Wyatt Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Wyatt Surname Meaning

The medieval personal names of Wiot, Wyot and Gyot were of old English origin but could come with a Norman twist (a Guyot was said to have come over with William the Conqueror). These names became over time surnames that standardized as Wyatt during the 15th and 16th centuries.

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Wyatt Surname Ancestry

England.  A Wyatt family were local squires at Southange (South Haigh) in west Yorkshire, claiming a pedigree from an Adam Wyot of Yorkshire in the 14th century. Their fortunes took a distinct upswing when Henry Wyatt backed Henry Tudor and Henry Tudor became King Henry VII after his defeat of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Henry Wyatt was one of his Privy Counsellors and remained a trusted advisor when Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509. His portrait shows him with a cat by his side.

“When he was confined by Richard III in a cold and narrow tower where he had neither food nor fire, a cat brought him each day a pigeon for his dinner and stayed around to help him keep warm.”

The family home was at Allington castle near Maidstone in Kent. His son Thomas was a well-known lyrical poet; his son, Thomas
the younger, led a thwarted rebellion against Queen Mary, known as Wyatt’s rebellion, for which he was executed. The family estates were subsequently restored to his son George in 1571. A later Wyatt was the first English colonial governor of Virginia. Another line of this family lived at Horsted Keynes in Sussex.

Staffordshire. A Wyatt family had long been yeoman farmers at Weeford in Staffordshire and their home there, from the 1560’s, was Thickbroome Hall. The sons and grandsons of John Wyatt became noted architects, in particular the brothers James and Samuel. This Wyatt architectural dynasty continued through the 18th and 19th centuries.

The 20th century journalist and politician Woodrow Wyatt was probably no descendant but was ennobled as Baron Wyatt of Weeford.

West Country.  Wyatts date from the 1500’s at Braunton, Shirwell and Barnstaple in NW Devon. Other early west country sightings were at Milverton and Martock (Hurst Barton) in Somerset and at Todenham and Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire.
John Wyatt was the rector of Friston near Bath in 1589 and William Wyatt the town clerk of Worcester in 1621. By the late 19th century, the southwest was accounting for roughly a quarter of all the Wyatts in England.

America. Sir Francis Wyatt was the first colonial governor of Virginia in 1621. Although he himself left no descendants in America, his brother the Rev. Hawte Wyatt, who had come to Virginia at the same time, did. His sons Edward, George and John were the forebears – together with a Major William Wyatt of unknown origin – of the early Wyatts in America. Later Wyatts were to be found at Plain Dealing in Caroline county, Virginia and across the South.

Samuel Wyatt came to Kentucky from Virginia in 1805. Early Wyatt settlers in Missouri were:

  • Frank and Polly Wyatt (from North Carolina) in Warren county in 1817.
  • William and Rachel Wyatt (from Tennessee) in Boone county in the 1820’s.
  • Frederick and Sarah Wyatt (from Tennessee) in Andrew county in 1840.
  • William and Mary Wyatt (via Indiana) in Jackson county in the 1840’s.

Jordan Wyatt and his wife Susannah arrived in Texas from Kentucky in 1846; and John and Ary Wyatt came there from Missouri in 1853. The oil man Oscar Wyatt was born in Beaumont, Texas in 1924.

The Wyatts in Baltimore started with James Wyatt from Bristol marrying Mary Winslow in Barbados in 1783 while enroute to America. They were Loyalists and eventually settled in Nova Scotia. However, their son, the Rev. William Wyatt, moved south and served as the rector of Baltimore’s oldest Episcopal church for fifty years.

“On October 1, 1812 he married Miss Frances Billop with whom he lived happily for more than fifty one years. They were not separated until after he was confined to his bed by his last sickness. She bore him eleven children, seven sons and four daughters, of whom five sons and three daughters survived.”

Later Wyatts were the prominent New York investment bankers and the actress Jane Wyatt.

Canada. Henry and Emma Wyatt from Oakley in Suffolk came to Canada in 1841 and built their home, Herberton House, in Burlington, Ontario, where they raised eleven children. Emma Wyatt documented this family history in 1874.

