Rowland Surname, Meaning, History & Origin

Select Rowland Meaning
Rowland and Rowlands have similar origins, although the former tends to be an English name and the latter a Welsh one.
The personal name Roland –
comprising the Germanic elements hrod
meaning “renown” and land as
“land” – was a popular one in Europe during the Middle Ages as a result
of the fame of one of Charlemagne’s warriors by that name.
Roland was the common spelling in England and France, Rolland in
Germany, Rolando in Spain, and Orlando in Italy.
became Rowland as a surname in England and then often evolved into the
Rowlands (son of Rowland) in Wales. Rowland is
more prevalent than Rowlands
as a surname outside the UK.

Rowland Resources on

Rowland Ancestry

Some suggest the early Rowlands were Scottish, possibly from the
Norman Roland, Lord of Galloway, who was made constable of Scotland in
1196. The names of Gilbert and John Rolland of Ayrshire were
recorded in the Ragman’s Roll of 1296.
However, the Rowland name is scarce in Scotland today.

Rowland was a fairly common personal name in north
Wales and may have emerged first as a surname in Caernarvonshire.
One Rowland family began with Rowland ap John of Llanbebig. His
son became a successful banker in London, returned as John Rowlands,
and built his family estate at Plas y Nant in 1671. The Rowlands
stayed there until Emma Rowlands’ marriage into the Bulkeley family in
the 1750’s. Meanwhile Henry Rowland of Mellteyrn, the son of Rolant ap
Robert, was Bishop of Bangor from 1598 to 1616.

Rowlands in nearby Anglesey included:

  • Henry Rowlands of Plas Glyn, an early historian and antiquarian
    of his native Anglesey. His best-known work was Mona Antiqua Restaurata, published
    in 1723. Later Henry Rowlands were vicars at the local church in
    Llanedwen until the 1840’s.
  • and the Rowlands of Plas Tirion, Llanrug. Hugh
    Rowlands of this family was awarded the Victoria Cross during the
    Crimean War and later rose to be a General in the British Army.

From Cardiganshire in mid-Wales came Daniel Rowland who led a
Calvinist Methodist revival in Wales in the mid-18th century. His
son Nathaniel followed in his father’s footsteps, but was less
successful and lost his position for alleged drunkenness in 1807.
Daniel Rowland of this family prospered as a lawyer in London and built
a medieval-style mansion, Saxonbury Lodge, in Sussex. Meanwhile William Bowen
was the Cardigan MP from 1886 to 1895.

England. There
were Rowlands in Elizabethan and early Jacobean London, although
their general origin is uncertain. Samuel
Rowland was a popular writer of London life of his time. His
father was thought to be Anthony Rolland, a cooper in London.
Richard Rowlands, another writer, was also the son of a London cooper
but the grandson of a Dutch immigrant. Thomas Rowland, born in
London in 1562, was the forebear of William Rowland, an early emigrant
to Virginia.

Rowland was a
popular first name in English border counties such as Shropshire and
Cheshire. It too became a surname,
generally Rowland. Rowland and Rowlands
divide roughly equally in Shropshire and Cheshire, because of the
proximity to
Wales. In Lancashire further away, the
name is mainly Rowland.

The Rowland
place-name in Derbyshire, near Baslow, probably gave rise to the
surname there. Humfridus Rowland was
born in Baslow in 1584. Later Rowlands
of this line were to be found in Chesterfield and Sheffield. There is also the place-name Nymet Rowland in
Devon, formerly Rowlands Leigh, which might have been the source for
some Devon Rowlands.

Rowland in Ireland is an anglicization of the Irish
descendant of Rothlain. Rowlands can be
found in and around Castlebar
in county Mayo. One family from here
emigrated to Iowa in 1854.

The first Rowland in America was probably
English, beginning with William Rowland in James City county, Virginia
in the 1630’s. He later got caught up in Bacon’s rebellion of

“William Rowland was pressed into
Bacon’s service during the rebellion of Nathan Bacon. He was
imprisoned and forced to pay 8,000 pounds of tobacco for his

Later lines of this family were in Botecourt county, Virginia and in
North Carolina. William Rowland led his family first across the
Cumberland Gap into Tennessee in 1816 and then south, twenty years
later, to what would become Tippah county in NE Mississippi.

Rowlands to Pennsylvania from Wales included John Rowland, who came in
1699, and Owen Rowland and
his family, who arrived in 1725. John’s descendant Benjamin
founded what was to become the Rowland Shovel Works in
1796. John Rowland, born in Pennsylvania, was an early settler in
Los Angeles. His house, built
in 1855, is the oldest surviving brick structure in southern

William Rowland from the Orkney islands off
Scotland was recruited into the Hudson Bay Company in 1820.He
spent his life in the Canadian West as a fisherman,
hunter and trader, first at Norway House in Manitoba and later in

Welsh settlement at the
Chubut colony in Patagonia began in 1865 and Rowlands – such as James
William Price Rowlands, and Hugo Rowlands – were among those who
migrated there
in the next fifty years. James Rowland
published his memoirs of those times in 1946.

Australia. Another William Rowland,
this time from
Cornwall, departed with his young family on the Warrior
in 1839 for South Australia. He worked
there for a while as a gardener
before he and his family decamped to Victoria in the early 1850’s at
the time
of the gold discoveries. His son George Rowland had some
success in his
gold prospecting and later farmed at Rathscar.


Rowland Miscellany

Rowland and Rowlands in the 1891 Census

Numbers (000’s) Rowland Rowlands Total
North Wales    0.3    2.0    2.3
South Wales    0.9    2.2    3.1
Cheshire    0.5    0.4    0.9
Lancashire    1.0    0.7    1.7
London    1.2    0.2    1.4
Elsewhere in England    5.6    1.7    7.3
Total    9.5    7.2   16.7

Daniel Rowland, Methodist Preacher.  Daniel Rowland
was one of the foremost leaders of the Calvinistic Methodist revival in
Wales in
the 18th century.  He had followed his
father as a curate in the parishes of Nantcwnlle and Llangeitho
in Cardiganshire.

