Nugent Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Nugent Meaning
The origin of the Nugent name is a place-name in northern
France, Nogent-le-Rotrou, located near Chartres. The Rotrou
family was a powerful one in northern France in the 11th century.
A branch of this family, known as the de Nogents, came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066.
The Anglo-Norman Sir Gilbert de Nogent from this family came to Ireland in 1172. His descendants were the Nugents in Ireland.

Nugent Resources on

Nugent Ancestry

Sir Gilbert
de Nogent
came to Ireland with Sir Hugh de
Through a clever marriage to de Lacy’s
daughter, he was granted the barony of Delvin in Westmeath and he
this large tract of land among his brothers.

In 1181 Sir Gilbert began the building of Ballinlough Castle on a hill
overlooking two lakes at Clanmellon in Westmeath (a castle, albeit of
17th century construction, still stands at this site). All the
principal branches of the Nugent family, including the main Devlin
line, are descended from the marriage of Sir William Nugent and
Catherine FitzJohn,
recorded variously as being in 1385 or 1407.
Sir William is believed to have been the first to have
anglicized his
name to Nugent.

Over time the Nugents became more like a
Gaelic sept, acting for instance as patrons of the McCoffeys. the
bardic clan
of Westmeath. They were and remained Catholic as England was
turning Protestant.

In the early 1500’s, the Nugents expanded their landholdings northwards
into Cavan. The Black Baron Devlin, the 12th of the line, built
Ross Castle and oversaw Fore Abbey.
But here their hold was more fragile. King Henry VIII dissolved
Fore Abbey and Cromwell, a century later, stormed Ross Castle and
confiscated Nugent land. The tipping point for many
Nugents came with the Battle of the Boyne in 1689 when the Jacobites
were defeated and many Nugents fled into exile as Wild Geese.
More Nugent land was lost at this time.

of the family continued to live and own land in Cavan, at
Farrenconnell, not far from Ross Castle. Its most famous descendant was
Major General Sir Oliver Nugent of World War One fame. The last
Nugent to live at Farrenconnell died in the

Meanwhile other Nugents had moved elsewhere. One
branch was to be found at Aghavarten near Carrigaline in county
Cork. Nugents that had been loyal to the English crown were
granted lands in Galway which they held until 1912. Today Nugents
are thinly spread over most of Ireland, with the exception of Connacht.

line of Westmeath Nugents established themselves in England.
Robert Nugent based himself in Cornwall where his wife had property
and, for political services in England, was made Baron Nugent in 1767.
His grandson George distinguished himself in military service and
became a Field Marshal in 1846. The family’s
military and political connections continued with succeeding

At the other end of the social scale were the Nugent economic migrants
in the 19th century, mainly into Lancashire. Their champion may
be considered Father
James Nugent
, the son of an Irish greengrocer, who was a
great social reformer of his time.

America. The first Nugent in
America was undoubtedly Christopher
Nugent who was transported to Virginia on the John and Dorothy in 1635. He later settled in Maryland. However,
he left no male descendants.

Matthew Nugent was born about 1724 in Brunswick, North
Carolina and was one of the earliest settlers, around 1780, at Natchez
when it
was still Spanish territory. Later
and his family moved to Rapides parish in present-day Louisiana.

Caribbean. Walter
after the defeat at the Battle of the Boyne departed
for the Caribbean island of
Antigua. arriving there around 1718. His grandson Oliver built
the family home there, Clare Hall, and the Nugents were to remain in
Antigua until the mid 20th century.

Canada. Some
early Nugents in Canada had come from America, crossing the border
after the
Revolutionary War was over. John and
Margaret Nugent arrived from Brooklyn around 1800 and settled in
Ontario. His son Thomas lived in their
family farm for thirty five years before purchasing a farm in Belmont
and later
moving to Ontario, California.

Cavan in Ireland to Hope township, Ontario came Francis Nugent and his
Mary and their family in 1827. Francis
was only to live there eight years. The
local paper reported in 1835:

Nugent of the
township of Hope, while assisting at the raising of a barn for John
Heaton, was
struck in his side by a falling log and died the next morning.”


Nugent Miscellany

Nogent/Nugent Origins.  Nogent, originally no-gent or “new settlement,” was a name for towns that were
on the banks of a river, such as Nogent-sur-Seine and Nogent-sur-Marne.
Nogent-le-Rotrou was and is a town in
France located west of Chartres.

The Nogent/Nugent family originally was a
branch of the house of Belesme in Normandy, being descended from Wulke
Belsame, Lord of Nogent le Rotrou.  This
family was a powerful one, ruling an area known as the Perche (the
district south of Normandy) from 1000 to 1126.

The Nogents/Nugents who came to England
William the Conqueror in 1066 may have been illegitimate sons of Rotrou I de Chateaudun, ones who had been left out in the cold in the succession.

Reader Feedback – Gilbert be Nogent in Ireland.  Gilbert
de Nogent and brothers did not come to Ireland with Strongbow in 1172.  In fact King Henry sent forces to Ireland in
October 1171 under the command of Hugh de Lacy, with the object of
Strongbow in his obvious intentions of taking much of Ireland for

Strongbow had been out of favor
with the King
and Henry sent him to Ireland with a small expeditionary force, with
the object
of getting him out of the way.  He
regretted this decision less than a year later, and so went to Ireland
to bring Strongbow to heel.  Hugh de
Lacy was given the title of Viceroy and proceeded to name Barons and
land to his mercenary followers (including Gilbert de Nogent).