William and Jane Wyatt were married in 1845 in the remote North Crosby township in Leeds county, Ontario. Jane died in the early 1850’s and William, now settled there and working as a
lumberjack, married an Ann Taylor from Ireland.

Australia. Joseph Wyatt, an ex-convict, pioneered theatres in Sydney, first with the Theatre Royal in 1835 and then with his Victoria and Prince of Wales theatres. However, disaster struck in 1860 when the Prince of Wales was burnt to the ground. Wyatt himself died later in the year.

William Wyatt who arrived in South Australia from Devon in 1837 became a prominent local citizen and benefactor to the city of Adelaide. When he died there in 1886, he left most of his estate to the Wyatt Benevolent Institution “to benefit persons above the laboring classes in poor or reduced circumstances.” Almost a century later, the fund was still making handouts.

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Wyatt Surname Miscellany

Early Recorded Wyatts

Name Date County
Wiot de Acham 1192 Lincolnshire
Gwiot 1203 Gloucestershire
Wyot 1219 Yorkshire
William Wyot 1274 Shropshire
Robert Wiot 1279 Bedfordshire
Thomas Guyot 1295 Essex
Elias Wyete 1296 Sussex

Anne Wyatt and Anne Boleyn.  Anne Wyatt accompanied Anne Boleyn to the scaffold in 1536 and received from her “her little prayer book, set in gold enameled black, which she long preserved as a precious relic.” Anne Boleyn had sent a message to the King via Anne Wyatt prior to that fateful journey:

“Command me to his Majesty and tell him he has ever been constant in his career of advancing me. From a private gentlewoman he made me a marchioness, from a marchioness a Queen.  And now he has left me no higher degree of honor.  He gives to me my innocence the crown of martyrdom.”

She went to the block dressed in black damask and was said never to have looked more beautiful.

The Wyatt and Boleyn families were close.  Their fathers had been appointed joint constables of Norwich castle in 1512.  A later Wyatt, Sir George Wyatt, wrote and published his Life of Anne Boleyn 

Edward Wyatt, The Virginia Settler.  Edward Wyatt came to Virginia with his father, the Rev. Hawte Wyatt, on The George in 1621.  They returned to England after the death of his grandfather Sir George Wyatt two years later.  Edward then came for a second time to Virginia with his uncle, Governor Francis Wyatt, and this time he settled there permanently.

He obtained a patent for 1,230 acres along the Peankatak river.  His plantation there, near Williamsburg, was named Boxley after the parish in which he was born in Kent.  It was later divided into the old Upton estate, new Upton estate, and Oakley estate.

Richard Wyatt and the Family Coat of Arms.  Richard Wyatt was born in Caroline county, Virginia in 1720 and lived through the Revolutionary War.  His view of England and his antecedents was recounted in Wingfield’s History of Caroline County:

“Richard Wyatt, at his home in Caroline County, becoming incensed at the Mother Country (preceding the Revolution), tore the family coat of arms from the wall and, hacking it from the frame with his sword, threw it on the blazing logs in the fireplace.  It was rescued by his daughter Nancy who later became the second wife of Colonel Anthony New.  When they removed to Kentucky, the treasured painting went with them.

In the year 1830 a descendant, seeing the old relic in their Kentucky home, made a little sketch of the design.  Though blackened by fire and smoke, there were still to be plainly seen bands of boars’ heads on the shield similar to the arms of Sir Thomas Wyatt of England.  The painting was later totally destroyed by fire.  But the little sketch is still in the family.”

The Wyatt Family of Architects

John Wyatt (1675-1742), of Weeford in Staffordshire

– John Wyatt (1700-1766), a mechanic who contributed to the development of power spinning

– William Wyatt (1701-1772)

– Benjamin Wyatt (1709-1772), a local builder

Benjamin Wyatt (1709-1772)

– William Wyatt (1734-1780), builder and architect

– Samuel Wyatt (1737-1807), a leading English architect of his time with his brother James

– Joseph Wyatt (1739-1785), builder and architect

– Benjamin Wyatt (1744-1818)

– James Wyatt (1746-1813), one of the premier architects of his age

William Wyatt (1734-1780)

– Benjamin Wyatt (1755-1813), builder

– Charles Wyatt (1758-1813), an architect who worked in India

Samuel Wyatt (1737-1807)

