Drinkwater Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Drinkwater Meaning
a view long held that the Drinkwater surname derives from a place-name,
that it
is a corruption of the place-name Derwentwater, one of the lakes in the
District. Early Drinkwaters must have
come from there. But there is no
that they did.
The alternative derivation, as the name
suggests, is someone who drinks water.
In the Middle Ages weak ale was the universal beverage among the
classes and so cheap as to be drunk like water.
The surname was perhaps a joking nickname given to a poor person
to afford beer or it was an ironic name for a noted tippler.
Select Drinkwater Resources on The Internet

Drinkwater Ancestry

England. The
origin of Drinkwaters in England appears not to have been the Lake
District in
what is now Cumbria but locations in northern Cheshire and SW
Lancashire. There was coverage of this
genealogy in the
Drinkwater and Fletcher 1920 book The
Drinkwater Family of Cheshire and Lancashire.

Cheshire and Lancashire. The name of
Thomas Drinkwater was recorded at
Lymm in north Cheshire as early as 1365.
The first Drinkwater family of substance in Cheshire was the one
occupied the Bent estate
in the
parish of Warburton from the mid-16th century.
In 1620 Richard Drinkwater built a half-timbered house there
which was
restored in the late 1800’s.

The line of descent from there went:

  • to
    and Richard
    Drinkwater moved there in the late 1700’s and prospered as merchants. Richard Drinkwater of the next generation was
    a well-known and respected local figure, elected Mayor in 1834. Drinkwater Street in Shrewsbury was named
    after him.
  • to
    Liverpool. George
    Drinkwater had moved there in the 1740’s and his descendants became
    merchants and landowners there and on the Isle of Man.
    James Drinkwater was Mayor of Liverpool in
    1810 and his son George Mayor in 1829.
  • and to Irwell near
    Manchester. From this branch came Peter
    Drinkwater, the man who in 1789 built the first steam-powered cotton
    mill in
    Manchester. Five years later he acquired
    the Prestwich Manor estate. Drinkwater
    Park there was his legacy.


was a naval surgeon who
made his home in Salford in the 1760’s.
But neither of his three sons was able to perpetuate his

. Drinkwaters did spread. An early outpost was in Oxfordshire. Drinkwaters were recorded at Wootton near
in the early 1500’s. They were
established as yeoman farmers at Enstone a century or so later. John Drinkwater had some reputation as a
breeder of cattle; another John Drinkwater’s only claim to fame,
according to
his burial register of 1620, was in being lame.
Their family home was called Gagingwell.

Drinkwater who died in 1781 was a yeoman and victualler at nearby
Tackley. Rose Drinkwater, who was born
there in 1816,
ended up in the poorhouse. But her son
Henry was able to escape to New Zealand.

, based in Banbury in the 1830’s, was an innkeeper
there and a
pioneer in the stagecoach developments in that area.
A descendant was the
early 20th century poet and
playwright John Drinkwater

Elsewhere. The Drinkwater name, according to 19th
century census data, extended in numbers to Worcestershire and
in the west country and to London.

America. Thomas
Drinkwater’s origins in England are
not known. He was first recorded as
marrying Elizabeth Haskell in Plymouth, Massachusetts and settling in
where he died in 1715. His son Joseph
made the move to North Yarmouth, Maine and his grandson Micajah to
also in Maine. Many of these Drinkwaters were mariners, including
who was captured by the British in the War of

The family name
lives on in Northport in the Edna Drinkwater School.
Their history was told in John Fernald’s 1904
book The Drinkwater Family.

That was
it in terms of Drinkwater immigrants until well into the 19th century. The Drinkwaters in America was
almost all in
Maine in the 1840 census. The numbers
had dispersed by 1920 in part because some of the Maine Drinkwaters had
dispersed and other Drinkwaters had arrived elsewhere.

instance Thomas Drinkwater – born in Penobscot county, Maine in 1850 –
first for Massachusetts and then for southern California where he
himself in orange and lemon tree plantation.
Meanwhile a Drinkwater family from England had arrived in Ohio
in the
1830’s. Later Drinkwaters of this family
made their home after the Civil War in Howard county, Indiana.

William Drinkwater and his family left Gloucestershire for
around the year 1830. They were early
settlers in what became the town of Brampton near Toronto.
Drinkwater farmhouse, constructed sometime in the 1840’s, still
stands. One son Isaac headed west to
Port Alberni on Vancouver island in the 1880’s.

There were earlier Drinkwaters
in this region. Two brothers Joseph and
William had come from the Isle of Man in 1862 and were pioneer settlers
in the
Cowichan valley. When Joseph died in
1898 he was described as “an excellent farmer and one of the most
widely loved
men in Cowichan.” In 1899 a later Joe
Drinkwater, a prospector and trapper, discovered Della
Falls on the island which he named after
his wife.


Drinkwater Miscellany

The Drinkwaters of Bent in Warburton.  Old Richard Drinkwater was born in 1563 and died around the year 1651
at the age of eighty eight.  He built
Bent House around 1620 and an attached barn some ten years later.  His successors at Bent House ran as

  • Arnold
    Drinkwater 1618-1671
  • Richard
    Drinkwater 1648-1729
  • Arnold
  • Richard
    Drinkwater 1718-1754.

the convenience of his Bent Farm
property, Richard Drinkwater had in 1637 cut a new road which became
known as
Bent Lane.  He made every effort to keep
this road private.  However, local
feeling ran high that this road should be made public.
in 1735 a lawsuit was brought to
the Knutsford court against the Drinkwaters to this effect.  The result of the lawsuit was
inconclusive.  But the lane was opened to
the public.

