Tugwell Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Tugwell Surname Meaning

Mark Lower in his 1860 surname book remarked the following about Tugwell: “Though borne by dentists and shoemakers, this name has no connection with tugging.   It is clearly local.”

A likely explanation of Tugwell is that it is a variant of Tucker, an occupational name in the southwest of England for a cloth worker – someone who softened the cloth by beating and tramping it in water.  Tugwell might alternatively have originated from a now lost medieval village called Tukwaella, meaning “Tucker’s spring.”

One family in Somerset may have been first Tuggle and then Tugwell.  The Tugwell branch that departed for America reverted to Tuggle after a couple of generations.  The “w” in Tugwell had gone silent by that time.

Tugwell Surname Resources on The Internet

Tugwell Surname Ancestry

  • from Southern England
  • to America, Canada and Australia

EnglandTugwell had an early presence in SW England, but was later more common in SE England.

SW England.  Robert Tugwell of Hilmartin was recorded in the North Wiltshire muster toll of 1539.  Later Tugwells from this area migrated in the 1660’s to Tetbury, Gloucestershire and to Beverstone castle there.  Many Tugwells were buried at St. Mary’s in Beverstone.  Lewen Tugwell was a churchwarden at St. Mary’s from 1743 to 1778.

There were also said to have been Tugwells at Bradford in Somerset, possibly by the early 1600’s (when William Tugwell, the son of a privateer in the English navy, supposedly first arrived there).  Whether they were the descendants of Flemish traders who had settled in England and were really there at that time, as Henry and Morgan Tuggle’s 1936 book Genealogy of the Tuggle Family had claimed, cannot be verified.

What can be said is that Humphrey Tugwell was a successful clothier at Bradford-on-Avon in north Wiltshire in the 1700’s.  He, was, however, connected to the Tetbury Tugwells.  George Haywood Tugwell of this family prospered as a banker in Bath and was twice the town’s mayor.  His family held Crowe Hall near Bath from 1805 to 1919.

The Tugwell numbers in SW England were few by the late 19th century – only 49 in Wiltshire and 29 in Gloucestershire (mostly in Tetbury).

SE England.   The main Tugwell numbers by this time were in SE England – primarily in Sussex, Surrey, and Kent.

Some had migrated there from the west country.  For instance the Rev. Lewen Street Tugwell from the Tetbury family ended up – after periods as a Christian missionary in Canada and Spain – as the vicar of King Charles the Martyr in Tunbridge Wells, Kent in the 1880’s.  His son Oswald, born there, died on the Western front in 1917.

Tugwells in Sussex have been traced back to the late 1500’s.  One Tugwell line appeared at Rudgwick and Warnham in the 1600’s and at Buxted and Glynde in the 1700’s.

As the 19th century proceeded the Tugwell name was being found more and more in Brighton.  An early arrival was William Tugwell, a gentleman of independent means from Shere in Surrey who owned one of the large houses on the Brighton seafront in the 1820’s. There were 80 Tugwells recorded in Brighton in the 1881 census.

America.  Thomas Tugwell from the Bradford, Somerset family moved to Virginia in 1654 and made his home in Middlesex county. 

Two generations later the descendants of his son Henry Tugwell in Virginia would spell their name Tuggle.  These Tuggles spread across Virginia, westward into Kentucky, and southward to Georgia.  Vivian Tuggle’s 1970 book was The Tuggle Family of Virginia.

Of the fewer Tugwell descendants, the main line went south to Pitt county, North Carolina and then branched into two:

  • John Tugwell moved to Tennessee in the 1830’s and his son Robert later to Texas.  This line was covered in Sarah Rollins’ 1993 book The Tugwell and Finch Families of Tennessee.  
  • while Joseph Tugwell ended up in Louisiana in the 1850’s.  His grandson Pat Tugwell of Winn parish served as the Democratic state treasurer of Louisiana from 1936 to 1968, the longest that anyone has held that position.  He had started work, as had his father Robert and his brother Lloyd, for the local railroad company in Louisiana where he was noticed by Governor Huey Long.

Another Tugwell family in America began with William Tugwell from Shere in Surrey who came to New York with his family in 1849.  His son Charles settled in Chautauqua county.  His grandson Rexford, born there in 1891, was part of Roosevelt’s Brain Trust during the early years of the New Deal.

Canada.  Thomas Tugwell, an 18 year old midshipman on the British frigate Calypso, first stepped ashore on Vancouver Island on Canada’s West Coast in 1858.  He was an operator of many businesses in what was then called the Otter District.  His name is remembered there by Tugwell Creek.

Australia.  William Tugwell departed with his wife Fanny on the Hydaspes for South Australia in 1851.  He was a farm laborer from Surrey and originally from the Tugwell Rudgwick line in Sussex.

Tugwell Surname Miscellany

Tugwells in Sussex.  Tugwells appeared at Buxted and Glynde in the 1700’s.

John Tugwell, a cordwainer, married Elizabeth Skinner in Buxted in 1751 and acquired three properties, including Daffodil Cottage, in Glynde in 1763.  When he died in 1809, his son William had the option of buying these houses for £600 after his mother’s death.  But he predeceased her, dying in 1819.   His mother Elizabeth died in 1824. 

Reader Feedback – Tuggles in Virginia.  Was the only Tuggle family that moved into Middlesex county, Virginia that of Thomas and Benjamin?  They served in the American Revolutionary War and later moved onto Georgia.

Robert L Aiken (shiska@twc.com)

Tugwell Names

  • Humphrey Tugwell was a wealthy clothier of Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire in the 1700’s. 
  • Rexford Tugwell was an FDR New Dealer, part of Roosevelt’s Brain Trust in the early 1930’s to get the country out of the Great Depression.

Tugwell Numbers Today

  • 1,200 in the UK (most numerous in Surrey)
  • 400 in America (most numerous in North Carolina)
  • 400 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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Written by Colin Shelley

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