Gardner Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Gardner Surname Meaning

The surname Gardner derived from the northern French gardin and was introduced to Britain after the Norman invasion of 1066. It was an occupational name.

The function of the gardiniere in medieval times was a very important one. He was responsible for the kitchen garden, which provided almost the only source of fresh food and herbs, and hence played a critical part in maintaining the health of the household. The use of the word gardener, referring to someone who tended ornamental lawns and flower beds, was a later application. That may not be the only derivation.

Other sources have claimed that the name was derived from the Saxon words gar, meaning “a weapon,” and dyn meaning “sound or alarm,” combined with the termination “er.”

Gardner and Gardiner are the main spellings today, although there are other variants. Gardiner was probably the earlier spelling that was later shortened to Gardner.

Gardner Surname Resources on The Internet

Gardner and Gardiner Surname Ancestry

  • from England and Scotland
  • to America, Canada, South Africa, and Australia

England.  Early sightings of the surname in 1273 placed it in eastern England – Geoffrey le Gardener in Oxfordshire, Ralph le Gardiner in Huntingdonshire, and William le Gardiner in Lincolnshire.

Eastern England.  Oxfordshire has sometimes been cited as a possible origin of the Gardiner surname. Various de Gardinis and Gardiners were recorded in the county in the mid-13th century. William Gardiner, born there in 1451, was a cloth merchant before enlisting as a mercenary in the campaign of Henry Tudor. It was said that he slew Richard III with a pollaxe at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

“Richard’s horse was trapped in the marsh where he was slain by one of Rhys Thomas’ men, a commoner named William Gardiner.”  

Other early Gardiners hailed from Suffolk. Their numbers included:

  • Sir Richard Gardiner who became Lord Mayor of London in 1478. He grew up in Exning near Newmarket.
  • Stephen Gardiner who served as the English Lord Chancellor in the 1550’s during the reign of Queen Mary. He was born in Bury St. Edmunds where his father John was a cloth merchant.
  • and Sir Robert Gardiner who held the post of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland in the early 1600’s. He came from the small village of Shimpling.

The Tudor writer William Camden, referring of Stephen Gardiner, averred that “his name was not Gardener as the English pronounce it, but Gardiner with the French accent and therefore a gentleman.”

Lancashire. Sir Osbern Gardiner, probably a Norman knight, was recorded at Oral manor in Wigan parish in Lancashire in the 12th century. Legend has it that he joined the Second Crusade and won his crest at Acre in 1191 by chopping through the shoulder of a Saracen who was about to kill Richard the Lionheart.

Later Gardiners were to be found at Otley and nearby at Pilling and Garstang. Whether Sir Osbern himself was the antecedent of subsequent Gardiners in Lancashire, Yorkshire, or even in Scotland is based more on speculation than on proven fact.

Aldringham Hall near Ulverstone in Lancashire was the seat of a Gardner family for nigh on five hundred years. Gardners in fact became quite numerous in Lancashire.

Hugo Gardner was a burgess of Liverpool in the early 1600’s. His descendant Edmund Gardner founded England’s first timber firm in 1748 for the import of hardwoods. The business prospered. Joseph Gardner helped develop Blundellsands as a well-to-do suburb of Liverpool during the 19th century.  Gerald Gardner of this family, however, veered off in a completely different direction.  Known in the 1950’s as the “Father of Wicca” among Pagan and occult communities, he devoted himself to the ancient art of witchcraft. 

Elsewhere.  By the end of the 16th century the Gardner name was also in the west country – in Gloucestershire primarily but also in Somerset and Devon.

Gardiner-to-Gardner.  The shortening of Gardiner to Gardner began in the 17th century, perhaps earlier in Lancashire. By the time of the 1881 census the Gardner/Gardiner ratio in England was about 70/30, which is roughly what it is today.

Scotland. The Gardiner name in Scotland dates from the 15th century. The best-known Gardiners were those at Bankton House near Edinburgh.

Captain Patrick Gardiner had been killed fighting abroad in Germany in the 1690’s. His son James became a Colonel in the British army and he also died in combat, this time at Prestonpans in 1745 fighting against Bonnie Prince Charlie. The battle took place very near Bankton House and he died of his wounds within sight of his own home.

Ireland. Gardner or Gardiner is an English implant, found either in Dublin or the Ulster counties.

William Gardner from Lancashire commanded a company within the walls of Londonderry in the siege of 1689. His grandson Allen from Coleraine joined the British navy and attained the high rank of Admiral during the Napoleonic wars.

