Lowe Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Lowe Meaning
Lowe and its variants Low and Loew can be English or German in origin and will have a different meaning in each case.
In England the name derives from the Old English word blaw, meaning “a prominent small hill,” and would describe someone who lived by such a place. Another derivation may be from the Old Norse lagr meaning “low” or “short,” and here it might describe a short person.  Lowe and Low are the main spellings, Lowe in England and Low in Scotland.
The German derivation is from lewo and later loewe meaning “lion” and would possibly describe a brave or regal person.  In some cases the surname could be habitational, from a house distinguished by the sign of a lion. The Dutch equivalent is Louw.

Lowe Resources on The Internet

Lowe Ancestry

The earliest mentions of Lowe seem to have been
in Cheshire. From there the name spread
into the West Midlands, to Shropshire on one side and to Staffordshire
Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire on the other.

Cheshire and the West Midlands. The
town of Macclesfield in east Cheshire listed Thomas del Lowe as its
mayor in
1430 and Thomas Lowe in 1448. One family
line began with Thomas Lowe who died in Macclesfield in 1415. His grandson Lawrence acquired property in
Denby, Derbyshire by marriage and the family migrated there. Richard
Lowe died without heirs in 1785. The
Derbyshire estates then passed to his
cousin William Drury of Nottingham who adopted the name of Drury-Lowe.

Another migration from
Cheshire occurred sometime in the 16th century to Shropshire. William Lowe, who died in 1587, was a
Shrewsbury draper and burgess. His son
George became a London merchant and local MP.

However, an earlier Lowe sighting in Shropshire
was in the mid-15th century at Highley on the banks of the Severn river. William Lowe took over the operation of the
Borle mill there at that time. By the middle of the 17th century the family had grown in
importance. Thomas Lowe had become lord
of the manor and styled himself as living in Borle Hall.

One Lowe trail
began in the Barthomley area of south Cheshire close to the
border. John Lowe was born there in
1749. Some of his descendants moved from
Wybunbury in Staffordshire to Manchester in the 1830’s. John
Lowe emigrated to Australia with two of
his brothers. A younger brother Thomas Lowe remained in England
founded the Wesleyan Chapel in Rusholme near Manchester.
His son Joseph settled in the Lake District
where he established a reputation as a photographer and painter.

The Lowe name
also appeared in Nottinghamshire. The
Sherbrookes, Lowes and Bechers were gentry families at Southwell in
Nottinghamshire, frequently marrying between themselves, from the 17th
onwards. The Sherbrookes lived at Oxton
Hall, the Lowes at Dunham. From this
line came Robert Lowe, a British statesman and Cabinet minister under
between 1868 and 1874. He was ennobled
as Viscount Sherbrooke.

Meanwhile Joseph
Lowe, a Nottingham draper, was three times Nottingham’s mayor around
the year
1800. His Highfield House home was built
at that time.

Elsewhere. There
were also Lowes in London and East Anglia.
The pirate Ned Low, born around 1690, came from London. Daniel Lowe was born in Stepney in 1761. John
Lowes was the vicar at Brandeston in Suffolk from 1596 to 1646.

Lowe, born in 1744, lived in Buxton on
the river Bure in Norfolk. A descendant
Thomas Lowe emigrated to America in the 1840’s.
William and Newell Lowe departed Aylsham in Norfolk
for Prince
Edward Island in Canada in 1830.

The spelling in Scotland is Low and the name is
mainly found along the eastern coastline.
It could be here a pet form of the first name Lawrence.

One family line began with the marriage of
Charles Low and Elizabeth Morrison in Aberdeenshire in 1778. Alexander Low was born in the parish of Logie
Pert in Forfarshire (now Angus) in 1710. John Low,
a shoemaker in
Brechin in 1785, was the forebear of a family of Scottish dance teachers
in Australia
and New Zealand in the 19th century.