So did the family settle in Ireland, with Sir William Nugent taking the name Nugent in about 1415.

Francis Nugent Dixon (

Bishop Nugent’s Crozier from Fore Abbey.  One of
the most important properties that the Nugents owned in Westmeath was
the Abbey
at Fore.  The Abbey was very much a part
of Nugent history because each generation was involved in it.  Many Bishops of Meath and Abbots of Fore were
in fact Nugents.

The time of the
dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1530’s proved to be
a very
divisive time for the Nugents. The then Baron of Delvin had to depose
his own
brother who was Bishop William Nugent of Fore Abbey.
Those were his orders.  He had to do
it, whether he liked it or

The Bishop took all his belongings
and went to live with his cousin at Farrenconnell.
He brought with him the original crozier that
had been used in Fore Abbey.  It remained
at Farrenconnell until recent times and is now in the National Museum

The crozier is so well used that
the bronze crest has been worn away over time on the top where the
thumbs had been on it.  The crest was
beautifully crafted. There were designs of ram’s heads and tiny little
horns on
the ram’s head.  It was used in the old
days in Farrenconnell as a holy relic and also to get the truth
out of
people.  It seemed to have been far
better than swearing on the Bible.

The Nugent Wild Geese.  Many Nugents
fought for King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1689.
One account of the battle had the Nugents
thinking that they had won the day.
However, the Orangemen rallied and the Jacobites lost.
Sixteen Nugents were said to be slain during the battle.

Nugent property
was confiscated after the defeat and Nugents fled, joining the army of “Wild Geese” in the armies of France and Austria.


After the siege of Limerick in 1691 Christopher Nugent took service with the
French and
commanded what came to be known as Nugent’s regiment.   He took
part with
James II in the 1715 expedition to Scotland. John Nugent, fifth Earl of
Westmeath and the last Catholic holder of the title, also served with
in James II’s Irish army and in that of France.


Ignatius Nugent was made a Count in Austria and became the Governor of Prague,
but he was killed in the battle for Belgrade.  His son Laval
joined the Austrian army in the war against Napoleon and later fought
in Italy.  In 1824 he bought a castle at Trsat overlooking Rijeka
in what is now Croatia.  That castle remained in Nugent hands for
three generations until the line ran out during the Second World War.


Nugent of Drumcree had had his property confiscated in Westmeath after
the defeat.  His son Walter departed Ireland for the Caribbean
island of
Antigua in 1718.  His descendants were to stay there for over two
hundred years.

Walter and Antoinetta Nugent in Antigua.  Walter Nugent
made a total of three voyages to Antigua before settling there and marrying the
daughter of a wealthy French merchant.
After his second visit, this
wealthy Frenchman Jacob Le Roux – a Huguenot – had agreed to give his
daughter Antoinetta in marriage.  Asking
his fiancée what he should bring her she was said to have replied:  “a handsome doll and a large plum cake.”

were married at St John’s Church in Antigua in 1721, he being then
thirty three
and she just twelve and a half.  We must
assume, given Antoinetta’s Huguenot upbringing, that Walter had by this
embraced Protestantism.  Surprisingly,
given the amount of immigration from Ireland, there has never been a
church in Antigua.

and Antoinetta were the progenitors of the Nugents of
Antigua. Their first child, also called Walter, born when Antoinetta
was just fourteen,
died aged 9 months.  But six of their
nine children grew to maturity.

1724 Walter and Antoinetta lived at Nugent’s, a few miles east of the
St John’s.  He died there in 1758, aged
about 70.  Antoinetta outlived him by
nearly forty years, inheriting twenty sheep, three cows, a coach,
chaise and four
coach horses, and 52 acres called Dennings and the house thereon. She
died in
1794 or 1795. 

Father James Nugent of Liverpool.  Father James Nugent was born in Liverpool in 1822. He was the
eldest of nine children born to an Irish greengrocer father.  At that time public educational facilities
for Catholics in Liverpool were few.  But
he was fortunate in getting an education at a private school.

After he was
ordained in 1848, he was tireless in his devotion to the social issues
of the
day:- working with the prisoners at Walton Prison, establishing a
refuge for
homeless boys and another one for fallen women, and campaigning all the
for temperance.

He was
much loved in his native Liverpool.  In
1897 at a huge public gathering its citizens presented him with his own
portrait.  It now hangs in the Liverpool
Art Gallery.  After his death a bronze statue was erected near St. George’s Hall commemorating him as:

of Temperance,
Protector of the Orphan Child,
Consoler of the Prisoner,
Reformer of the Criminal,
Savior of Fallen Womanhood,
Friend of all in Poverty
and Affliction,
An Eye to the Blind, a Foot to the Lame, the Father of the Poor.”


Nugent Names

  • Sir Gilbert de Nogent came to Ireland with Strongbow in 1172 and was the forebear of the Nugents of Westmeath.
  • Laval Nugent is remembered as the soldier who evicted the French out of Croatia in the early 19th century and was the founder of the first Croatian museum.
  • Father James Nugent, based in Liverpool, was a 19th century social reformer and temperance advocate.

Select Nugent Numbers Today

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 6,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)



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