Luke Gardiner was probably of English origin, although he was described as a “sturdy parvenu of Irish descent.” He was a successful land developer in Dublin in the early 18th century, contributing much to the Georgian look of the town. His Gardiners later became Viscount Mountjoy and the Earl of Blessington. However, the first Earl squandered his inheritance and died in Paris in 1829 at the age of 46.

America. Probably the first Gardner to arrive in America was Richard Gardener, a seaman on the Mayflower in 1620. But he died that year or soon after without issue.  Other Gardiners and Gardners followed, mostly into New England.

New England.  Two early Gardner arrivals there have a large and distinguished descendant list:

First, Thomas Gardner came to Cape Ann in 1623 with his first wife Margaret and their three sons. He is considered by some to have been the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony. He was buried on Gardner Hill in Salem. Prominent descendants have been:

  • Thomas Gardner the patriot who fell at Bunker Hill in 1775
  • and the businessman Jack Gardner whose wife founded the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

Then Lion Gardiner from Scotland came to Boston in 1635 and settled in Long Island. He acquired Gardiners Island off Long Island in 1639 and this island has remained with his family ever since.  Among his Gardiner descendants were:

  • New York state senator David Gardiner, whose daughter married President Tyler
  • and Winthrop Gardiner, the 14th proprietor of Gardiners Island who married the Norwegian figure skater and actress Sonja Henie.

Two other notable early New England families have been:

First, the Gardiners of Rhode Island. George Gardiner came to Newport in 1638 and was one of the early settlers of Rhode Island.  George had thirteen children by two wives. A grandson John Gardiner was a Deputy Governor of the colony.   

Gardiner has been the preferred spelling in Rhode Island. They jokingly referred to the “blind Gardners” (those without an “i”) as those who left Rhode Island and spelt their name differently. The family history was recounted in Caroline Robinson’s 1919 book The Gardiners of Narragansett.                       

Then there were the Gardners of Nantucket. They were seafarers who became a well-known whaling family. Their forebear was Thomas Gardner from Hampshire who had come to Massachusetts and settled in Nantucket in 1673. He remained on the island for the rest of his life, sailing ships from their port until his death in 1706.

Later Gardners of this line intermarried with other early families of Nantucket – the Coffins, Starbucks, Folgers and Macys. Their whaling heyday was the early 1800’s. Captain Edmund Gardner recounted many of his whaling adventures in his Journal.

Maryland.  Luke Gardiner was an early arrival in Maryland, coming there as a lad with his Catholic parents from Oxfordshire in 1637.  However, the early years in the colony were chaotic and they had to flee to Virginia.  It was not until ten years later that Luke, but minus his parents, was able to return and regain the family estate at St. Richard’s Manor.  Over the next twenty five years he became the largest landowner in southern Maryland.

Pennsylvania.  Francis Gardner from Coleraine in Ireland came to Chester county, Pennsylvania around the year 1747.  His son John distinguished himself in the Revolutionary War.  After the war his local popularity was such that he was unanimously elected sheriff of Chester county.  Later Gardners moved West, to Ohio and then to Colorado where Bill Gardner had a sheep farm in the early 1900’s.

Canada.  Thomas Gardner moved from Boston to Nova Scotia in the 1760’s after the defeat of the French. His descendants at Liverpool were shipbuilders and privateers on the British side in the Revolutionary War.

Archie Gardner was one of a number of Scottish Gardners who left their homes near Glasgow for a new life in Canada in the 1820’s. Many of these Gardners were converted to the Mormon faith. In fact 24 Gardners made the journey from Warwick in Canada to Salt Lake valley in 1847.

South Africa. James Gardner from Kirkcaldy in Scotland came to the Eastern Cape in the 1830’s as a soldier before staying on as a road engineer. Two of his wives died there because of the harsh conditions and he himself was murdered in the early 1850’s. His children were found wandering in the bush and were taken into missionary care.  The eldest son Charles married and became a farmer in Barkly East in the Eastern Cape.

Australia. Among the Gardners arriving there during the 19th century were:

  • Andrew Gardner from Scotland who was transported to NSW in 1818 for the crime of “the sale of spiritous liquor.” On getting his ticket of leave, he was engaged in the building of The Scotch Thistle Inn at Blackheath.
  • William Gardner who came with his family from Fermanagh in Ireland to NSW in the early 1840’s.   
  • and two Gardners families from Hampshire – George and his wife Harriet in 1853 and John and his wife Jane in 1856 – who came to NSW on an assisted passage scheme. The documents suggest that the Gardners could neither read nor write.

