Sutton Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Sutton Surname Meaning

Sutton is derived from the place-name Sutton, meaning “south town,” which was fairly widespread in England. It first appeared as a surname – as Sudtone and as Suttuna – in the Domesday Book of 1086.

Sutton Surname Resources on The Internet

Sutton Surname Ancestry

  • from England and from Ireland (Wexford)
  • to America, Canada and Australia

England.  Sutton place-names brought about some early Sutton surnames, in Yorkshire, Essex, and Nottinghamshire:

  • Saier de Sutton was Lord of Sutton in Holderness in the late 12th century. The Hull river was said to have been first called the Sayer river after him. He built Branceholme castle as his home. His descendants were influential in the early history of the port of Hull.
  • Sir William de Sutton married into the Bataille family in 1289 and received the Wivenhoe manor in Essex.
  • and Hervey de Sutton was Lord of Sutton upon Trent in Nottinghamshire in the 1250’s (it was said that he was the great grandson of a Saxon tenant called Hervey de Sutton in the year 1079).

From Hervey de Sutton came:

  • Oliver Sutton, the bishop of Lincoln in the 1280’s and 90’s who joined Archbishop Winchelsey in resisting the taxation imposed by Edward 1 in 1296
  • Sir John Sutton, who combined the estates of the Sutton and Dudley families and inherited Dudley castle in Staffordshire
  • and, later on, Thomas Sutton who married Elizabeth Dudley and continued the Dudley relationship.

Thomas Sutton was one of the chief moneylenders of Elizabethan England, securing loans worth for as little as a few shillings or for as much as thousands of pounds to everyone from farmers to some of the most prominent courtiers, business people, and politicians of his era.

“When Sutton died in 1611, he was considered one of the richest individuals in England.  Sutton’s accounts showed that he was personally worth over ₤50,000, mostly in the form of outstanding obligations and recognizances from the many people in debt to him. This immense wealth earned Sutton the nicknames among his contemporaries of ‘Croesus’ and ‘Riche Sutton.'”

Later lines of these Suttons have included:

  • Robert Sutton, a Royalist at the time of the Civil War
  • Sir Robert Sutton the diplomat (famed in horseracing circles for having brought to England the original Arabian grey from which all thoroughbred greys are descended)
  • and indirectly, through his maternal grandfather, Charles Manners Sutton who was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1805.

These Suttons tended to be Nottinghamshire based. But the main geographic locations of Suttons by the 19th century were:

  • north and west, from Staffordshire stretching into Lancashire
  • and around London and the southeast.

Suttons of Sutton Hall near Macclesfield in Cheshire date from the 12th century (the male line, however, ran out in 1601). Sutton family histories have begun with: Henry Sutton, born in 1718 in Horton, Staffordshire; John Sutton, born in 1735 in Formby, Lancashire; and the marriage of William and Mary Sutton in Hoole church in Cheshire in 1768.

A Sutton family held land on the Essex/Suffolk border from early times. George Sutton, the early emigrant to America, came from an Essex family and grew up in Tenterden in Kent.  Philpot John Sutton, a later emigrant, came from Lydden in Kent.

Ireland. The Sutton name in Ireland is an old one, having been brought there by Sir Roger de Sutton with Strongbow’s invading army in 1170. These Suttons established themselves in county Wexford where they were substantial landowners. Their main stronghold was Ballykeerogue castle.  There were also Suttons at Clonmines and at Great Clonard.

Nicholas Sutton of this family visited Spain in 1579. An account of his journey has been preserved in manuscript form at the British Museum. The Sutton Clonard branch, beginning with Thomas Sutton in the 15th century, commanded a large merchant fleet in the late 17th century. However, they were James II supporters in 1689 and, after his defeat, took their fleet to Spain. Later Michael Sutton became Don Miguel Sutton and was ennobled as Conde de Clonard.

Suttons remained in Wexford. George Sutton came to Newfoundland in the 1790’s and later settled to farm in New Brunswick. A number of Suttons from Wexford emigrated to Canada and Australia in the 19th century.

America. Early Suttons came to New England.

New England.  John Sutton arrived in Massachusetts from Lincolnshire in 1638 and settled in Hingham. His son Joseph moved to Westchester county, New York and then to Long Island.

But the first Sutton recorded in America is thought to have been George Sutton. He came to Massachusetts from Kent on the Hercules in 1634 at the age of 21 as one of the servants of Nathaniel Tilden, a former mayor of Tenterden. A year later he married the boss’s daughter.

His family’s later association with the Quakers has tended to reinforce the belief that Daniel Sutton of Burlington county, New Jersey and William Sutton, an influential Quaker in Woodbridge/Piscataway, New Jersey, were his sons. After the Plymouth colony had enacted penal laws against the Quakers in 1668, these Suttons departed Massachusetts, with George Sutton migrating to North Carolina. Many of the children settled in New Jersey.

