Twining Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Twining Surname Meaning

The English surname Twining derived from the place-name Twyning, a village near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. This name appeared in pre-Norman Saxon charters as Bituinaeum and as Tuninge and Tveninge in the Domesday Book of 1086. 

Originally the name came from the Old English words betweon eam, meaning “the place between the streams.”  The latter form was a derivative of the early name plus the Old English suffix -ingas, meaning “the people of’ the place between the streams.” The two streams in this case were the rivers Avon and Severn.

Twining Surname Resources on The Internet

Twining Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Gloucestershire)
  • to Wales (Pembrokeshire), America and Canada

EnglandTwining is a Gloucestershire name. 

Gloucestershire.  There was a manor at Twining from the 13th century and the Twining name was prominent at an early time at Tewkesbury two miles away. Richard was recorded as a monk at Tewkesbury abbey in 1472 and Thomas in 1539.  John Twining appeared as the abbot at Winchicombe in 1474.

However, Twinings were dispersed at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530’s.  They were subsequently to be found in the Vale of Evesham further north at Pershore and further south at Painswick.  This early history of the Twinings was described in the Rev. William Twining’s 1899 book Some Facts in the History of the Twining Family.

Twinings Who Left.  The two most notable Twinings were two who left the area.  Both came from the town of Painswick twenty miles south of Tewkesbury.  This was the centre of the wool trade in Gloucestershire in medieval times.

The first here is thought to have been William Twining who departed for America around 1635 and settled with his family on Cape Cod.  Born in 1599, he was said to have been the son of William Twenynge and Mabel Newcombe, although there is no absolute proof that this was so.  If true, he was probably descended from Thomas Twenynge who had been born in Painswick around the year 1525.

The second was Thomas Twining who left Painswick for London in 1684 when he was nine years old.  He left because his father Daniel, a weaver, had been out of work and facing hard times.  In London Thomas learnt about the tea business while working for an East India Company merchant. He opened Britain’s first tea room on the Strand and his business prospered.

“The House of Twining was founded on this site in the Strand in the year 1706.  The building was destroyed by enemy action in 1941 and rebuilt in 1952.”  

After Thomas’s death in 1741 the business was carried on by his son Daniel and then by Daniel’s wife Mary. In 1784, at a time when tea smuggling was rife, their son Richard Twining played a key role in lowering the tax on tea, thereby promoting the drinking of tea in England.

Overall, the Twinings tea business has passed through ten generations of Twinings, including Stephen Twining the most recent who joined after the sale to Associated British Foods in 1964.

Twinings Who Spread.  The 1881 census showed the largest number of Twinings in Gloucestershire, with some spread northward into Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

Some Twinings remained at Painswick.  John Twining of Painswick lived there during the 1700’s. Thomas Twining was born there in 1775.  His son John married Mary Smart there in 1814.  Their son Thomas was charged with embezzlement in Painswick in 1836 and was transported on the Recovery to Tasmania.

From the Twinings at Pershore across the border in Worcestershire came:

  • John Twining who was tried at Evesham in 1651 for his Royalist support during the Civil War.
  • Thomas Twining, born in 1675, who was a vicar at Wilford in Nottinghamshire; and other Twining clergymen who went to Pembrokeshire in Wales.
  • and the line which extended to the Rev. William Twining in London and then to his son Francis, created Baron Twining for his services with the Colonial Office in Africa in the 1950’s.

Other Twinings had moved to Birmingham by the 19th century.  

Wales. There were Twinings from Pershore who settled in Pembrokeshire in the early 1700’s.  The Rev. Benjamin Twining, the rector at Amroth, died there in 1757 at the age of ninety-seven. William Twining went as a missionary to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1787. And Daniel Twining emigrated to the US West Coast in 1882.

America.  The forefather of most Twinings in America is William Twining.  He arrived in New England around 1635 and settled with his family on Cape Cod.  His line in America was covered in Thomas Twining’s 1905 book The Twining Family.

William died on Cape Cod in 1659.  His son William was a deacon at the Eastham Congregational church, but in later life became a Quaker.  Seeking to escape Puritan New England, he moved around 1695 to Newtown in Bucks county, Pennsylvania.

Here the Twining family split:

  • the older son William and his descendants remaining in Eastham and Orleans nearby
  • and the younger son Stephen following his father to Bucks county, to Newtown and Wrightstown nearby.

A line from Eastham led to Deacon Stephen Twining who moved to New Haven and served in the 1820’s as the Steward to Yale College. His son William S. Twining was also a clergyman and settled in Indiana in 1835.  His son William J. Twining was a major in the US Army and the Military Commissioner for the District of Columbia from 1878 until his death in 1882. The district of Twining in Washington DC was named after him.

A line from Wrightstown migrated first to upstate New York and then in the 1850’s via Nathan Crook Twining to Wisconsin where he fought in the Civil War and was later a schoolmaster: 

  • his son Nathan Crook Jr came to be regarded as one of the US Navy’s most brilliant officers and served as its Chief of Staff during World War One.  
  • while Nathan Crook Jr’s nephews Nathan and Merrill were commanders in their own right in the 1950’s, Nathan as Chief of Staff of the US Air Force and Merrill as a US Marine Corps general.  

Hugh Twining came to Wisconsin from upstate New York somewhat later and farmed there before moving onto Colorado. His son Warren served in the Colorado state House of Representatives from 1925 to 1934.

