Middleton Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Middleton Surname Meaning

The surname Middleton originated from the place-name – of which there are over thirty instance of the name – at various locations in England.  Middleton village and Middleton manor in north Warwickshire were recorded in the Domesday Book. The name also cropped up in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Shropshire, and Sussex.

The root is the Old English midel meaning “middle” and tun “farm” or “settlement.”

Middleton Surname Resources on The Internet

Middleton Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Shropshire and Yorkshire), Wales and Scotland
  • to America, Canada and Australia

England.  William de Middleton was a medieval Bishop of Norwich who lived in the 13th century.

Shropshire.  Myddeltons have been in Shropshire since the 14th century when the son of Rhirid ap Dafydd of Myddelton became known as Philip Myddelton. Sir Thomas Myddelton, a Welsh merchant whose family had adopted this Myddelton name, acquired Chirk castle in 1595. His family has continued to live there to the present day.

Yorkshire.  The name Midelton cropped up in Yorkshire in 1273 and, later on, the Middleton name was to be found in Yorkshire and the West Midlands mainly.

There was a Middleton family in Ilkley in Yorkshire in medieval times. They were a landowning family who lost out in the 16th and 17th century because of their Catholic faith. Their plight was discussed in The Middleton Papers, series 161 of the Yorkshire Archaelogical Society.

William Middleton started a law firm in Leeds in 1834 which continued under his descendants until 1985.  From this line came Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge after her marriage to Prince William in 2011.

Scotland. The Midilton name was recorded in Arbroath in 1221. A Scottish Middleton family derived their name from lands at Middletoun near Kincardine in NE Scotland which they had held from the 12th century.

Its best known member was probably John Middleton who started out as a pikeman in a Scottish regiment in France. He rose to become the first Earl of Middleton and command the Scottish army for the King in 1648 and for Charles II following the Restoration. His son Charles was a close advisor to James II and followed him into exile in 1688.

Wales. The Myddelton name came to Wales when a Welsh family of Denbighshire married into the Myddeltons of Shropshire and adopted their name. Richard Myddelton was governor of Denbigh castle during Tudor times.

His sons Thomas and Hugh set off to London to seek their fortune. Thomas became one of the original shareholders of the East India Company and Hugh Myddelton a goldsmith, such a successful one that he was appointed Royal Jeweller to James I.

America. The main Middleton presence in America has been in South Carolina.

South Carolina. In 1678 Edward Middleton and his brother Arthur moved from Barbados to Charleston, South Carolina to start a plantation there. Edward’s son Arthur, born there three years later, became a well-established member of the Carolina gentry. Arthur Middleton was a wealthy plantation owner on land along the Ashley river, owning over 5,000 acres and employing more than a hundred slaves. A later Arthur was a signer of the Declaration of Independence for South Carolina.

The family position in South Carolina remained until the time of the Civil War. Descendants spread across South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and New Jersey and included the actor Charles Middleton who played Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon movies of the 1930’s.

Elsewhere.  The Scottish physician Peter Middleton practiced in New York City after 1752 and was one of the founders of the medical school at King’s College (now Columbia University) in 1767. He sided with the British during the Revolutionary War.

James Middleton, the son of John and Susan Middleton, grew up in Delaware and fought in the Revolutionary War. Afterwards he made his home at Broad Creek in Sussex county. Descendants migrated to Ohio and Indiana. The family line was covered in Hazel Middleton Kendall’s 1932 book Middleton-Downing Family History.

Canada. One Middleton family in Canada began with Ezekiel and Elizabeth Middleton from Vermont who crossed the border into Leeds county, Ontario in 1800.

Meanwhile Charles and Elizabeth Middleton, newly married, came to Toronto from Kent in 1834. After they had been in Toronto a year, Charles walked out alone into the wilderness and purchased 80 acres to farm in the Huron tract. He then returned and brought his young wife and family out to his new homestead. The early years were tough. But befriending the local Chippewa Indians turned out to be a good strategy.