Ireland. Lowes in Ireland would be of
extraction. One Lowe family in Westmeath
descended from an English officer at the time of Cromwell.
James Lowe made his home at Moate in
Westmeath in the 18th century. John Low
meanwhile had settled at Spring House in Kilshane, Tipperary. Later Lows of his line became sizeable
landowners in Tipperary
and Limerick.

Bahamas. Family lore and DNA
analysis suggest that the Lowes of the Bahamas were of
Portuguese origin. It was said that
Lowe was shipwrecked
off the Bahamas in the early 1700’s. A
mariner by trade, Gideon later settled on Harbour Island.

His grandson William was a sea captain in the
Caribbean and the progenitor of the Lowes that migrated to Key West in
in the 1830’s. However, many Lowes – the
descendants of John Lowe – remained at
Green Turtle Cay
. Their line
extended to Albert Lowe, a woodcarver of ship models whose work is
in the Albert Lowe Museum that was opened in 1976.

America. Lowe arrivals in
are mainly English, but also include arrivals from
Scotland, Ireland and Germany.

New England.
Captain John Low

was master of the ship Ambrose and
commander of the fleet that brought over Winthrop’s colony in 1630.

“The cane and Bible, said to have
belonged to
Captain John Low, were handed down in the Low families of Essex,
Massachusetts. The Bible was imprinted in
London in 1579. It was marked Thomas Low
his book and Susanna Low her book in 1677.”

Thomas Low, who married Susanna
Stone in 1648, had made his home at Chebacco in Essex county,
Massachusetts by 1641. He was by trade a
maltster. He was also the progenitor of
some notable Low lines.

A line via his son David led to William Henry Low of Salem, a
pioneer of the US-China trade in the early 1800’s.
His niece Harriet Low wrote
a journal of her time
in China. When he retired in 1833 his
nephew Abiel Abbot Low took over.
Abiel’s son Seth Low was first Mayor of Brooklyn and then Mayor
of New
York City.

A line via his son Thomas the deacon became Lowe sometime in the 18th
century. Levi Lowe fought in the
Revolutionary War and migrated to New Hampshire. His
son Clovis was a drummer boy in the War
of 1812 and later a successful merchant.
Clovis’s son Thaddeus, otherwise known as Professor T.S.C. Lowe,
was a
remarkable scientific tinkerer in meteorological
sciences and in balloon building. His later inventions in ice
making machines and in hydrogen gas processes made him rich.

Meanwhile another line from Thomas the deacon
led to Maine and Pike county in Illinois.

The Lowe name cropped
up in Virginia in the 17th century, eleven men of that name recorded as
transported to Virginia at the time.
One line from Bedford county had descendants in Wilkes county,
Carolina by the 1770’s.

John Lowe – thought to have
come from Denby in Derbyshire – emigrated to Maryland sometime in the
1670’s. A descendant John Tolson Lowe
fought in the
Revolutionary War. He made his home at
the Fernandina Beach plantation in Nassau county, Florida in 1804. John Henry Lowe meanwhile settled in Clarke
county, Georgia in 1807. His son Thomas,
an accomplished violinist, was the acting mayor of Atlanta in 1861
during the
Civil War.

The Lowes of Guilford county, North Carolina had uncertain
origins. They fact that they were
Quakers might suggest Pennsylvania as an early arrival point. The first recorded was Samuel Lowe, born in
Guilford in 1720. Judge William Lowe
moved to Indiana a century later. Jesse
and Enos Lowe were early settlers of Omaha, Nebraska in the 1850’s.

German. Lowes in
America can also be of German or even of Jewish origin.
The spelling on arrival could have been Lau,
Loy, Loew, or Lowe.

One early arrival was Christian Lau from the German
Palatine who had a terrifying journey
from Rotterdam to Philadelphia in 1732.
Christian settled in York county, Pennsylvania.
Michael Lau adopted the Lowe spelling. He
migrated to Scott county, Tennessee where
he was one of its early settlers.

