Richards Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Richards Meaning
comprises the elements ric
meaning “powerful” and hard
“ruler.” This personal name was introduced to England by the
Normans. It gained popularity in the 13th century because
of the Crusader exploits of King Richard the Lion Heart.
as a surname meaning “son of Richard” took root in
the west country and in Wales; while the surname Richardson is
generally to be found in the north of England and in Scotland.

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Richards Ancestry

The Richard name arrived with the Normans and has been mainly
associated with the west country. Richard FitzScrob, a Norman
knight, built Richard’s castle on the borders between Herefordshire and
Shropshire in 1050. An early surname record was that of Thomas
Richardes in Worcester in 1327. The Richards surname subsequently
appeared in border counties such as Shropshire and Staffordshire and in
the southwest in Devon and Cornwall.

Richards is very much a Cornish name. Alexander Richards, born in
Wendron in 1586, was the forebear of one Cornish Richards family based
in St. Ives. Another Richards family (which subsequently emigrated to
New Zealand
traced itself back to Zennor and St. Ives in the mid 1700’s.

Richards were engaged in tin and copper mining. William Richards
was a mine captain in Camborne in the early 1800’s; and Isaac Richards
mine agent for Devon Great Consols (briefly the richest copper mine in
Europe) in the mid 1800’s.

Elsewhere The
Richards name was also to be found in Elizabethan times along the
south coast in Kent and Hampshire.

Wales. Richards only
seemed to emerge as a surname in Wales in the 1700’s.
Sometimes the early name was Richard and it only changed to Richards in
later generations. David Richard, for instance, was born in the
Llandovery area of Carmarthenshire around 1750. A descendant,
Timothy Richards, was a Baptist missionary to China in the late 19th

The best known Richards was probably Sir Richard Richards of the Coed
family from Dolgellau in present day Gwynedd. He was a well-known
judge who eventually became Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer. In
1785 he secured through a propitious marriage Caerynwch Mansion which has
remained with his family until the present day. The Dolgellau
area also produced Richards Quakers and Richards Baptist ministers.

Other notable Richards of the late 18th century were:

  • Edward Richard, the son of an inn-keeper from Ystradmeurig in
    Cardiganshire. He was a scholar and poet and he started a school
    in Ystradmeurig which became famous in Wales.
  • the Rev. Thomas Richards of Darowen in
    Montgomeryshire. He and his large family were all active in
    Welsh church and cultural affairs, in particular his eldest daughter
    Mary who compiled over twenty volumes of transcripts and memoranda.
  • and Walter Richards of the Richards farming family of Llanharan
    in Glamorgan, a well-known herbalist of his day. His recipes have

Richards has been very much a name of south Wales and this became even
more so during the 19th century as industry developed there. The
name distribution in the 1891 census showed that
half of all
in Wales were to be found in the county of Glamorgan.

Ireland. Colonel Solomon
Richards came to Ireland in the 1650’s under Cromwell and was appointed
governor of Wexford City in 1658. He later was granted the
Solsborough estate in Wexford and his family settled there:

  • a
    descendant was the
    Dublin doctor Solomon
    , who had the reputation of being the fattest
    in Britain.
  • later came the naval Edwin Richards and his three
    sons – Edwin (killed in the Crimean War), Frederick (who became Admiral
    of the Fleet and after whom Richards Bay in South Africa is named), and
    Urban (who served in the British Army and later emigrated to New

Another Richards line in Wexford produced Elizabeth Richards, an Irish
sympathizer who recorded the events of the 1798 rebellion in her

Among the early Richards in New England were:

  • Thomas Richards from Somerset who came to Dorchester,
    Massachusetts in 1630. His son Benjamin was a merchant in Boston.
  • Edward Richards, an indentured servant from Plymouth, who crossed
    the Atlantic in 1633. He trained as a carpenter in Lynn,
    Massachusetts. His descendants are numerous. One branch
    headed west in the 1840’s to Utah and later to Wyoming.
  • and Edward and Nathaniel Richards, brothers from Southampton, who
    settled in Dedham, Massachusetts in 1638.

Pennsylvania The
Welsh Richards came later and entered mainly via
Pennsylvania. Some of these early Richards were Quakers, seeking
relief from persecution at home:

  • Daniel
    arrived from
    Dolgellau in Merionethshire in 1686 and settled in Chester county (as
    did Maud Richard from Carmarthen some seven years later).
  • Owen
    Richards from Merionethshire came around 1715 and settled in Berks
    county (his descendants were traced in Lewis Richards’ 1882 book A Sketch of Some of the Descendants of
    Owen Richards
  • while Matthias and John Richards, Pennsylvanian
    Congressmen after the Revolutionary War, were the sons of German
    immigrant Matthias Reichard.