Australia.  Joseph Middleton, a laborer from Northamptonshire, was on board the Buffalo which took the first English colonists to South Australia in 1836. Ian Hutchinson’s 2012 book Middleton Memoirs – A History of the Family of Joseph and Elizabeth Middleton recounted this family’s history.

Kate Middleton’s Ancestry

Kate Middleton became the Duchess of Cambridge when she married Prince William in 2011.  Her roots on her father’s side are in Yorkshire where her Middleton forebear established a law firm in Leeds in 1834.

Just click below if you want to read more about this history:

Middleton Surname Miscellany

The Myddeltons of Chirk Castle and Their Red Bloody Hand.  Chirk castle was built in the late 13th century by Roger Mortimer, the Justice of North Wales for Edward 1.  The castle was sold for 5,000 UK pounds to Sir Thomas Myddelton in 1595 and his descendants have continued to live in a part of the castle today.

The iron gates of the castle are dated 1719 and bear the coat of arms of the Myddelton family.  These incorporate the red “bloody” hand, three wolves’ heads, and an eagle’s head.

There are many accounts about the origin of this red “bloody” hand.  One story tells of a dispute which arose between two youths of the family over the inheritance of the castle.  To settle the dispute it was agreed that the two youths should run a race.

The winner would be the first to return and touch the castle gates.  It was said that the first youth to reach out to the gate at the finishing line was deprived of victory by a supporter of his adversary who drew his sword and cut off the youth’s outstretched hand – thus the “bloody” hand. An alternative version of this story tells that they swam across the castle lake and the first hand to touch the far shore was cut off.

Another legend has it that the red hand was a curse on the Myddelton family. It was said that the curse would only be removed if a prisoner succeeded in surviving imprisonment for ten years in Chirk castle’s notorious dungeon.  No prisoner did in fact survive.

Then there is the story of a Myddelton dressed in a white tunic who was badly injured in battle. He placed his blood-covered hand on his tunic and left the imprint of the bloody hand which then became the heraldic symbol. 

Middletons in Warwickshire.  Middleton is a small village in north Warwickshire mentioned in the Domesday Book.  The manor of Middleton was held by the de Frevilles until 1493 when it passed to the Willoughbys. In the 17th century Middleton Hall was home to Francis Willoughby, the famed mathematician, and he and his descendants were granted the title of Baron Middleton.

Middleton Lodge in Ilkley.  High above Ilkley, to the west of Middleton village, stands the impressive building most local people call “The Monastery.” The Lodge was built on the site of a medieval hamlet called Scalewray which came into the hands of Anne Meddilton, wife of Sir Peter Middilton, in 1490.  The main features of the building that can be seen today date from 1620.

From a very early date the Lodge was a centre of the Catholic religion. During the days of persecution the recusant population of the county was to be found in small groups, at the centre of each of which was to be found “a gentleman’s household.”  Jane Middelton was listed as a recusant in 1580 and the Middelton family remained true to the “ancient faith” despite heavy fines and imprisonment.  Even today there are still Catholic residents of Middleton village whose ancestors have been part of this local recusant tradition.

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries the Lodge seemed to have served either as a hunting lodge or as a family second home with a Catholic priest in residence.  The Middelton’s main residence was at Stockeld Park near Wetherby.

Much of the Middelton family’s estate in Ilkley was sold off to raise money during the 19th century and the Lodge itself went in 1912.

Sir Hugh Myddelton and London’s Water Supply.  Sir Hugh Myddelton is chiefly remembered as the man who brought fresh water to London. This is how residents of Myddelton Square, in the London Borough of Islington, tend to think of him, and perhaps to associate him with the statue at Islington Green.

In 1576, he followed his older brothers to London and apprenticed himself to Thomas Hartopp of the Goldsmiths’ Company.  His name first appears as a liveryman of the Goldsmiths’ Company in 1592. His goldsmith’s shop was to be found in Basinghall Street.  He supplied jewellery to Queen Elizabeth I and two entries in state papers show sums of £250 paid to Hugh Myddelton for jewels bestowed by King James I on his wife, Queen Anne.

