Leadbetter Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Leadbetter Surname Meaning

The surname Leadbetter derives from the Old English ledbetere or “lead beater,” meaning a worker in lead. Early mentions of the name are a Walter Ledbeter recorded in the Assize Court Rolls of Northumberland in 1256 and a Roger Ledebeter assessed at Coverham Abbey in north Yorkshire in 1302.

Leadbetter and Ledbetter are the main spelling variants, Leadbetter in England and Ledbetter in America. Ledbetter (or more commonly Lidbetter) is an old Sussex surname. Leadbeater appears to be Huguenot in origin, from the Huguenot name Le Betre.  

Leadbetter Surname Resources on The Internet

Leadbetter and Ledbetter Surname Ancestry

  • from Northern England and Scotland
  • to America and Canada

England.  The Leadbetters were said to be an old Border family. There were Leadbetters at Warden near Hexham in Northumberland from the 16th century and probably from an earlier time. They were recorded as Catholics and non-jurors. Their spelling was later Leadbitter.

Lancashire.  Leadbetters in Lancashire are traced in Frank Leadbetter’s 1992 book The Leadbetter Papers in his line back to Hamlet and Margaret Leadbetter in Elizabethan times. Knowsley on Merseyside was the home of the Rev. Henry Leadbetter in the late 16th century and of the astronomer Charles Leadbetter in the 18th. Later Leadbetters were recorded at Meols on the Wirral peninsula and as fishermen in Fleetwood.

The largest number of Leadbetters in England during the 19th and 20th centuries has been in Lancashire.

Elsewhere. Joseph and Sarah Leadbetter were married in Birmingham in 1750.  Their descendants were living in Northamptonshire in the early 1800’s.  A later Joseph Leadbetter spent three months in prison there for larceny in 1819. He subsequently emigrated with his family to Quebec.

Sussex Ledbetter (or more commonly Lidbetter) is an old Sussex surname, having been traced there back to the marriage of a Simon Ledbeter in 1405. The name cropped up in the 18th century at North Stoke, Nuthurst, and Pulborough, and at Bramber where they were long-established and prosperous farmers.

Scotland. The Leadbetter name was also to be found north of the border, particularly in and around Edinburgh. John Leadbetter, born in these parts, made his name first as a linen merchant and then as a railway promoter in Glasgow during the first half of the 19th century. Thomas Leadbetter was a noted local Edinburgh architect in the late 19th century.

America. The American spelling has been both Leadbetter and Ledbetter but is now invariably Ledbetter.

New England  A New England line (traced by J.E. Ames in his 1917 book Leadbetter Records) began with.Henry Leadbetter marrying in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1659. A grandson, the curiously named Increase Leadbetter, moved to Vinalhaven, Maine a hundred or so years later and his family has remained in and around there.

The Ledbetter spelling was apparently first brought to America by Thomas Ledbetter from Durham. He arrived in Virginia around 1630. This family generally stayed in what was called Prince George county before migrating to the Pamplin area in the early 1800’s. Captain George Ledbetter moved onto North Carolina after the Revolutionary War.

Ledbetters in the South.  The Ledbetter name spread across the South. Many are traced in Roy Ledbetter’s 1964 book Ledbetters from Virginia:

  • Richard Ledbetter settled in Rutherford county, North Carolina in the 1770’s. A Revolutionary War veteran, he died in Georgia in 1841 at the grand old age of a hundred and three.
  • Daniel Ledbetter, born in Georgia in 1825, moved onto Tennessee and North Carolina.
  • two Ledbetter brothers, William and Thomas, left Tennessee for Arkansas in 1850.

The storied blues singer Huddie Ledbetter probably inherited his surname as a slave.

Texas. Hamilton and Jane Ledbetter moved from Tennessee in 1840 and settled in Fayette county, Texas. Their son Hamilton was a prominent lawyer there and the town of Ledbetter in Fayette county was named after him.

The Rev. Arthur Ledbetter, a Baptist minister, made the same journey in 1848, finally arriving in Dallas county after some tragic deaths in his family.

“The family had reached the east fork of the Trinity river and were within a few miles of their destination when several members of the family contracted smallpox. His wife Elizabeth, two of their daughters, a brother-in-law, and a grand-daughter soon perished. They were buried in unmarked graves on the banks of the river.”

Arthur established four Baptist churches in Dallas county and the Ledbetters settled in Dallas. Peahull Ledbetter was Commissioner of Dallas County from 1916 to 1933 and was responsible for building the first highway loop around Dallas. Ledbetter Drive in Dallas was named after him.

Canada.  Charles Leadbetter emigrated from Staffordshire to Toronto in 1905, seeking a better life for his family.  He settled to farm north of the city.  In 1926 Leadbetter’s Butcher Store was started in Markham, Ontario.  The fourth generation of Leadbetters now runs the store at Washago.

Leadbetter Surname Miscellany

Leadbetters and Ledbetters.  Early spellings were various.  But Leadbetter is now the standard form in the UK, Ledbetter in America.  The table below shows the current approximate number of Leadbetters and Ledbatters.

Numbers (000’s) Leadbetter Ledbetter Total
UK   2.9   2.9
America   6.2   6.2
Canada   0.6   0.6
Australia   0.3   0.3
Total   3.8   6.2  10.0

The Leadbeaters.  In 1794 the writer Mary Leadbeater published a short history of the Leadbeaters.  She had grown up in a Quaker household in Ireland and had in fact married into a Leadbeater family.  Her husband William traced his descent from the Huguenot family of Le Betre who had fled France for England in the 16th century.  He had come to her home in Ballitore from the north of England to study under Mary’s father Richard Shackleton.