Frank Gardner from Gloucestershire had enlisted in the Royal Navy as a young man and seen service at a number of trouble spots around the world.  Soon after his arrival in Australia in 1861, he joined the Newcastle Naval Brigade where he rose to the post of commander, retiring after forty years of service as one of the oldest officers in the Australian Naval Reserve. In 1916 he presented the city of Newcastle with an Anzac memorial monument for the fallen at Gallipoli.

New Zealand.  John Gardner and his wife Margaret from Scotland came to New Zealand in 1862 and settled in Glorit outside Auckland at the Mataia homestead. Their descendants are still living there. The Gardner family from Kent meanwhile came to New Zealand in stages between 1876 and 1883.

Gardner Surname Miscellany

Gardners and Gardiners Today

Numbers (000’s) Gardner Gardiner Total
UK    41    21    62
America    47     4    51
Elsewhere    22    17    39
Total   110    42   152

Gardner and its Variants.  Gardner and Gardiner are the main spelling forms in England today.  The principal other variant found is Gardener.  The name Garner, originating in East Anglia, has probably come from different roots.

The German variants are Gartner and Baumgartner.  Gartner is principally found in eastern Austria, Slovenia, and the Tyrol; while Baumgartner occurs in the same areas as well as in parts of southern Germany. 

The Will of Sir Richard Gardiner, Lord Mayor of London.  In his will of 1488, Sir Richard Gardiner, Alderman of Walbrook Ward, left to Etheldreda or Audria, his wife, his lands and tenements etc. in London parishes for her life, with the remainder to Mary, Lady Alington, his daughter-in-tail.

In default of an heir he left the sum of ten pence per diem to five poor men in honor of the five wounds of Jesus Christ and to five poor women in honor of the five joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary; the said men and women being nominated by the Mayor and Recorder and by the Master of the Hospital of St. Thomas de Acon in the manner prescribed.

The aforesaid tenements etc. were to remain to the master of the house or hospital aforesaid and his successors subject to the above charge; the remainder in case of default to the Chamberlain of the City of London on like condition.

Gerald Gardner and Arnold Crowther.  In the late 1930’s, Gerald Gardner, whose interest was witchcraft, became friends with the magician Arnold Crowther.

Crowther soon became interested in Gardner’s craft himself. But Gardner’s coven was wary of any possible adverse publicity he might bring.  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 magician’s 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.

Lion Gardiner and Gardiners Island.  Lion Gardiner, a native of Scotland, served under General Fairfax in the Low Countries as an engineer.  He was sent to America in 1635 by Lords Say and Brooke to build a fort and make a settlement on their grant at the mouth of the Connecticut river.  He built the fort at Saybrook, which name he gave to it after the names of his patrons Lords Say and Brooke.

His eldest son David, born at Fort Saybrook in 1636, was the first white child born in Connecticut. Lion afterward bought from the Indians an island in Long Island Sound approximately five square miles in size which was called by them Monchonack and by the English the Isle of Wight.  He paid for it, as the old records say, with a black dog, a gun, and some Dutch blankets.

He moved there with his family and gave it the name of Gardiner’s Island.  Their daughter Elizabeth was born there in 1641.  She would later be responsible for the first witch hunt and witch trial in the American colony.

The island has remained in the possession of the family.  The original Manor House, built in 1774, burned down in 1947 after a guest fell asleep while smoking.  The last male Gardiner, Robert Gardiner, died in 2004 and ownership passed to his niece Alexandra Goelet.

Reader Feedback – Gardiners in Maryland.  Do you have any information that shows a connection to Richard Gardiner (father of Luke Gardiner born in 1622) who came to Maryland and William Gardiner who married Helen Tudor?  Is there any DNA that shows a link?

John Q. Thomas (

Captain Edmund Gardner of Nantucket.  Captain Edmund Gardner was the last of a long line of adventurous men from Nantucket who for more than a hundred years put their ships into many of the far parts of the globe in the dangerous search for whales. Few other whalemen could have had more exciting adventures than Edmund Gardner.

Fortunately for posterity, he lived a long life, within a month of ninety-one years, and as he was getting old he took to writing down in his Journal a story of his adventures, his thoughts and his philosophy.  For nearly a century this Journal was treasured by his descendants.  It was published for a wider audience in 1958.

