Wilkinson Surname Meaning, History & Origin
name plus the diminutive “kin” has been a common surname
formation in England, in the patronymic “s” suffix form in the south of
and “son” in the north. Examples are
Wilkinson, Watkinson, Atkinson. Dickinson, Hopkinson and Hodgkinson.
Of these, Wilkinson – coming from William –
has been the most common. It is a name
of the north of England.
Wilkinson Resources on
- Wilkinson Genealogy
- Wilkinson on the Web
- Wilkinson DNA Project
name Thomas Wilkynson appeared in the Cumberland rolls of 1332 and
Adam Wylkynson in the Yorkshire rolls of 1379.
Many of the early traceable Wilkinsons, however, have been in Durham and Northumberland.
at Harperly Hall on the banks of the river Wear in Durham date from
about 1500. Family tradition has it that
they were originally Wilkersons and were Danish.
Lawrence Wilkinson, a Royalist captain at the
time of the Civil War, was forced into exile in America.
But other Wilkinsons remained. William
Wilkinson coined money in the 1650’s
because of the shortage of coins for trade at that time.
Later Wilkinsons were to be found in Durham
and London. In 1847, when the Wear
Valley railway opened, a private station was built at Harperly Hall
George Hutton Wilkinson, the chairman of the line, lived.
Harperly Hall today has passed out of family
hands and is a police training establishment.
Wilkinson families were to be bound in Durham in the 17th century at
Mary, Nether Buston, Norton, and Washington.
The last-named was the birthplace of Isaac Wilkinson, the first
Wilkinson ironmasters. His son John
“Iron Mad” Wilkinson made a lot of money which was then
dissipated after his death.
much of John Wilkinson’s wealth can be
ascribed to his ingenuity and enterprise, his legacy was undermined by
liaison that produced a crop of illegitimate children.
His will was challenged and a long legal
battle ensued, which consumed all of the Wilkinson fortune and led both
and their challengers into bankruptcy.”
Larger numbers of Wilkinsons were and are to be found in
Wilkinsons were recorded at Crowder House in Ecclesfield from
1402 until its sale in 1859. Roger
Wilkinson was a
tanner living in Barnsley in the late 1400’s.
The Wilkinsons of Bolton upon Dearne near Rotherham were granted
of Arms in 1563 and there appears to have been a link between this
later Wilkinson families at Pontefract, Manningham, and Blackwell in
Joshua Wilkinson, the son of a Leeds clothier, moved to London in the
1750’s and did well at Moorfields as a furniture dealer, cabinet maker
and house broker. The business was handed down to his sons and
grandsons over the next hundred years. The actor Tom Wilkinson
was born in Leeds in 1948 from a long line of urban farmers there.
America. Early Wilkinsons in
America were to be found in New England and Maryland.
was captured by Parliament forces in Newcastle in 1644 and had his
confiscated. He was offered the
opportunity to depart for America and came to Rhode Island with his
Rhode Island line included the Quakers Jeremiah Wilkinson, an inventor
the first to make cut nails, and the prophetess and “Universal Friend” Jemima Wilkinson. The family history was recounted in the Rev.
Israel Wilkinson’s 1869 book Memories of
the Wilkinson Family in America. Later
descendants have included Henry Wilkinson, the architect of Harperly Hall in New York,
Wilkinson, the mother of the actress Meryl Streep.
distant relation, Lewis Wilkinson (the descendant of a union between William Wilkinson and a servant girl),
came to New Milford, Connecticut in 1721. A line of this
family later moved west to Ohio and Indiana. Meanwhile
Christopher Wilkinson from Durham came to South Carolina around
1710. His son Edward Wilkinson, sometimes Wilkerson, was an
agent with the local Cherokee Indians.
Joseph Wilkinson was a London merchant who came to Maryland in the
early 1700’s. He acquired Stoakley Manor in Calvert county and
a tobacco farmer. By the time his grandson
James was born in 1757, however, the family was very much in debt.
General James Wilkinson rose to prominence during
the Revolutionary War, but had a murky reputation afterward. He was called the “Spanish pensioner” as it was
believed that he was an agent of the Spanish government. Yet
he had the support of President Jefferson because
of his strong anti-federalist stance. He was appointed the first
Governor of Louisiana
territory in 1805. His story was narrated in Andro Linklater’s
2009 book An Artist in Treason.
James’s niece Jane Long nee
Wilkinson moved to Texas with her husband in the early 1820’s and owned
there boarding houses
and a plantation. She became known as
the “mother of Texas.”
Wilkinson is an important name in the Australian wine industry.
The Rev. Frederick Wilkinson, an early Methodist missionary from
Martindale in Westmoreland, began growing vines on his
Hunter valley property in 1825, one of the first to do so.
A more serious wine venture began in 1866 when two Wilkinson brothers
– Frederick and John from a well-to-do family in Surrey – bought land
at Pokolbin in the Hunter valley and started planting vines there.
Frederick’s son Audrey, who took over the vineyard in 1892 at the
tender age of fifteen, gave the Wilkinson name its international
reputation. Audrey ran the vineyard until his death in 1962.
Wilkinson Homestead in Gosnells near Perth was built in 1912 and named
after John Wilkinson, a tailor from Ballarat who moved west and tended
a large citrus orchard there. The homestead remained in Wilkinson
family hands until 1963.
Wilkinsons in Early Durham and Northumberland Records. There were 113 Wilkinson entries in Durham and Northumberland parish records between 1521 and 1615. They were quite spread around. The table below shows where these Wilkinsons were recorded.
William Wilkinson and Mary Smythe. William Wilkinson caused a servant girl at Harperly Hall, Mary Smythe, to get pregnant. Because the birth would have been
illegitimate and a marriage between William and Mary was inconceivable
days, Mary was sent away to Litchfield in Derbyshire where she had the
Her son was named William Smythe
Wilkinson, as shown in the 1550 Litchfield parish records.
