the present-day Mormon writer Duane Crowther.

Africa. We find Crowthers also in Africa. Samuel Adjai Crowther had escaped from slavery and, in 1825, was converted to Christianity, taking his name from the Anglican minister in Sierra Leone. Some twenty years later, he became the first native African to be consecrated as a bishop. All of his children inherited his adopted Crowther name.

The Crowther name lives on in what is now a war-torn country. American news reporters encountered John Crowther, aged 68, ruefully surveying the wreckage of his house in Freetown after it had been burnt down by anti-Government forces with his sister and children inside.

Australia.  William Crowther embarked for Australia in 1825 and he settled in Hobart to pursue his profession as a doctor. However, he was a man of violent temper who got into fights and this blighted his career.

His son William was more even-tempered and prospered as a medical practitioner. He had a fascination with Aboriginal skins and skeletons and achieved a minor celebrity with his exhumation of the last full-blood Aborigine in Tasmania (her skeleton became the most popular exhibit in the local museum).  William Crowther was also, briefly in 1878, Premier of Tasmania.

New Zealand.  Samuel and Eliza Crowther from Halifax emigrated to New Zealand in 1841. Two Crowther brothers from Bradford came in the 1860’s to be sheep farmers in Wainuiomata near Wellington. There is a Mary Crowther Park there today. However, this Mary Crowther grew up when it was still a rather isolated community and she complained about the lack of eligible men.

Crowther Surname Miscellany

Crowther Lineages

Family Location Forebear Birth Date
England   –  Claverly Matthias Crowther 1612 circa
George Crowther 1665 circa
Isaac Crowther 1691
–   Halifax Samuel Crowther 1772 circa
–   Sowerby James Crowther 1786
–   Huddersfield John Crowther 1811
America   –  Utah Edward Crowther 1535 circa
–   Pennsylvania James Crowther 1765 circa
Australia Joseph Crowther 1779
New Zealand Samuel Crowther 1805 circa

Jane Crowther’s Almshouse.  The almshouse and school in Halifax, near the parish church, was founded by Jane Crowther and her sister Ellen Hopkinson in 1613 for the residence of 21 widows and a schoolmaster.  Jane Crowther had left five pounds per annum in her will to be paid to a schoolmaster for instructing the children.

Two shillings and six pence were to be paid each month to the widows out of church rates and they were each to receive a gown once every two years.

Crowthers, Mill Owners in Huddersfield.  The Crowther wool company was founded by John Edward Crowther in 1902.  But it traces its roots back to 1840 when John Crowther of Golcar set up a carding and spinning business in Linthwaite.  He founded a dynasty that was to dominate the woollen industry in the Colne valley.  In 1867 he had established Bank Bottom Mills.

Over the years, the company opened many mills in Marsden and the Colne valley.  In the 1920’s, Bank Bottom covered 14 acres, used 680 looms and 43 carding machines, and was employing 1,900 people.  However, the slump of the thirties hit the company hard and JE Crowther shot himself.

The history of the Crowthers is believed to have inspired Thomas Armstrong’s dynastic saga, The Crowthers of Bankdam. The 1947 film, The Master of Bankdam, had its northern premiere at the Ritz in Huddersfield. The film starred such stalwarts as Dennis Price, Jimmy Hanley, and David Tomlinson.

The real Crowthers were as colorful as their screen counterparts.  In his book Colne Valley Folk, Ernest Littlewood wrote: “Among all the families concerned with the development of the woollen industry in Colne valley, that of Crowther must take prominence because of the many offshoots that had sprung from the original founder.”

However, this history is now coming to a close.  Staff at John Edward Crowther were left reeling when the company announced its plans to sell the business.  There were also fears that the Marsden company would close if a sale could not be accomplished quickly.

Samuel Adjai Crowther.  Samuel Crowther was born Adjai in the Egba group of the Yoruba people in what is now Nigeria.   When he was about fifteen he was captured by slave traders.  But the slave ship was intercepted by a British warship.  Adjai was taken to Sierra Leone where he was converted and baptized, taking the name Samuel Crowther.

He became convinced that evangelization of inland Africa must be carried out by Africans.  Ordained in London in 1843, he was appointed to a new mission in his own Yorubaland.  Among the first converts were his long-lost mother and sister.

Crowther achieved mush as evangelist, translator, and negotiator.  He impressed many, including Queen Victoria, when he visited England.  The story of his life has been recounted in John Milsome’s book, From Slave Boy to Bishop: The Story of Samuel Adjai Crowther.

William Crowther, Premier of Tasmania.  After his death in 1885, a statue to him was erected in Franklin Square, Hobart. The inscription reads:

“Erected by a grateful public and sincere personal friends to perpetuate the memory of long and zealous political and professional service in this colony by William Lodewyk Crowther.”

The W.L. Crowther Library was named in his memory and presented to the State Library of Tasmania by his grandson Sir William Crowther.

Arnold Crowther and the Prediction.  In the late 1930’s, the magician Arnold Crowther became friends with Gerald Gardner whose interest was witchcraft.  Rubbing shoulders with him, Crowther soon became interested in the craft himself. However, Gardner’s coven was wary of any possible adverse publicity.  They felt that Crowther might use their craft information in his act.  Consequently they refused to accept him.  Gardner did predict that “a very special person with fair hair” would initiate him when the time was right.

Twenty years later, while travelling to perform his act, Crowther met a lady “with fair hair,” Patricia Dawson. She was performing in the same show and they soon discovered a mutual interest in witchcraft.  Crowther offered to introduce her to his friend Gardner.

Over the following two years and regularly meeting with him, Gardner initiated Patricia on June 6, 1960 at his home in the Isle of Man.  Patricia in turn initiated Crowther and the prediction that Gardner had made to Crowther many years before had come true.

Crowther Names

  • John Crowther was a wealthy Huddersfield mill-owner who acquired Yorkshire football clubs in the 1920’s. 
  • Arnold Crowther was a stage magician with interests in paganism and witchcraft. His career peaked in 1938 when he was invited to Buckingham Palace to entertain the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. 
  • Geoffrey Crowther from Leeds was the editor of The Economist from 1938 to 1956 and later the author of the Crowther report (which raised the school-leaving age to sixteen).   
  • Leslie Crowther, born in Nottingham, was a popular British TV presenter from the 1950’s to 1980’s.

Crowther Numbers Today

  • 16,500 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 1,500 in America (most numerous in Utah).
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Crowther and Like Surnames

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


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Written by Colin Shelley

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