In 1605 he served on a House of Commons Committee to look into the possibility of bringing fresh water from the River Lea into central London. Hugh gradually became obsessed with the dream of improving London’s water supply.

The villagers of Islington complained that there was not enough water.  Some of it was drawn from wells and delivered by water carriers.  Quite often it was contaminated. Hugh’s idea was to find a way to bring water from the springs of Amwell and Chadwell in Hertfordshire, partly by means of an open channel and partly through underground pipes, to a reservoir near his own city house – a distance of 38 miles.

What he planned duly happened.  On September 29th, 1613, water was permitted to flow into the large reservoir at what is now the New River Head, the very day that his brother Thomas took office as Lord Mayor of London.

Sir Hugh’s fame was commemorated by the erection of many memorials.  In 1845 a statue of him was placed in a niche on the north side of the newly rebuilt Royal Exchange and in 1862 a marble statue of him in Elizabethan costume was erected on Islington Green.

John Middleton the Giant.  John Middleton, reputed to have reached 9′ 3″ in height, was born in Hale in Lancashire in the 1570’s. Legend has it that he was originally of normal size and grew in a single night.

In 1617 his patron Sir Gilbert Ireland took him to the Court of King James I in London where he put out the thumb of the King’s wrestler in a bout.  This feat was reported to have earned him the disdain of the courtiers and a gift of £20 from the King.

Middletons in Scotland.  The name of Middleton in Scotland is derived from the lands of Middletoun in Kincardineshire, of which the Middleton family were in possession for over four hundred years.

Malcolm assumes the Middleton name, having been granted these lands by the Scottish king in 1094.  Early Middletons were not always respectable.  Gilbert Middleton was recorded as an outlaw in 1317 for heading a band that attacked and robbed dignitaries of the church.

Laurence de Middleton was sheriff of Forfar in 1481 and his son Gilbert assumed the same post in 1516.

In 1646 Robert Middleton was stabbed to death by Montrose’s soldiers while sitting in his chair.  His grandson John distinguished himself during the Civil War, initially ironically in the service of Montrose and then in the Royalist cause.  After the Restoration he was made the Earl of Middleton.

Arthur and Henry Middleton of South Carolina.  Arthur Middleton, born at the family Oaks plantation in South Carolina in 1681, became active in the early public life of the province. He was President of the Convention that overthrew the Lords Proprietors in 1719 and served as acting Governor of the Colony from 1725 to 1730.

His son Henry was ranked as one of the wealthiest, most influential and politically active men in the province. He began construction of Middleton Place in 1741, a home that would become both an intellectual and emotional focus for successive generations of Middletons.  He owned approximately 20 plantations that embraced over 50,000 acres and about 800 slaves.

Henry was Speaker of the Commons, Commissioner for Indian Affairs, and a member of the Governor’s Council until 1770 when he resigned the seat to become a leader of opposition to British policy.  Henry was chosen to represent South Carolina in the first Continental Congress and was elected its President in 1774.  He served for a year but, when asked to serve for another term, declined due to reasons of health.

He wanted to return to his home in Carolina and spend his remaining years at the Oaks with the knowledge that his son Arthur would succeed him in the Continental Congress.

Middleton Names

  • Thomas Middleton was an English Jacobean playwright and poet.
  • Arthur Middleton of Charleston, South Carolina was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Charles Middleton, born in Leith in Scotland, joined the navy and rose to be First Lord of the Admiralty in 1805.
  • Kate Middleton married Prince William the future king of England in Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011.

Middleton Numbers Today

  • 31,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Middleton and Like Surnames

The Anglo-Saxon word tun meaning “settlement” gave rise to many place-names with the suffix “-ton.”  And the place-name could become a surname describing someone who came from that place.  Sometimes the name was specific to just one location; but often the place-name could be found in various places and the surname would also crop up in a number of locations.  These are some of these place-name surnames that you can check out here.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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