Another Quaker Sutton line began with Thomas and Joseph Sutton, brothers, who settled along the Byram river in Connecticut in the late 1600’s. Among the 15 or more graves of Suttons in the old burying ground on Milton Point in Rye are some that date back before 1700.

Thomas remained in Connecticut. A descendant, Benjamin Sutton, had his problems during the Revolutionary War and departed for Vermont. Meanwhile, Joseph Sutton was the forebear of the Suttons in New Castle, Delaware.

New Jersey.  William Sutton, presumably another brother, settled in New Jersey in the 1670’s, close to Baptistown.

“In 19th century New Jersey, the family of Suttons was so numerous, that to bear the name and to derive ancestry from the state is almost proof of membership in it. There were, for the most part, farmers and artisans, attached to the Baptist or Presbyterian creeds, and located chiefly in the northern half of the state – the east Jersey of colonial times.”

More than twenty five Sutton descendants from New Jersey fought in the Revolutionary War (including the brothers Jonathan and Uriah who held commissions as captains), as well as others from Massachusetts.

There were also Sutton descendants in North Carolina and Virginia – as recorded in T. Dix Sutton’s 1941 book The Suttons of Caroline County, Virginia. Family descendants are now widely spread around America.

John and James Sutton were two brothers from New Jersey who migrated west to St. Louis in the 1810’s and prospered there as blacksmiths.

Canada. A Sutton family from Staffordshire emigrated to Canada in 1903, joining the Barr colony to settle in Saskatoon in the Canadian Prairies. Joseph Sutton bought the Empire Hotel there and prospered. Daughter Patricia wrote a book about her memories of the crossing and her life as a young girl in Saskatoon entitled No English Need Apply.

Australia. Richard and Mary Sutton were lured to Australia in 1853 by the gold prospects in Victoria. Although they settled in Ballarat Richard soon gave up gold digging.

Seeking amusement at night in his tent Richard set about constructing a concertina, a device that had been invented by Charles Wheatstone, the father of the telegraph.  Soon he had started a small music shop, bringing musical instruments and sheet music to Ballarat. This was the beginning of Sutton’s Musical Emporium which traded in Melbourne for the next hundred years. His son Henry Sutton then achieved renown in Australia as an inventor.

From Ireland in 1839 had come John Sutton and his family to work on the land in Western Australia as indentured servants. John in time became the keeper of the Mandurah ferry. After his death in 1857 his nephew Henry developed the family’s dairy and cattle business in Mandurah. The homestead that he built in 1880 stayed with the family until 1977.

Sutton Surname Miscellany

Hervey de Sutton.  Hervey De Sutton was the lord of Sutton upon Trent near Tuxford in Nottinghamshire.  Various origins have been given for the Suttons. But a deed cited by Dugdale suggests that they are of the Nottingham Suttons.

John, his son who married Margaret de Someri, styled himself Johannes filius Johannis de Sutton super Trent, dominus of Dudley, in 1284.   He had three sons: Robert who died without children; Richard who had one daughter; and Rowland. The main Sutton line went via this third son Rowland.

James Henry Mason’s 1987 book The Dudley Genealogies stated: “Hervey de Sutton was a great grandson of Hervey de Sutton, a Saxon tenant of Earl Allan at Sudton or Southtown in 1079.”

Sir Robert Sutton and the Arabian Grey.  Sir Robert Sutton was the English ambassador to Constantinople in the early 18th century.  He is, however, best known for having introduced the Arabian grey to England.  It wasn’t easy, he said:

“The difficulty of finding handsome Arab mares is incredible. The Arabs were all robbers who depended on their mares for their livelihood and these mares were shared among five or six people and valued at most extravagant rates.  When a Frank (European) appears to buy them, the price is always unreasonably enhanced.”

The Alcocks Arabian was a grey horse imported to England from Constantinople in 1704 by Sir Robert Sutton. When sold on this stallion was known as the Brownlow or Lordship’s Turk.  The stallion is responsible for the continuous line of greys found in the English thoroughbred breed today.

Clonmines Suttons in County Wexford.  There were three main castles at Clonmines, owned by the Suttons, Purcells, and Fitzhenrys.  The Sutton castle was a large structure and this branch of the family, although deprived of their estate, managed somehow to cling onto the old paternal home as tenants to the Annessleys until the late 1840’s. The last of them was evicted at that time, but not before he had taken down the upper portion of the walls and re-roofed the old tower which he then converted into a dwelling house.

Many nearby farming families claimed kinship with the Clonmines Suttons and were said to regard their relationship to that family with manifest pride.  The reason was that through the long penal years in Ireland, these Suttons fought the good fight and kept true to the Catholic faith.