Sometime around 1735
he experienced a profound spiritual
conviction and
began to thunder against the people’s sins.  He
began to travel up and down the country.  In
1737 he met Howel Harris and these two joined
forces to push forward the great Methodist
revival in Wales.
He split up with Harris in 1752 and he now became the leader of ‘Rowland’s
people,’ as
his followers became known.

In 1760 his brother
drowned at Aberystwyth
and he was given his living of Llangeitho.  But the Anglican
church authorities deprived of this
curacy in
1763.  From that time on he chose to stay
with his people in his “New Church” in Llangeitho.

Daniel Rowland was,
above all, a preacher and for a long time he
made Llangeitho the Mecca of Welsh Methodists.  Thousands
would flock there on
Communion Sunday and he exercised a profound
influence on the
spiritual life of his generation.

Bowen Rowlands versus David Davies in Cardigan.  David Davies
was the ‘self-made man’ par excellence and the epitome of the emerging
class of
new Welsh industrialists, mainly self-made pioneers like himself.  He sank coal mines in the Rhondda, was
enthusiastic in developing new railways and building Barry docks.  He was a patron of many
local causes and, above all else, he was a
Calvinistic Methodist.

Bowen Rowlands, by contrast, took a degree in Classics at Oxford and
ordained as a priest in 1865.  A High
Anglican, he leaned very much towards Rome and in fact later in life
to Catholicism.  His life changed in 1870
when an Act of Parliament allowed for the first time clergy of the
Church of
England to resign their orders.  He did
so and took an interest in Liberal politics.

These two figures were to contest
the 1886 Parliamentary election for Cardiganshire.
At first it would appear that Davies held all
the cards.  He represented the
Calvinistic Methodist streak that was strong within the county.  He had befriended the local squirearchy.  However, he voted against his party leader
Gladstone on the issue of Irish Home Rule and some in the party never
forgave him.  Rowlands defeated him in
the polls by a slender majority of nine.

Rowlands held onto the seat until 1895.

Rowland and Rowlands Today

Numbers (000’s) Rowland Rowlands Total
UK    15    15   30
America    12     1    13
Elsewhere     5     3     8
Total    32    19    51

Rowland and Sons, Shovel Makers.  Benjamin Rowland,
born in Montgomery county, Pennsylvania in 1777, received little
education and consequently entered
upon a career of mechanical industry.  He
laid the foundation of the family business by acquiring the Cheltenham
town grist
mill in 1795.  He retired in 1810 and the
grist mill was put up for sale.  It changed hands a few times before his nephew,
Benjamin Rowland Jr, bought it in 1846.

Jr. was already in business, having obtained land from his uncle on the
side of the creek that gave him the rights to obtain additional water
power for
his own factory.  He also acquired land
from his uncle on the Tookany river where
he erected a
tilting (tilt hammer) and blade mill.  This was to become the
Upper Mill of the
Rowland factories and the most productive, because it had the highest
dam and
therefore the most power.

T. Rowland and
Sons was the second largest shovel manufacturer in the United
States in the 19th century. Before the advent of large earth-moving
machines, shovels played their part in America’s
national development.  T. Rowland and
Sons produced “1,200 dozen spades and shovels” and, by 1884, employed
people.  The business was sold in 1901.

George Rowland  at the Victorian Goldfields.  George Rowland was once the
victim of a would-be assassin who tried to shoot and rob him, whilst he
resting in his tent on the goldfields.

Fortunately George was lying on his
stretcher, with his right arm across his chest, and the bullet intended
for his
heart was deflected and penetrated two fingers on his right hand.  On that occasion when
George returned from
the goldfields to Adelaide, he traveled with his arm in a sling.  When the bullet wound
healed, two of
the fingers on his right hand were “fused together.”

Reader Feedback – Rowlands from Ireland to America.  My father Thomas was born
in Castlebar in county Mayo in 1917.   He
emigrated to the USA from Galway in 1950 with his wife Agnes from
Dublin.  My
father had three brothers in Ireland – Michael, Sean, Padraig and a
Bridie.  All gone.  Sean emigrated to New South Wales.

Paddy Rowland (


Rowland Names

  • Daniel Rowland was one
    of the leaders of the Calvinistic Methodist revival in Wales in the 18th century.
  • John Rowlands, born in north Wales,
    changed his name to Henry Stanley in America and became famous for discovering
    Dr. Livingstone in Africa.   
  • Tiny Rowland, born Roland Fuhrhop in India,
    developed his business empire in Rhodesia, creating the Lonrho conglomerate in the 1960’s. Prime Minister Heath called him “the unacceptable face of capitalism.”
  • Clive Rowlands was the
    successful coach of the Welsh rugby union team between 1968 and 1974.
  • Gena Rowlands is an American actress. She is of Welsh descent.

Select Rowland Numbers Today

  • 30,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in Georgia)
  • 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Rowland and Like Surnames  

Hereditary surnames in Wales were a post-16th century development.   Prior to that time the prototype for the Welsh name was the patronymic, such as “Madog ap Jevan ap Jerwerth” (Madoc, son of Evan, son of Yorwerth).  The system worked well in what was still mainly an oral culture.

However, English rule decreed English-style surnames and the English patronymic “-s” for “son of” began first in the English border counties and then in Wales. Welsh “P” surnames came from the “ap” roots, such as Price from “ap Rhys.”

These are some of the present-day Welsh surnames that you can check out.




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