Raleigh Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Raleigh Meaning
surname Raleigh comes from the place-name
Raleigh in the parish of Pilton in north Devon near Barnstaple.  The name was recorded as Radeleia
in the Domesday Book of 1086, from the Old English read
meaning “red” and leah meaning “wood” or “clearing.”

Raleigh Resources on

Raleigh Ancestry

England.  The
Raleigh family, of which Sir Walter Raleigh was a member, originated
from the
parish of Pilton in north Devon.  The
start of this Raleigh line
may have occurred earlier, but the
recorded was Sir Hugh de Raleigh in the year 1160.

These Raleighs were clearly established
gentry in north Devon by the 14th century.
Their country estate was named Fardel.
They were strongly Protestant in the 16th century and had a
number of
narrow escapes during the reign of Queen Mary.
There does seem to have been a decline in family fortunes at
that time,
resulting in Walter and Catherine Raleigh moving into rented
accommodation near
Exeter.  Their two sons were:

  • Sir
    Carew Raleigh, the elder, who was a naval
    commander and privateer and subsequently a politician who sat in the
    House of
    Commons at various times between 1586 and 1622.  His
    son Walter Raleigh became the Dean of Wells, but was
    murdered in his
    deanery in 1646.  
  • while
    Sir Walter
    , the
    achieved fame and fortune under Queen Elizabeth but was later executed.  Sir
    Walter’s line
    included two surviving sons, Walter and Carew.  Walter died in 1616 in naval action in the
    Caribbean.  Carew survived the disfavor
    of the Stuart monarchs and lived through to see the Restoration.  

Another early Raleigh line was to be found at
Thornborough in Warwickshire from the 15th century.
This line appears to have died out a century
or so later, however.

Although living
Raleighs have been short on the ground in England, the Raleigh name has
continued.  The history of Raleigh
bicycles, at one time
the world’s largest manufacturer of bicycles, began in 1885 when two
men – one
English and one from France – began building bicycles in a small
workshop on
Raleigh Street in Nottingham.

Ireland.  Raleighs have been more
numerous in Ireland.  Sir
Walter’s grandson Phillip moved to Antrim in the 1670’s and there have
been Raleigh
descendants there.

larger number of Raleighs
were and are to be found in Limerick in SW Ireland.
The spelling here could initially have been
Rawley (Rawleys were based at Ballinrawley from the late 1500’s).  Sir Walter Raleigh was granted large tracts
of land in Limerick and some of his extended family may have settled

Maurice Raleigh was born in the
county in 1775.  By the 19th century
Raleighs were to be found in the Knocklong and Bruff areas of Limerick.  There were Raleigh emigrants from there to
America and later to Australia.

Scotland.  Raleigh has also been a name to
be found in Galloway in SW Scotland.
Thomas Raleigh, an 18th century Congregational minister, had
come from
staunch Covenanter stock there.  His
grandson Alexander moved to England and settled in London in the 1860’s
he was twice elected President of the Congregational Union.  Alexander’s son Walter Raleigh
became an Oxford don
who gained something of a
reputation as a writer of light verse.

America.  The
first Raleigh arrival, from the Raleigh line
in county Antrim, was probably Philip Raleigh who came to Massachusetts
in the
1730’s.  These Raleighs later settled in
Hillsborough, New Hampshire.  A
descendant was the Mormon pioneer Alonzo

Kentucky has the largest
number of Raleighs in America today.  The
forebear for many of them was Enoch Raleigh who was said to have died
yellow fever in North Carolina in 1810.
His son James, born there in 1795, migrated to Breathitt county
Kentucky and was buried at the Raleigh Deaton cemetery at Wolfcoal in
1853.  Raleighs also ended up in the
Letcher and
Harlan counties on the other side of Pine Mountain.

Later Raleighs from
Limerick in Ireland came to New York (Brooklyn and upstate) and to West
in Vermont.


