Woodward Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Woodward Meaning
The Old English words wudu meaning
“wood” and weard meaning
“guardian or “protector” gave us the occupational surname Woodward,
someone who looked after the trees and the game in the forest.
The name Waudard
appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086.
In the Middle Ages woods and forests were an important part of the
economy and were of special interest to Kings for hunting and also as a
source of timber for weapons and building.  It was in the early
14th century that Edward II first introduced wardens to look after his
royal forests.

Woodward Resources on

Woodward Ancestry

The King’s subsidy roll for Gloucestershire in 1370 recorded a large
number of Wodewards in the county.  By the end of the 1400’s the
name was also well established in Worcestershire and Warwickshire, two
heavily wooded counties and favorite royal haunts.

Warwickshire branches claimed descent from John Wodeward, a
ranger in
Arden forest.  Warwickshire
Woodward branches
emerged in
the 15th century at Butlers Marston, Solihull, and Avon Dassett.  Later these Woodwards spread to Shropshire,
Gloucestershire, and Buckinghamshire.

John Woodward, the 17th century naturalist,
came from a “good family” in Gloucestershire.  One Woodward family
traced itself back to
John and Hannah Woodward in Alcester, Warwickshire in the 1730’s.

By the 19th century the Woodward name had spread further north into
Staffordshire, Cheshire and Lancashire, while there were Woodward
pockets as well in the southeast.

Kent.  The
Woodwards of Brooke Place in Ashford, Kent could trace
their line back to the early 1500’s:

“The will of Richard Woodwarde dated
February 21, 1516: Desires to be buried at Ashford beside Elizabeth his
first wife.”

Thomas Woodward, a descendant, was Assay Master of the Mint under
Charles I, but lost that position in 1649 and departed for
Virginia.  The Woodwards held Brooke Place until 1757.

  There were a number
of early Woodwards in New England: 

  • Nathaniel

    who came to Boston in 1633.  Most of these
    Woodwards remained in
    Massachusetts.  One branch under Beamsley
    Woodward settled in York, Maine.  Nathaniel’s
    line was followed in Harold Woodward’s 1984 book Some
    Descendants of Nathaniel Woodward.  
  • Richard
    Woodward who came to Massachusetts with his family on the Elizabeth
    1634 and settled in Watertown.  A 19th century
    descendant, born in Maine, was the inventor Amos Woodward who founded
    the Woodward Generator
    company in Illinois in 1870.  
  • and Henry Woodward, a doctor from
    Lancashire, who arrived with his wife-to-be Elizabeth a year later on
    the James,
    surviving a terrible thunderstorm.  They settled first in
    Dorchester and
    then moved onto Northampton.

Another line from Richard Woodward went: first, via Enos Woodward in
1775 to Pennsylvania; second, via Asher Woodward, around 1850 to
Illinois where Alfred E. Woodward was later a Chief Judge of the
Illinois circuit; and third, to his son Bob Woodward, the investigative
reporter of Watergate fame.

South Carolina.  Another Dr. Henry Woodward, a young ship’s
surgeon, was to be found in
the 1660’s in the sea islands off South Carolina.  He had been
sent there to live among the Indians and learn their language and
culture before the settlers arrived.

A century or so later Thomas
“the Regulator” Woodward organized the South Carolina planters to
protect themselves against the lawless; and then another Thomas
Woodward, born in Georgia in the 1790’s, became well-known for his role
in opening up new areas for settlers elsewhere in the South.  His
life was described in Don Marler’s 2001 book General Thomas S. Woodward and Woodward’s

Maryland.  The
Woodward family of Maryland began with Abraham Woodward, the son of
a London merchant, who came to America in the early 1700’s and settled
in Annapolis, Maryland:

  • this family later made their fortune from
    selling textiles to the Confederate government and then turned their
    attention to horse-breeding after having acquired the Belair estate and
    stud farm.
  • in 1955 Billy Woodward, heir to the estate, was shot
    to death by his wife Ann in what Life
    described as “the
    shooting of the century.”

Meanwhile Dr. Theodore Woodward was the patriarch of one of Maryland’s
most distinguished medical families of the 20th century.

VirginiaHenry Woodward
came to Virginia in 1755, was a neighbor to George Washington in
Stafford county, joined the Virginia militia, and was a hero of the
French and Indian wars.  He was awarded substantial land grants
afterwards.  But little was heard of him again.

