Drinkwater Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Drinkwater Meaning
There is 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 Lake District. Early Drinkwaters must have
come from there. But there is no evidence 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 poorer classes and so cheap as to be drunk like water.
The surname was perhaps a joking nickname given to a poor person unable 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
that 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 Shrewsbury. Arnold
    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 prominent
    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.

John Drinkwater 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
Drinkwater name.

. Drinkwaters did spread. An early outpost was in Oxfordshire. Drinkwaters were recorded at Wootton near
Woodstock 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.

Richard 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.

John Drinkwater, 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 Taunton
where he died in 1715. His son Joseph
made the move to North Yarmouth, Maine and his grandson Micajah to Northport,
also in Maine. Many of these Drinkwaters were mariners, including Perez Drinkwater who was captured by the British in the War of 1812.

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.

For instance Thomas Drinkwater – born in Penobscot county, Maine in 1850 – departed
first for Massachusetts and then for southern California where he involved
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.

Canada.  William Drinkwater and his family left Gloucestershire for Canada
around the year 1830. They were early
settlers in what became the town of Brampton near Toronto.
The 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 follows:

  • Arnold Drinkwater 1618-1671
  • Richard Drinkwater 1648-1729
  • Arnold Drinkwater 1671-1736
  • Richard Drinkwater 1718-1754.

For 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.
Eventually 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.

John, 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
Gibraltar 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 became
an Admiral in the Royal Navy.

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

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

The 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 Midlands.

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
part 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.

He 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.

“Dear Brother,

We 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.

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

For 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 all
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 of.

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 cannot.

From your sincere friend and brother, Perez Drinkwater.”

This letter never got through to its recipient.  Perez
survived the shootings in the prison in April 1815 when seven prisoners were
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.

Mrs. 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 brief note:

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

And meekly she moved out of their home.

The 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.

John 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)


Select Drinkwater and Like Surnames.

These are surnames which have a small number of people bearing that name but are included here – for the curiosity of the name, its history, or because of some famous person who bears that name.






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