Elsewhere Two
Richards brothers, David and Joseph, were responsible for a
large influx of Welsh settlers to America in the years following the
Civil War. They began the Knoxville Iron Company in Knoxville,
Tennessee and invited other Welsh immigrants to work for them in the
coal mines and iron works there.

Canada. The French
Richard and Richer could become Richards in Canada. The Richard
name appeared in Acadia (Nova Scotia) with Michel Richard as early as
1650. When the British ejected the Acadians in 1752, Richard
descendants made their way to Louisiana and they formed part of the new
Cajun community there. Some Richards remained in Canada, in and around
Montreal and in New Brunswick.

and New Zealand.
Thomas Richards, born in Dolgellau in
Wales, was a ship’s surgeon when he came out to Tasmania in the early
1830’s and stayed. He turned his hand there to writing and
journalism and has been called “the father of the Tasmanian

A number of Richards came this way from Cornwall later in the 19th
century, including:

  • Simon Richards, who arrived in the 1850’s, married, and settled
    in Singleton, NSW.
  • John Richards, who came to Victoria during the gold rush of
    the 1850’s. He and his family later moved to Queensland.
    Two sons, Tom and Bill, represented Australia in rugby football in the
    early 1900’s.
  • Richard Richards, who brought his mining skills to the Moonta
    mines in South Australia in the 1860’s. His son Robert became a
    mine union official and later a Labor politician.
  • and John Richards and his family, who came to Auckland, New
    Zealand in 1874.

The Rev. William Richards arrived in South Australia from Portsmouth in
1865 and helped establish the Methodist church there.

Joseph and Henry Richards came from a long line of Richards farmers in
Shropshire. Apparently their father was angry with them and sent
them packing to New Zealand in 1850. Both bought land and farmed
near Christchurch, South Island. Joseph was described in middle
age as “a typical John Bull, one who could carry an enormous amount of
liquor and could still still sit on his horse as it carried him
home.” He weighed about twenty stone.


Richards Miscellany

Sir Richard Richards and the Gardens in Caerynwch Mansion.  Caerynwch Mansion near Dolgellau in north Wales was built by Sir
Richard Richards, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, after he had
acquired the Plas Hen estate following his marriage to Catherine
Humphreys in 1785.

Current owner Andrew Richards, the great great great grandson of Sir Richard, said:

“The gardens date back to the 1800’s
and were neglected in the 1950’s and ’50’s before my parents began to
restore them.”

He is now continuing his parents’ work in restoring the garden with the
help of a part-time gardener.

Mr Richards continued:

“My grandmother was a well-known
botanist and she brought back rhododendrums from China in the
1900’s.  We have a woodland garden with special rhododendrums and
at the end of March we have a mass of daffodils and bluebells.  In
the front of the house there is a terraced garden with herbaceous
borders and the grounds run down to the Clywedog river.The two open days in May will include a three-quarters of a mile walk
around the riverbank.  Because we live in such a beautiful spot,
we want to let other people share our enjoyment.”

Richards Name Distribution in Wales.  The table below shows the number of Richards by county in Wales according to the 1891 census.

County Numbers (000’s) Percent
Glamorgan     6.5    50
Carmarthenshire     1.7    13
Monmouthshire     1.6    12
Pembrokeshire     1.0     7
Cardiganshire     0.9     6
Elsewhere     1.5    12
Total    13.2 100

Daniel Richards, a Quaker.  David Richards, a Quaker, came to Pennsylvania from Wales in 1686,
accompanied by Lewis Walker.  They both settled near Philadelphia
Chester county and Port Kennedy.  Daniel purchased a farm there in
and named it Tredyffin.  It remained in the Richards family for

Daniel married Elizabeth Evans and they had four children.  There
are many descendants in the area today.

The Rev. William Richards and Rhode Island’s Brown
The largest gift to the Brown University library in the early 1800’s was the Richards Legacy.  The Rev. William Richards, a native of
North Wales, was a man of considerable learning, a dissenting Baptist
minister, and an author of a number of political, historical and
philological works.  Responding to a letter from President Manning
in 1790, the Rev. Richards wrote:

“I rejoice exceedingly in the prospect
which your letter exhibits of the growing greatness and the increasing
felicity and prosperity of America.  I have long been partial to
your country, and at a very early period of my life was on the point of
removing from Britain thither.  But the War deterred me.”