Later arrivals
were the German Jewish immigrants Hermann and Ida Loew who came to New
York in
the 1860’s. Their son Marcus started
Loew’s Theaters in the early 1900’s for vaudeville and movies. He later helped found the MGM
film studio.

Canada. David and Jean Lowe from
Aberdeen departed
Scotland for Quebec in 1836. Their son
James, a farmer and a poet in his spare time, later settled in America,
in Iowa and then in Minnesota.

Australia. Robert
Lowe emigrated from London to NSW in 1812 and later bought up lands to
farm in the
Bathurst and Mudgee districts. His son
was not one to be messed around with, as local bushrangers found to
their cost. Don’t try a Bobby
with me
was their lamented
refrain. Lowes are now in the
fifth generation on the land,
with David Lowe a respected winemaker in the area


Lowe Miscellany

Lowe and Low in England and Scotland.  Henry Guppy in his 1890 Homes of Family Names in Great Britain described Lowe and Low as follows:

“Lowe – essentially a name of the Midlands and adjacent NW counties, being most
numerous in Derbyshire, Warwickshire, and Cheshire.  Lowes is the
north of
England form occurring in Northumberland and Durham.
In Scotland Low has an independent home in

Thomas Lowe the Methodist Minister at Rusholme.  Thomas Lowe, a young Methodist,
left his home in Congleton, Cheshire for Manchester in 1835.  He wrote at the time: “I am now residing in
the town of Manchester, a place where wickedness abounds.
Oh! that I may have the grace to stand in the
evil day!”  He arrived in the nearby
village of Rusholme one year later.

Royle in his History of
referred to Thomas Lowe and said this of him:

Lowe, one of my best friends, was known to most people in Rusholme.

came to the village in 1836 and took part in most of the public affairs
of the village.  He was one of the founders of the Rusholme Public
Hall in 1850 and also of the Working Men’s Club in Nelson Street.
He was the pioneer of temperance work and established the first
teetotal society in the village in 1845 which held its meetings in the
Chapel in Moor Street.  He was an unflinching advocate of total
abstinence and some who today hold aloft the banner of temperance in
Rusholme owe their inspiration to him.

public work in connection with the village was justly recognized when
he was unanimously invited to occupy the chair at the Jubilee
celebration in the Public Hall in 1887 and presided over a splendid
meeting.  A well read and cultured man he was never tired of
talking about his favorite science, astronomy.

is well known, he was the father of Wesleyan Methodism in Rusholme and
passed away in 1892 at the ripe age of seventy eight, having lived in
Rusholme for fifty six years.”

John Low and the Lowe Teachers of Scottish Dance.  The first
of the family known to have been a dance master was John Low of Brechin in
Scotland.  He had been admitted in 1785
as a master shoemaker to the Incorporated Craft of Shoemaking.  He
was also a
dance teacher. As was usual in this
period, he probably provided the music for his instruction by playing
fiddle.  According to his son Joseph, he was the composer of the
known dance tune Rachel Rae.

In the first years of the 19th century, his
family was influential in establishing Scottish dance in its modern
form. Four brothers taught in different parts of
Scotland: John in Perth, Arbroath and Elgin; Robert in Glasgow,
Montrose and
Brechin; James in Dundee and Fifeshire; and Joseph in Edinburgh and
Inverness.  It was Joseph, now spelling his
surname as
Lowe, who established the family as Scottish dance teachers in
Australia and New

dancing masters of
succeeding generations of the family did continue to use a fiddle well
into the
20th century.  Charlotte Lowe, teaching then in Christchurch, is
remembered for
disciplining her pupils with a smart tap of the violin bow.

Lowes at Grand Turtle Cay.  Three generations
of Lowes are to be found in the island cemetery:

  • John
    Lowe (1823-1898)
  • his
    son John Aquila Lowe (1858-1925)
  • and
    his son Howard Lowe (1898-1927).

1976 the Albert Lowe Museum was opened
in honor of William Albert Lowe (1901-1985), a renowned woodcarver of
models.   His son and artist Alton was
the mastermind behind the museum.
Following in his father’s footsteps, another son Vertrum has
hand-crafting model ships for over thirty years.