Woodards.  There
are also a sizeable number of Woodards in America.  The
Woodard name in England, from the Old English Wudheard and found in East Anglia,
was probably not the name that crossed the Atlantic to America.
Instead, some Woodwards became Woodards, mainly in the South.

Canada.  William Woodward

from Cheshire came to Canada in
1870, headed out west, and homesteaded at Woodward’s Hill in Surrey,
British Columbia.  Meanwhile Charles Woodward, having failed
business in Ontario, came out to Vancouver in 1892 and opened up his
first department store there.  That store became a chain, was
passed down to his son and grandson, and made the family rich.

New Zealand.  Jonas
Woodward was one of the early settlers in New Zealand, arriving there
with his family from London on the Clifton
in 1842.   On his death in 1881, it was said:

“He was one  of the oldest
and most respected citizens of Wellington and his career was one of
singular activity, maintained to the last.”


Woodward Miscellany

Wadard or Waudard.  Commander Wadard
was said to have assembled William’s army at Saint Valery in Normandy for the invasion of England in 1066.  It was he,
Wadard, who then advised William of the Saxon advance from the north under King Harold at Hastings.

Wadard was granted
lands in Essex and as Waudard appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086.  Descendants Henry and Simon Wadard were
recorded as lords of the manor in Essex in 1278.

Nathaniel Woodward the Hot-Headed Puritan.  Nathaniel Woodward, captain of the Warwick yeoman guards, was a strong Puritan and apparently a
hot-headed one as well.  He was cited in
1632 by a bench of Anglican Bishops to take oath to keep his Puritan
within his own family and home.
Unwilling to do this and heavily fined by the ecclesiastical
court, he gave
notice that he and his brother Ezekiel, also cited, would leave England

they apparently did,
departing with two yeomen Henry Saterlee and Richard Sumner to
Whitehaven where
they took passage to Boston.  By trade a
carpenter, Nathaniel was employed there to survey the border between
colony and Massachusetts.

hot-headedness was apparently a family trait.
In 1671 his son Nathaniel was sentenced by the Court to sit in
stocks for the pleasure of the Court “for speaking abusive words
against Mr.
Shove, the pastor of the church of Taunton.”

How Henry Woodward Met His Wife.  In 1755
Henry Woodward had just boarded a ship at England to come to America when he
saw officers coming on board to search the ship to see that no
able-bodied man left England.

He was said to have cried out to himself and the sea as follows:

“I have served seven years in the War, and now I suppose I will have to end my life in the army.”

A young
but large woman standing nearby overheard him.  Her name
was Sarah Shelton and she looked at him.  Noticing
that he was a small man,
she told him:

“Squat down under this stool.”

Then she sat upon the stool, out-spreading
her skirt so as to completely obscure him during the search.   He then jumped up and kissed her.  Allegedly
they were married by the captain of
the ship during the voyage.

Henry Woodward and his new wife came to Virginia.
He was known by his descendants for his sword and silver knee
and shoe buckles.

Woodward Pioneers in British Columbia.  William
Woodward was born in Norley, Cheshire in 1821, the son
of the innkeeper of the Red Lion.
He and his wife Hanna raised seven children there
– one son and six daughters.  However,
tragedy struck the family in 1864 when Hanna died of tuberculosis,
followed by
the death through epidemic two years later of three of their daughters.  As a result William Woodward departed with
his son John for a new life in Canada in 1870.

and son ended up in British Columbia where William secured a
contract for road-building in Surrey and soon saw the possibilities for
homesteading there.  He and John were
granted land in 1886.  William initially
built a log cabin but by the following year he had constructed a
frame house, one of the first in Surrey, at what became known as
Hill.  Two of his daughters, Elizabeth
and Ann, had by then joined him in Canada.
Son John meanwhile had started a dairy farm at Burnaby nearby
and took
over his father’s farm after William died in 1893.

Woodward married John Oliver who
went on to become Premier of British Columbia in 1918.
She lived onto the ripe old age of 95, dying
in 1952.