Richards then consoled Manning on the small size of the College Library
and added:

“I have myself near fifteen hundred
volumes, some of them of value.”

Over the years, Richards and the College maintained cordial relations,
with the College conferring upon him the degrees of A.M. in 1793 and
Doctor of Laws in 1818.  By coincidence, on the very day that the
latter degree was conferred, Richards had drawn up a will bequeathing
his library to Brown.  He died before learning of his honor.

Solomon Richards and the Footpad.  Solomon Richards, who died in 1819, was in his day a
leading Irish surgeon.  He had the reputation of being the fattest and biggest surgeon in the
United Kingdom.

Ireland at the beginning of the 19th
century was in a most unsettled state.  Even the roads about Dublin were not safe after dark, robberies
and even murders not being
uncommon.  Richards had been
called on to perform an operation
near Santry, a village some ten miles from Dublin, and was detained with the patient till
long after sunset.  It was
winter and he was returning in his
carriage, having with him a Dr. Obré, who had called him in, a physician at that time in good practice, and who was as spare and insignificant
as Richards was the reverse.

Suddenly the carriage was stopped and
a footpad, opening the door on the side
next which Richards sat, presented a pistol and demanded his purse.  Richards, begging him to lower his pistol, handed him the purse, and then his
watch, which the robber demanded.
Then followed the demand: “Have you
anything else?”

“Yes,” replied Richards, “here is my
case of instruments,” handing them
out promptly.

All this time Obré was concealed
– hid by Richards’s huge frame, which in the dark seemed to fill the carriage – and the footpad,
not observing him, called to the
coachman to drive on.  But
Richards stopped him, saying: “Oh, no; not till you speak to my friend on the other side of
me.”  So Obré too, thus pointed
out, was relieved of his
money and watch.

Then the robber politely said: “Good

But Richards was not yet done with him and said: “My friend, you would not have got that gentleman’s money if it had not been for me.  Now, my instruments won’t bring you ten
shillings in Charles Street (a street
which was, and still
is, the mart for all kind of
second-hand tools and iron), while to
me they are of value.  I think you might give me them back.”

“Well, I will,” was the prompt reply
and the case was handed in.

“One word more,” said Richards, “you
will get very little for that old
watch.  I care for it because it was my father’s. Let me have it.”

“Well, you are a decent fellow,” said the robber, “here it is.”

Then they drove on.  Obré then in great
anger broke the silence and in unmeasured terms abused Richards, declaring that it was mean of him to point him out as otherwise he would
have escaped.

Richards let him talk for a while, and then quietly said: ” Do you think I was going to
allow you to boast in the club
to-morrow how well you got off while
Richards was robbed?  Oh, no; if I was to be robbed you must be also.”

John Richards – from Cornwall to New Zealand.  Tin and copper mining in Cornwall suffered in the second half of the
19th century and large numbers of Cornishmen emigrated at that time,
often taking their mining skills with them.  One such was John
Major Richards from St. Ives, at first a blacksmith and then a miner.

John, aged 25, set off with his wife Catherine and his three young
children – John, Catherine and Thomas – for New Zealand.  They
arrived in Auckland on the Oxford
in 1874.  Their young daughter Catherine died soon after their
arrival.  But another daughter was born, whom they named Kate.

John went to work as a miner at the Thames goldfield, as did his two
sons later.  Son John died there in a mining accident.  But
lived to 81 and daughter Kate to the grand old age of 102!


Select Richards Names

  • Henry Brinley Richards was a 19th century pianist and composer from Carmarthen in Wales. His best remembered piece is God Bless the Prince of Wales.
  • Sir Gordon Richards is thought to be Britain’s finest jockey. He finally won the Derby on Pinza in 1953.
  • Keith Richards is founding member and lead guitarist of the Rolling Stones.
  • Viv Richards is considered one of the greatest cricketers to have come out of the Caribbean.

Select Richards Numbers Today

  • 83,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Surrey)
  • 50,000 in America (most numerous
    in New York)
  • 36,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).


Select Richards and Like Surnames  

Patronymic surnames can be with either the “-son” or the shorter “s” suffix to the first name.  The “s” suffix is more common in southern England and in Wales.  Here are some of these surnames that you can check out.





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