Caesar Sutton of Long Graigue, who had his burial place in the cemetery attached to the old parish church of St. Nicholas’s at Clonmines, was of this Clonmines Sutton family.  His branch became Protestants and were therefore more opulent than his Catholic kindred.

William Sutton of New Jersey.  William Sutton first appeared at Barnstable on Cape Cod, where in 1666 he was hauled into court and fined for purloining the Bible from the meeting house: “one pound and for telling a lie about the same, ten shillings.”

His departure from the town was probably expedited by these occurrences, and a few weeks later, at the neighboring settlement of Eastham, he took refuge in matrimony with Damaris Bishop.  They had ten children, the first three born in Eastham and the rest born in Piscataway, New Jersey.

According to Albert and Arnie Outlaw’s Outlaw Genealogy, the quest of religious freedom was probably the main reason for his move. At the New Jersey colony he was an influential Quaker.  On or near the Partian river, not far from the present town of New Brunswick, William Sutton settled and prospered.  Known for his fair dealings with the Indians, the wolves in the forest were his only enemies.  In 1682 he was the owner of 249 acres of land and he held the office of freeholder constable and town clerk.  In 1713 he was spoken of as an aged man and he was later buried in the Quaker churchyard in Woodbridge.

Benjamin Sutton, A Quaker at the Time of the Revolutionary War.  Benjamin was an ardent and devout Quaker who refused to carry a gun or fight for either side in the Revolution.  The Tories captured him and nearly beat him to death, trying to make him join the militia and then had him thrown into the Sugar House prison in New York.

When Benjamin was thirty and his wife Jemima twenty eight, they decided to migrate to Vermont.  Family tradition has it that they made the trip through dense forests, over mountain trails and sometimes along game trails, Benjamin walking while Jemima rode their horse.  The story makes no mention of any little children traveling with them.  However, history credits them with fourteen children, from whom descended the Vermont Suttons.

John and James Sutton, Two Brothers from New Jersey.  John and James Sutton were the two eldest sons of John and Catherine Sutton of New Brunswick, New Jersey.

In 1817, John set out for St. Louis.  James followed and, after a prolonged illness while travelling through Ohio, arrived there in 1819. The two brothers set up a blacksmith’s shop at Second and Spruce Street.  They were not only horseshoers, but were also clever iron manufacturers as well.  They made iron nails and induced people to use them instead of wooden peg in the timbers of their houses.  Early customers included William Carr Lane, the first mayor of St. Louis, and Alexander McNair, first Governor of Missouri.

John Sutton never married and died in 1830.

James thrived.  He is credited with introducing iron-clad wheels and iron and steel-pointed plows (the Sutton plow). He married Ann Wells of St. Louis in 1829 and bought land outside the town.  He first built a log cabin there and then, in 1832, the family homestead and a storehouse in an area that was to become known as Maplewood.

After the county was separated from the city of St. Louis, the first meetings of the fledgling county government were held at the Sutton mansion in Maplewood.  James’ son Henry was appointed as first presiding justice of its county court.

James and Ann raised eleven children there. Their home stayed with the Sutton family until the death of their son John in 1909.

Henry Sutton the Australian Inventor.  His father Richard founded a music firm in a tent on the Ballarat goldfield in 1854.  Henry grew up interested in science and engineering (he had read all the scientific books in the well-stocked Ballarat Mechanics’ Institute by the time he was fourteen). The models and machines that he developed were ingenious and his drawings revealed great talent.  He won a silver medal and thirty other prizes for drawing at the Ballarat School of Design.

According to his friend Withers, Sutton designed an electric continuous current dynamo with a practical ring armature as early as 1870.  A year later the Belgian Gramme showed the French Academy of Sciences his own improved version, the Gramme Dynamo, which used the same principles as Sutton’s.  When it was found in 1873 that the device was reversible and could be used as an electric motor the rapid development of the electrical industry followed.

Less than a year after Bell had received his telephone patent in 1876, Sutton had devised and constructed more than twenty different telephones, sixteen of which were patented by others. Bell visited Ballarat to see a complete telephone system installed by Sutton in the family warehouse.

In some respects his most interesting work was in the field of what has since become television.  He claimed in the late 1880’s to have designed, but not constructed, an apparatus that would transmit to Ballarat the running of the Melbourne Cup.

Sutton Names

  • Thomas Sutton, a moneylender, was thought to have been the richest commoner in Elizabethan England.
  • Charles Manners Sutton was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1805 to 1828.
  • Henry Sutton pioneered telephones in Australia, developed an early prototype of the television, and built the first Australian motor car.
  • Don Sutton was an American baseball pitcher, primarily with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His career win total of 324 ranked him fourteenth amongst all major league pitchers.

Sutton Numbers Today

  • 38,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 26,000 in America (most numerous in North Carolina)
  • 23,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Sutton 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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