Canada.  The Rev. William Twining from Pembrokeshire in Wales was the rector of St. John’s church in Cornwallis township, Nova Scotia from 1789 to 1806.  One of his sons John became a curate in Halifax, Nova Scotia, another son Charles a lawyer there.  Martha Lynes’s 1985 book was entitled The Twining Family of Nova Scotia,  

Twining Surname Miscellany

John Twining of Painswick.  The Rev. William Twining was the author in 1899 of the book Some Facts in the History of the Twining Family.  The following is a story he recounted about John Twining of Painswick.  His writing suggests that John lived sometime in the 18th century.

“One of our most interesting ancestors was John Twining of Painswick who lived in one of a group of stone houses in a dell under Longridge wood in Sheepscombe.  The nearest church was Painswick.   On Sundays when the bells rang for service, the sound was wafted to this little combe.’  But it was no signal to the youngsters, who not being at the neighboring mills at work, passed the day in play and idleness.

John Twining thought he could do something with some of them.  So he got a few to come to his house and he told them tales in such a manner as to interest them, making them willing to give up their games on the Sunday and go to hear him.

He was encouraged, for the neighbors soon began to perceive the improvement in the children. We have been told that Edbert Eaikes of Gloucester, being on a visit to Painswick, heard of this little Sunday class, grasped the idea, and himself started Sunday Schools.  Eaikes gave John a Bible.

John lies buried in the churchyard at Painswick near the north side of the chancel.  But his grave is not marked by a tombstone.

The little spark kindled by him did not flicker and go out, but was caught by the curate of Painswick who had charge of the Sheepscombe district.  It was fanned into a flame so that, early in this century, a church was built there which was well attended.”

Richard Twining and the Tea Revolution in England.  Richard Twining, born in 1749, joined the family tea business at the age of sixteen and, six years later, took over the management of the firm after the death of his mother Mary in 1771.

He was a fast learner and soon had an encyclopaedical knowledge of the tea trade.  At a time when tea was high on the political agenda, his negotiating skills made him a natural choice as the Chairman of the London Tea Dealers.

As head of the tea trade, Richard had the ear of William Pitt, the Prime Minister.  He argued persuasively that revenues would be greater from lower taxation. High levels of duty only served to encourage smuggling.  Pitt listened and he acted.  The Commutation Act of 1784 slashed tea taxes and at last made tea affordable to all. The Act also resulted in the practical extinction of tea smuggling which had been previously carried on extensively in Holland.

The Act marked the beginning of tea-drinking as part of everyday life in Britain and in that fact a tea revolution!

Stephen Twining and His Tea Poem.  Stephen Twining is the tenth generation of Twinings to work at Twinings Tea.  He often ends his talks by reciting the poem that so aptly sums up the role of tea in the Twining story.

  • “It seems in some cases kind nature hath planned
  • That names with their callings agree,
  • For Twining the Teaman that lives in the Strand,
  • Would be ‘wining; deprived of his T.'”

The Twinings in Newtown, Pennsylvania.  As late as 1681 William Twining was Deacon Twining at the Congregational church in Eastham. Sometime afterwards he, his wife, and his son Stephen changed from the Congregational church to the Quaker Society of Friends.

From 1670 to 1700 there was a large migration from different parts of New England to Long Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania on account of the persecution of Quakers.  In 1695 William was on the Eastham records for the last time as a voter.  In the same year he and his wife removed to Newtown, Pennsylvania accompanied by his son Stephen and his family.  Their names appear in the Middletown Meeting records in 1699.  His son William, however, remained in Eastham and at the Congregational church there.

By 1702 his son Stephen had acquired 690 acres in Newtown and became a large landowner there, even though he was illiterate (he would sign all legal papers with his mark that for some reason resembled a capital “E”).   The Twinings were among the original members of Wrightstown Meeting which frequently met in their home before a meeting house was built.  His wife Abigail served on three marriage clearness committees.  Stephen was appointed an Elder of the Friends in 1715.

Nathaniel Twining lived and died on the 300 acres inherited from his father Stephen. But he and wife Sarah were disowned from the Friends after 1730 and they joined the Newtown Presbyterian church.  A descendant has kept a letter that he wrote in 1742 whereby he ordained his “loving brother John Twining, yeoman, my lawful attorney, to demand, recover and receive dues and other demands in the Province of New England, or any other adjacent provinces.”

The Death of Deacon Stephen Twining.  The Connecticut Courant reported his death as follows on Christmas Day, 1832:

“The sudden exit of Deacon Stephen Twining, aged 65, is another proof that ‘in the midst of life we are in death.’  On December 18, as the steamboat mail had arrived from New York between two and three o’clock in the afternoon, Mr. Twining in his usual good health stepped into the Post Office to enquire for letters and papers when he suddenly fell ill and died without a struggle.  On examination by the physicians, it was ascertained that his disease was ossification of the heart.

Mr. Twining was for many years a practicing attorney in New Haven. For the last twelve to fifteen years he has acted as Steward for Yale College.  His services to that institution could have been equalled by few men. He was much respected as a Christian and as a citizen.”

Twining Names

  • William Twining who came to New England around 1635 was the forefather of most Twinings in America. 
  • Thomas Twining was the founder of Twinings tea company.  He opened Britain’s first tea room on the Strand in London in 1706. 
  • Richard Twining was instrumental in reducing the tax on imported tea in 1784, thereby starting the tea revolution in England. 
  • Nathan Crook Twining was regarded as one of the US Navy’s most brilliant officers and served as its Chief of Staff during World War One.

Twining Numbers Today

  • 500 in the UK (most numerous in Gloucestershire)
  • 600 in America (most numerous in Ohio)
  • 300 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Twining 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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Written by Colin Shelley

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