The Bent estate passed out of Drinkwater hands in 1755 after the
death of Richard Drinkwater when his wife remarried Thomas Howe.

John Drinkwater of Salford and His Three Sons.  John Drinkwater had been a navy surgeon and was later a
physician in Salford near Manchester.  He
was the father of three sons – John, Thomas, and Samuel – none of whom
continued the Drinkwater name.

born in 1762, had a distinguished military
career at the time of the Napoleonic Wars.
Colonel Drinkwater was present at the siege and relief of
during that time and wrote an account of it.
He later adopted the surname of his Scottish wife which was
Bethune.   Their son Charles Bethune
an Admiral in the Royal Navy.

second son Thomas, born two years later, was a
Major in the British army but perished at sea on his return from the
Indies in 1797.  His epitaph in Trinity
church in Salford reads as follows:

had his foot Domingo’s island
Midst horrid wars and fierce barbarian wiles
Thrice had his blood
repelled the yellow pest
That stalks, gigantic, through the Western isles.
to his native shores again,
In hopes to embrace a father, brother, friends,
the faithless ratlin snaps in twain
He falls and to a watery grave descends.”

third son Samuel was drowned in the Irwell river while a boy at school.

John Drinkwater and the Flying Horse in Banbury.  In
the early 1830’s the Flying Horse was the local
stopping point for an increasing number
of stagecoach services linking London, Oxford and Banbury with the West

A central figure in these operations was John Drinkwater.
He was both landlord of the inn and a partner
in the Birmingham to Oxford Regulator coach.
He moved to the White Lion in
1834 and by 1836 most of the coach services had followed him.   Drinkwater in fact played a prominent
in the development of Banbury as a metropolis for village carriers.

Perez Drinkwater in Captivity.  Perez Drinkwater was
a lieutenant on the privateer
schooner Lucy when it was
captured by the British in the
last days of 1813. He was landed with the rest of his crew in the
southwest of
England and held at Dartmoor.

had been imprisoned there for five months by
the time he wrote this letter to his brother Elbridge who was later to
become a
successful sea captain.


arrived into Plymouth on the 20th of
January was put on board the prison-ship Brave
on the 24th and was landed from her on the 31th and marched to this
place in a
snow storm. This prison is situated on one of the highest places in
England and
it either snows or rains the whole year round and is cold enough to
wear a great
coat the whole time.  There are some 10,000
of us here now but the French are about to be going home.

is the first time
that I was ever deprived of my liberty and when I sit and think of it,
almost deprives me of my senses for we have nothing else to do but sit
reflect on our present situation which is bad enough God knows.

we have but one pound and a half of black
bread and about three ounces of beef and a little beef tea to drink and
that makes us one meal a day.  The rest
of the time we have to fast which is hard for the days are very long
here now.  I want to get out of here before
the war is
over so that I can have the pleasure of killing one Englishman and
drinking his
blood which I think I could do with a good will for I think them the
worst of
all the human race for there is no crime for which they are not guilty

After a further discussion of the conditions
Perez concluded as follows:

You must tell Sally to bare her misfortunes with
as much fortitude as she can till my return.   I must
conclude with wishing you all well. So God bless you all and be with
you for I

your sincere friend and brother, Perez Drinkwater.”

letter never
got through to its recipient.  Perez
survived the shootings in the prison in April 1815 when seven prisoners
killed and 38 injured, mostly American seamen.
He was released from the prison two days after the shooting and
eventually was able to return home to Maine.

Drinkwaters in America

Year In Maine Total Percent
1840    42    66    64%
1920    66   410    15%

John Drinkwater’s Divorce.  A London
sensation in 1923 was the crash of two artistic marriages.
Mrs. John Drinkwater obtained a divorce from
her husband on the grounds of his adultery with an unnamed woman.  That unnamed woman became known when Benno
Moisewitsch, the Russian pianist, obtained a divorce from his wife, the
violinist Daisy Kennedy, on the grounds of her adultery with Drinkwater.

Drinkwater told the divorce court that she and her husband had got
married in
1896 and had lived happily together until July 1921 when she got this

dear Toby
I am going to leave you.
I have taken a flat for you where you will find every comfort.”

meekly she moved out of their home.

revelations of his conduct to his wife were an astonishment to those
who had
read his poems, and especially the lofty sentiments expressed by the
heroes of
his dramas.  The case lent strength to
the remark of one intelligent woman that as a husband she would prefer
a shoe
salesman or a plumber to a poet.

Drinkwater and Daisy Kennedy were married
the next year at the South Kensington Register Office in London.


Drinkwater Names

  • Peter Drinkwater was a well-known Manchester cotton mill owner of the late 18th century. 
  • John Drinkwater was an English poet and playwright of the early 20th century.


Select Drinkwater Numbers Today

  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 1,000 in America (most numerous in Massachusetts)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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