Raleigh Miscellany

The Start of the Raleigh Line.  Sir Walter
Raleigh named his eldest son Damerei as he believed that he was
descended from the
Damerey de Clare who had married William the Conqueror’s sister.  Vivian’s Visitation of Devon stated that Walter de
Raleigh had been slain at the Battle of Hastings.  There
is no evidence for either of these

The first documented Raleigh
was Sir Hugh de Raleigh who was Sheriff of Devon from 1160 to 1167.  He held three knight’s fees for the feudal
barony of Barnstaple.  In 1167 he was
granted by Henry II the manor of Nettlecombe in Somerset. 

Sir Walter Raleigh’s Life.  Walter Raleigh was an
adventurer who rose rapidly in the favor of Queen Elizabeth and was
knighted in
1585. He was instrumental in the early English colonization of
North America and was granted a royal patent to explore Virginia.  This paved the way for future English
settlements.  He has left his name in
countless places there, most noticeably to the capital of North

there were lows to his career as well.
In 1591 he secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the
ladies-in-waiting, without the Queen’s permission.
As a result he and his wife were sent to the
Tower of London.

After the Queen died in 1603, Raleigh was again imprisoned
the Tower, this time for being involved in the Main Plot against James
I.  In 1616 he was released to lead an
in search of El Dorado.  This was
unsuccessful, the Spanish complained, and to appease them, Raleigh was
and executed in 1618.

His son Carew was presented at court, but the King
supposedly complained that he looked like his father’s ghost.  He was not able to inherit his father’s
estate until ten years later.

Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lines.  Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) married Elizabeth Throckmorton (1565-1618)

– Damerei Raleigh, died stillborn in 1691

– Walter Raleigh (1593-1616)

– Sir Carew Raleigh (1604-1667) married Philippa Weston (1607-1674)

— Walter Raleigh (1650-1660)

— Philip Raleigh (1652-1705) married Frances Greenville

— Walter Raleigh, born in 1674 in Antrim

— Brudenall Raleigh, born in 1676 in Antrim.

Walter Raleigh, Academic and Poet.  Walter Raleigh held the Chair of English Literature at Oxford University from 1904 until his death in
1922.  His son Hilary edited his light
prose, verse, and plays in Laughter from a Cloud (1923). He is
best known for the poem Wishes of an
Elderly Man, Wished at a Garden Party, June 1914

“I wish I loved the human race;
I wish I loved its silly face;
I wish I liked the way it walks;
I wish I liked the way it talks;
And when I’m introduced to one
I wish I thought what jolly fun.”

Raleigh Park at North Hinksey
near Oxford, where he lived from 1909 to his death, was named after him.

Alonzo Raleigh, Pioneer Mormon.  Alonzo Raleigh was born in Hillsborough, New Hampshire in
1818 and first heard the Mormon preachers in Boston in 1840.  He departed with other Mormons for Nauvoo,
Illinois in 1843 and then made the trek west to the Mormon Salt Lake

His journey west, according to his testimony, was fairly

early 1846 we commenced in earnest to prepare to leave for the West,
together with my wife and infant daughter Caroline C, I started with an
of one team, wagon, tent, cow, etc. and traveled to the Missouri river
in the
Pottawattamie nation of Indians, a distance of about 250 miles, where

In the spring of 1847, I went
to St Joseph, Missouri and worked at my building trade.

In the spring of 1848, we took up our journey
and traveled in President Heber C. Kimball’s company across the plains
to Great
Salt Lake where we arrived in September that year.”


Raleigh Names

  • Sir Walter Raleigh was the famous Elizabethan explorer and writer who initiated the first English colony in America at Roanoke.  He went onto to popularize the use of Virginia
    tobacco in England. 
  • Walter Raleigh was a scholar, poet and
    author in England in the early 20th century.
    His ancestry was Scottish

Select Raleigh Numbers Today

  • 1,500 in America (most numerous in Kentucky)
  • 700 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Raleigh and Like Surnames 

Many surnames originated from SW England, the principal counties there being Devon and Cornwall, Somerset and Gloucestershire.  These are some of the prominent and noteworthy surnames that you can check out.




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