Woodwards of Vancouver.  The story
of Woodward’s, the well-known Vancouver retailer, began in 1875 on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron.  It was there that
Charles Woodward opened his first store with his brother-in-law in a bid to
break away from farming. The small store, however, did not fare well and a
fire, allegedly criminally begun, burnt down his store and destroyed
ambitions in his home province.

started out again in Vancouver in 1892.  Laden
with debt, he struggled for the first few years to meet his monthly
but – despite a recession and the loss of his wife and two of his
children to
tuberculosis in the summer of 1892 – he managed to make it through the
times, emerging as a healthy retailer.

grew tremendously in this first decade of the 20th century, in parallel
the growth of the city. Vancouver’s
population was about 14,000 when Charles Woodward opened his first
store in
1892.  Fifteen years later, it was
already 60,000, and would reach almost 130,000 by 1912.  It
was no surprise, then, that established
retailers with a strong work ethic were to reap the benefits of this
growth.  Charles Woodward finally achieved
the success
he had been seeking since starting out in business.

The Shooting of the Century.  By the
1930’s the Woodwards were old money.  In
1876 James T. Woodward became President of Hanover National Bank, a
position he
held for 34 years before turning it over to his nephew, William
Woodward.  William Woodward Sr. was the
owner of Belair
Stud in Maryland, a foremost horseracing stable.  His
wife Elsie was a socialite who was to
become the dowager empress of New York high society.

Son Billy followed in his father’s footsteps
in both the horse business and the banking industry.
Upon his return from the war, he became known
as an “international sportsman.”   He was
passionate, reckless and the quintessential playboy.
Through his father he met a 27-year-old radio
actress, born Angeline Crowell on a farm in Kansas, who had changed her
name to
the more theatrical Ann Eden.

It was
love at first sight and very quickly the two were wed.
However, their marriage was a stormy
one.  Billy and Ann had one of those
relationships that was too fractious to keep together and too strong to
apart.  They sparred openly in public
over many things, not the least of which were her affairs with the
likes of the
Aga Khan and Franchot Tone and his with any number of debutantes.

But the marriage had a tragic denouement in
1955 in what was called at the time “the shooting of the century.”  The following was an account of that fateful

By the time the couple had
returned home, it was about one a.m.  Ann
and Billy retired to their own rooms.
Behind locked doors, Billy slept with a revolver nearby while
Ann was armed
with a double-barreled shotgun.

two hours later that Ann awoke to find her dog, Sloppy, barking at her
door. Ann told authorities she saw a “shadowy figure” near the door to
room, backlit against the pale moonlight streaming in from a hallway
window.  She reached for the 12-gauge
shotgun and
pulled the trigger.  Birdshot
from the
gun exploded from the muzzle of one barrel, a majority striking the
wall next
to the door.  She pulled the trigger
again and the second barrel fired, a scattering of pellets hitting the
in the doorway.

“Almost immediately,”
Ann testified later, “I realized it was my husband.
I ran to help him and fell on the floor
beside him.” Ann pulled herself away long enough to call for help.  She summoned an ambulance, police and, in a
that some would use to damn her, an attorney.
died on the floor of his mansion; one of the shotgun pellets had
lodged in his brain. When police arrived at the scene, they found a
Ann on the floor near her husband.

did it,” she told them. “I thought it was the man who has been around

The jurors took just 30 minutes to deliberate
over the facts and find that Ann had acted without malice and that the
was unintentional.  However, the tongues
had begun to wag and quickly Ann became persona non grata in
New York
society.  Behind her back they called her
“Annie Get Your Gun” or “the murderess.”
Ann left New York for Europe and did not return for twenty



Woodward Names

  • William Woodward from Maryland, who made a fortune selling textiles to the Confederate
    government, was a founder of the New York Cotton Exchange.
  • Joanne Woodward, the actress, was wife to the actor Paul Newman whom she married in 1958.
  • Bob Woodward is the Washington investigative reporter and journalist who first achieved
    fame with his Watergate coverage in the 1970’s.
  • Sandy Woodward was the admiral who commanded the British naval forces in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War.
  • Clive Woodward was the English rugby coach who guided the team to World Cup victory in 2003.

Select Woodward Numbers Today

  • 29,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Leicestershire)
  • 22,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Woodward and Like Surnames

These were status positions within the feudal position of that time – usually positions serving noble families, lords of the manor, or in the church.  Here are some of these status position surnames that you can check out.




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