Lowe and Variants Arrivals in America.  The following
were the numbers recorded as passengers in ship arrivals to America by country of origin..

Lowe Low Loew Total
England    674    213    887
Scotland     72    109    181
Ireland    201     80    281
Germany    116     84     70    270
Elsewhere     27     27
Total  1,063    513     70  1,646

Christian Lau’s Terrfiying Journey.  On October 9, 1732 the Pennsylvania Gazette featured an article of the struggles on-board the vessel John and William, a ship
that was carrying 220 Palatine immigrants to America.
Seventeen weeks earlier Christian Lau and his
family had boarded the vessel in Rotterdam.
They had no idea what traumas lay ahead of them.

Most of the ships
carrying Palatine immigrants were stocked with the cheapest supplies
the ship’s
master could find.  Often food and water
ran out before the voyage was completed.
Since this vessel was overcrowded and unsanitary, sickness was
rampant.  Some 20% of the passengers – 44
out of 220 – died before the vessel was in sight of America.

Suffering from
extreme hunger and exhaustion, the Palatines became fed up, mutinied
and took
control of the vessel.  When they came in
sight of land, they had no idea where to go.
They compelled the sailors
to cast the anchor near Cape May where eight of them took the boat by
force and
went ashore.  They and the vessel
eventually ended up in
Philadelphia.  The ringleaders of the
mutiny ended up in prison.

Harriet Low in China.  In 1829 Harriet’s uncle
William Henry Low and wife prepared to move to China for a five-year
While William would be managing his business interests in Canton which
off-limits to women, his wife would be staying in Macau. They then
Harriet to accompany them and to provide companionship for her aunt.

boarded the Sumatra for
a four-month voyage across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, which
included a three-week stopover in Manila.
arrived in Macau in September 1829 and
took up residence at 2, Pátio da Sé at the top of
Calçada de S. João. She
soon became acquainted with many of the well-known residents of
Macau.  As the only unmarried young woman
in the colony, she was invited to many “fancy balls, dances, teas and

her stay from 1829 to 1833, she wrote a journal in the
form of letters to her older sister Molly.
After her return to the United States, she married and moved to
London.  Her journal is now part of the
Low-Mills collection in the Library of Congress.

Don’t Try a Bobby Lowe with Me.  The Sydney Morning Herald of April 10, 1863 had the following report:

On Saturday
intelligence reached Mudgee that Mr. Robert Lowe, who was
travelling in a
buggy on the Talbragar Road accompanied by a man on
horseback, had
been stuck up by two bushrangers who had the last few days been
successfully carrying on their depredations in the neighborhood of

Mr. Lowe, upon being ordered to stand,
was covered with a revolver and commanded with a threat to get
out of
his buggy.  Seeing that the determined
villain was bent upon mischief, Mr. Lowe quickly leveled the gun
he happened
to have with him, the contents of which he lodged in the fellow’s neck
breast.  This proved fatal.  Mr. Lowe at once dispatched a messenger to Mr.
Warburton who sent the police with a conveyance for the body.

later commemorated his name with the warning: ‘Don’t try a Bobby
Lowe with


Lowe Names

  • John Lowe was a Catholic priest martyred for his faith
    in London in 1586. 
  • Robert Lowe served as Chancellor of the Exchequer under
    Gladstone from 1868 to 1873.   
  • Thaddeus Lowe was a self-educated American scientist and inventor in the second half
    of the 19th century. He is considered
    the father of military aerial reconnaissance. 
  • Marcus Loew, the son of Jewish immigrants, was a pioneer of the American film industry,
    founding Loew’s Theaters and the film studio MGM in the early 1900’s. 
  • Arthur Lowe played Captain Mainwaring in the British TV
    sitcom Dad’s Army from 1968 to 1977.

Select Lowe Numbers Today

  • 52,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Essex)
  • 40,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 31,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


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