In due course William moved to London,
married, and worked there as a blacksmith.
His descendants were to be found in London over the next 150
that time the
Wilkinsons applied for a ‘right of birth,’ which was granted by the
authorities. This would imply that the
family had attained a level of respectability so that it would be
recognized as a legitimate family – thus removing the stigma of an
Lewis Wilkinson of this family was born in London near Fleet
Street in 1686. He emigrated to
in 1721 and settled in New Milford, Connecticut.
John “Iron Mad” Wilkinson. In the
early 1760’s John Wilkinson and his brother William inherited their father’s
ironworks in Bersham in north Wales.
They founded the New Bersham Company. Bersham
soon led the world in the field of
iron technology. However, the two
brothers fell out twenty years later.
Wilkinson was influential during his time in the design of cannon. The traditional method involved casting a
one-piece cannon with a core. Since the
hole was cast, it often introduced imperfections into the cannon which
catastrophic consequences for those using it. In
1774 Wilkinson invented a cannon-boring
machine which produced safer and more accurate cannons. He
later patented a method to make spiral
groves in cannons that would project the ball further and straighter.
In 1779 he was the major force behind the
construction of an iron bridge, the world’s first, across the Severn at
Coalbrookdale. In 1787 he launched the
first iron barge. His iron obsession
reached its peak in the late 1790’s, when he paid to have iron windows,
pulpit and other fittings installed into a Methodist chapel in Bradley.
He became known as ‘Iron-Mad’ Wilkinson.
He died in 1808 a wealthy man. He was
buried in an iron coffin.
The Wilkinson Sword Company. The history of the Wilkinson Sword Company goes back to 1772 – when young James Wilkinson was apprenticed to Henry Nock, a noted gun
maker of the day. Henry Nock’s shop was
on Ludgate Street near St Pauls Cathedral in London.
subsequently became a partner in the company, which in 1804 was
maker to King George III, the first of Wilkinson’s royal warrants. When Nock died, Wilkinson inherited the
business and in the early 19th century, during the fighting that led to
Waterloo, the company first started to manufacture swords.
By 1889 the company
was established in showrooms in London and had a large works in Chelsea. In that year, it took on the name of the
Wilkinson Sword Company. A few years later, the Wilkinson safety
razor was introduced.
Wilkinsons from Martindale. Wilkinsons in the
Martindale parish in Westmoreland have been traced back to the late
1600’s. Many of the children of Henry Wilkinson, born there in
1764, became clergymen. The only son who did not was Henry
Wilkinson who became a sea captain with the East India Company, but
died a relatively young man in India. These Wilkinsons grew up at Ben
Green which lies up the valley beyond Thang Cragg.
The Rev. Frederick
Wilkinson, a Methodist missionary, came out to Australia and, after an
adventurous time which included many conflicts with the authorities
there, returned to England in 1855. His brother Thomas was curate
at Martindale at this time. Thomas’s son Thomas, also a minister,
came out to Australia in 1839 and stayed.
Jemima Wilkinson, Universal Friend. In the
summer of 1776, at the age of eighteen, Jemima Wilkinson fell sick and
away in bodily strength. She constantly
told her family her strange visions. In
October she appeared to fall into a trance state and seemed almost
a space of about thirty six hours.
great surprise of her family she suddenly aroused herself, called for
garments, dressed, and walked among the assembled members of the
household. She disclaimed being Jemima
Wilkinson, but asserted that the former individuality had passed away
she was another being, a minister of the Almighty sent to preach his
to minister to the spiritual necessities of mankind.
She took to herself the name of the Public
hereafter as the “Universal Friend,” she began
to preach in her native Rhode Island, but soon spread her message
Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. She
a following known as the Society of Friends that established a
1788 on the west shore of Seneca Lake. Wilkinson
and her followers constituted the
first actual settlers in the Genesee country area of New York state.
Wilkinson was the first in a succession of religious leaders associated
“fringe” sects in upper New York state. These
would include Mormon Church founder
Joseph Smith, pioneers of Spiritualism such as Margaretta and Kate Fox,
other movements of lesser note like the New Light Baptists.
Harperly Hall, New York. In 1909, a group headed by the architect Henry Wilhelm Wilkinson bought the northwest corner of 64th Street and Central Park West to
build a co-op “suitable for artists’ studios,” according to their
corporate papers. Wilkinson’s son, J.
Burke Wilkinson, said that his father chose the name Harperly Hall
after an old
manor house that the family
Harperly Hall, which opened in 1911 with 76 apartments,
every way distinct from the usual cookie-cutter design.
Wilkinson, who had little or no experience in
apartment-house design, used the Arts and Crafts style, rarely seen in
York, throughout the building. Instead
of the usual showy lobby, Wilkinson organized the apartments in a U
a wide central courtyard. This space was
much broader than building laws required.
The fences along the sidewalk and the fountains at the rear
make a protected space out of what in lesser buildings is often just a
The original Harperly Hall co-op failed in 1941 and it was converted to
a rental. The rising real estate market
of the 80’s brought a reconversion to co-op in 1983.
- John Wilkinson was an English industrialist who pioneered the use and manufacture of cast iron in the Industrial Revolution.
- James Wilkinson started the Wilkinson Sword Company into sword production in the early 1800’s.
- George Wilkinson won three Olympic gold medals, in 1900,
1908 and 1912, and is considered the world’s first great water polo player.
- Jonny Wilkinson was an English rugby
player and the man who, with the last kick of the game, won the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
Select Wilkinson Numbers Today
- 64,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 22,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 21,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
Click here for return to front page
Leave a Reply