The Leadbeater name also crossed to America.  Edward Leadbeater, a surgeon in the British army, gave up his home in England in the early 1800’s and married and settled down in Mount Pleasant, New York.  And the Leadbeater name has cropped up in more recent times in Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Reader Feedback – Leadbetters in Meols.  You made a couple of references to the Leadbetters of Fleetwood originating from Wirral. There is indeed a Meols on the Wirral peninsula. But the Fleetwood Leadbetters came from North Meols, which is just north of Southport – not a million miles away but not the same place.  In fact Wirralians pronounce their Meols as ‘Mells,” while the Lancashire version is pronounced ‘Mee-ols.”

Best regards, Dave Abbott (david.j.abbott@btinternet.com)

Leadbetters in Fleetwood.  In the 1861 census they lived at 14 Victoria Street, Fleetwood.

  • Peter Leadbetter, age 52, fisherman, born Meols
  • Jane Leadbetter, age 43, born Tarlton
  • Henry Leadbetter, age 17, fisherman, born Fleetwood
  • Mary Leadbetter, age 13, born Fleetwood
  • Nancy Leadbetter, age 12, born Fleetwood

Peter’s eldest daughter Betsy had married James Wilson, another fisherman, in 1853 and was living nearby on West Street.

Peter was the son of Thomas and Ann Leadbetter and had grown up in Meols.  Peter’s first wife Mary had died in 1846.  He remarried and the family then moved to Fleetwood.  Peter lived on until his 80’s.  His family moved away.

Henry and Increase Leadbetter.  There is no record of Henry Leadbetter arriving in New England.  He gave his son the name the unusual name Increase – which has led to speculation that he arrived on the vessel Increase (which came from England in 1652).

Increase passed on his name to his son who later moved to Fox Island (Vinalhaven), Maine in 1769.  The next Increase apparently died young.  Son Luther, a ship’s mate, was lost at sea in 1789 while enroute to the West Indies.  So the Leadbetter name was carried forward in Vinalhaven by the next son John.

Reader Feedback – Huddie Ledbetter.  The storied blues singer Huddie (pronounced Hootie) Ledbetter probably inherited his surname as a slave.  Born in Louisiana in 1888, he was an American folkand blues musician notable for his strong vocals, virtuosity on the twelve-string guitar, and the folk standards he introduced.  He is best known as Lead Belly. Though many releases credit him as “Leadbelly,” he himself wrote it as “Lead Belly”, which was also the spelling on his tombstone.

Lead Belly usually played a twelve-string Stella guitar, but he also played the piano, mandolin, harmonica, violin, and windjammer.  According to family legend, Lead Belly custom-ordered his famous Stella 12-string from Fulvio Pardini who worked for the Oscar Schmidt Company in New Jersey.

Ironically his own favorite opus was Goodnight Irene, which reached Number One in the charts six months after his death in 1949.

Dick (dkledbetter@triad.rr.com)

The Ledbetters in Dallas.  Lonnie and Perdita Ledbetter and their family lived a comfortable life in Dallas.  Lonnie had been estranged from his father Thomas but was close to his uncle Peahull, the Commissioner of Dallas county.

Their home was a showpiece in the southwest of Dallas county, with its long driveway lined with cedar and pecan trees leading to the front yard.

Clustered around the house was a large washhouse with a leanto on the back for the carbide plant which furnished the gas for the gas lights in the house.  There was a smokehouse, two large chicken houses, a garage for Lonnie’s big touring car and out back was the necessary outhouse – a two-holey.

There was a large concrete storm cellar, which saw frequent use, and at the edge of the back porch was a deep, hand-dug brick and plaster-lined cistern which collected rainwater from the roof and provided an ample supply for the laundry and hair washing.  There was a sink in the kitchen and a bathtub in the pantry supplied with running water from an elevated water tank, which was kept deliberately filled by a windmill that drew water from an inexhaustible spring.

A short distance from the house were located the usual farm buildings; barns, sheds, stock pens, granary, corn crib, blacksmith shop and a large shed for the huge thresher and steam engine.

Sadly, Lonnie’s house burned down in 1938.  The estate is now occupied by a shopping center, single-family homes and apartments.

Reader Feedback – Leadbetters in Nova Scotia.  I descend from Thomas Leadbetter and his wife Agnes Godfrey who came to Nova Scotia between 1820 and 1825.  They settlied in the Barney’s River area. Thomas was a carpenter and built the first church, a log church, in Kenzieville.

They were extremely poor and left little information about their origins. I only know that they “hae na Gaelic” and came from the low country. Would love to know more!

Marsha Mackay (marsha.mackay@ns.sympatico.ca).

Leadbetter Names

  • Charles Leadbetter was an 18th century English writer on astronomy and mathematics.
  • Bud Ledbetter, born in Arkansas, was a gun-slinging lawman of the Old West.
  • Huddie Ledbetter, known as Leadbelly, was an iconic American blues and folk singer, known both for his songs and for his virtuosity on the 12 string guitar.
  • David Leadbetter from Sussex, widely regarded as the father of the modern golf swing, is coach to many of the world’s leading golfers.

Leadbetter Numbers Today

  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 6,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

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Written by Colin Shelley

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