Captain Gardner described his roots in Nantucket as follows:

“I was born and brought up on the island of Nantucket.  Born on the 8th of November 1784.  My parents were Thomas and Anna Gardner.  My ancestors were some of the first settlers of the island. My great grandfather was the first male white born on the island.  His name was John Swain.  He married the daughter of Peter Folger.  Her name was Experience Folger.  Thus it will be shown that my connections were with the first settlers of the island.”

He first took to sea in the year of 1800 at the age of sixteen.   His Journal described many encounters with whales and mishaps with his ships.  The sinking of the Union in 1807 was perhaps not as dramatic as the sinking of the Essex in 1820 and the Ann Alexander in 1851, as these two ships were sunk in battles with whales while the Union merely collided with a whale in the night.  He almost died of his injuries in Peru but fortunately was able to find the right doctor there in time.

Archie Gardner and His Wooing in Canada.  Archie Gardner was a Scotsman who had come to Canada as a small boy, settling in the backwoods in Warwick, Canada.  A determined lad, he built his own grist mill in 1832 at the age of 18. Seven years later he married Margaret Livingston.  Of his romance Archie wrote:

“I went with two Irishmen to cut a road through the woods of Brooke township, in which vicinity I later built a mill. We stayed all night with a Highland Scotsman and our bed was spread out on the floor in front of the fireplace. After we had retired for the night three girls passed through the room. I did not notice the first or the second, but when the third girl came in, although I had never seen her before, something spoke to my understanding: “That is your future wife.”

I learned her name, Margaret Livingston, and had a five minute talk with her before she left for her work in Detroit.

As I could not get her out of my mind, I decided to take another little walk of one hundred and ten miles to see her.  The weather was very cold, the snow, sixteen inches on the level. My companion went only part-way and I broke the trail the entire distance.

Upon arriving at the city of her employment, I found her address. In the afternoon I was permitted to see her at the gate. I tried to arrange a meeting that evening but she was not allowed to go out or see anyone. I was so provoked at this that I went home the next day without any further interview. I courted and asked other girls to marry me but circumstances seemed to upset my plans. Always my mind reverted to Margaret.

When my mill was well started, I went to Detroit to see her. She came and on February 19, 1839 I married my little Highland Scotch Lassie.”

Archie was a Mormon pioneer, one of those who embarked for Salt Lake valley in 1847.  At the time of his death in 1902 he left three wives, sixteen sons, and twelve daughters. 

The Gardners from Kent to New Zealand.  The Gardner family from Monks Horton in Kent made their way to New Zealand over a period of seven years on six different ships, with the elderly parents forming the final link in the chain.

In 1876 one Gardner son, together with two other members of the family, emigrated to New Zealand. This was probably George Gardner, a 26-year-old farm laborer, sailing on the Northampton in December 1876. Two younger brothers, John and Thomas who were both single farm laborers, followed on the Rakaia in July 1878.  When Alfred Simmons recruited his party for the Stad Haarlem in 1878–9, two married daughters with their husbands who were members of the family joined him.  Later in the year another married daughter and her husband from Folkestone emigrated.

The patriarch of this family now had six children in New Zealand, five of them situated within five minutes’ walk of each other at Ashhurst.  Two single sons offered him a home to spend his last days without hard work.  So he took up their offer, sailing with his wife in September 1883 and landing in Wellington on the first day of 1884.

Only a few days later, on 6 January 1884, he was killed at Palmerston North when the horse he was driving bolted on being frightened by a train and he fell between horse and dray.

Reader Feedback – Jesse Gardiner in New Zealand.  I am trying to track down my grandfather’s Gardiner family.  His name was Jesse Gardiner, born in 1877 but I have no idea where.  He married Ngamotu Rautahi in Dannevirke, New Zealand and died there in 1936.   His son Eruini was born in New Zealand.

Katene Gardiner (

Gardner Names

  • Sir Robert Gardner was an English-born judge who was a trusted political advisor to both Queen Elizabeth and James I and held the office of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland for eighteen years. 
  • Erle Stanley Gardner was an American writer best known for his Perry Mason detective stories. 
  • Ava Gardner was a well-known Hollywood actress of the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Gardner and Gardiner Numbers Today

  • 62,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 58,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 39,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Gardner and Like Surnames

These were status positions within the feudal position of that time – usually positions serving noble families, lords of the manor, or in the church.  Here are some of these status position surnames that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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