– Jeffry Wyatt (1766-1840), later Sir Jeffry Wyattville, an
architect and garden designer

Benjamin Wyatt (1744-1818)

– Lewis Wyatt (1777-1853), an architect

James Wyatt (1746-1813)

– Edward Wyatt (1757-1833)

– Richard Wyatt (1795-1850), a sculptor

– Benjamin Dean Wyatt (1775-1852), architect and pupil of his father James

– Matthew Cotes Wyatt (1777-1862), a painter and sculptor

– Sir Matthew Wyatt (1805-1886), architect and builder

– Philip William Wyatt (c1780-1835), an architect

William Wyatt (1701-1772)

– grandson Matthew Wyatt (1773-1831), a police magistrate in London

– Thomas Henry Wyatt (1807-1880), an architect

– Sir Digby Wyatt (1820-1877), art historian who became first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge.

These family linkages come from J.M. Robinson’s 1979 book, The Wyatts, an Architectural Dynasty.

Emma Wyatt’s History of the Wyatt Family.  Henry Wyatt was born in 1796 at Brome Hall in Suffolk, the son of Henry and Frances Wyatt. He married Emma Squibb in 1823 and they moved to Canada in 1843.  Emma later wrote, in 1874 after the death of her husband, a history of the Wyatt family.

It began as follows:

“The elder Sir Thomas Wyatt is taken as the root of the present family, and their descent from him is traced in the genealogical tree at Mr. T. H. Wyatt’s in London. The above-named Sir T. W. of Allington Castle, Kent, was a courtier, statesman and poet in the reign of Henry VIII and at one time a favorite of that capricious monarch. He died in 1541.

His son of the same name was a zealous Protestant and rose in arms against Queen Mary. His rebellion was subdued and, though considered a traitor to this bigoted and cruel Queen, he perished a martyr to a pious and honorable cause in 1554.

In later years the family has been distinguished for their taste and talents in the fine arts in sculpture, painting, and architecture.

James Wyatt was Architect to King George III, Jeffrey to King George IV.  He changed his name to Wyat so that he might be distinguished as an architect.

Richard Wyatt the eminent sculptor went to Rome in the 1850’s at the request of Canova.  Queen Victoria purchased his statue of Penelope and several others and he executed one for her Majesty when he visited England. He excelled in portraying the female form and his works adorn all the royal palaces and museums of Europe.

The present Thomas H. Wyatt is President (by royal consent) of the Institute of Architects.  He built the fine Exchange at Liverpool, many Churches and noblemen’s houses. His brother Sir Digby Wyatt superintended much of the International Exhibition of England and designed several of the Courts in the Sydenham Crystal Palace and is still a leader in all public undertakings of taste and science.

All named in this century were nearly related to my dear husband; and his uncle Captain Charles Wyatt showed the talent inherent in the family by giving plans for the present Government House in Calcutta while stationed there.”

Woodrow Wyatt Quotations

“A man falls in love with his eyes, a woman through her ears.”

“We have children because we want immortality and this is the most reliable way of getting it.”

“No country which has cricket as one of its national games has yet gone communist.”

Oscar Wyatt and Dallas.  Oscar Wyatt got his start in the energy business in 1950 when he mortgaged his Ford sedan to finance the Hardly Able Oil Company, the forerunner of his Coastal Oil and Gas Corporation.  He has since that time been a Texas oil-field legend.  Once described by Texas Monthly as “meaner than a junkyard dog,” he has cultivated a tough-guy image over the years.

His career has been marked by scandal and, some say, scandalous behavior.   He played the gas market in the early 1970’s, reneging on gas contracts in Texas and driving up the spot gas price.  Later, he cultivated a relationship with Saddam Hussein and got embroiled in “oil for food” kickbacks.

Some in Texas think that Wyatt was the inspiration for JR Ewing in the 1980’s TV soap drama Dallas – but older, rounder, nastier, and with friends like Saddam Hussein.

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Wyatt Names
  • Henry Wyatt was a trusted advisor to both Henry VII and Henry VIII.
  • Sir Thomas Wyatt was an English 16th century lyrical poet.
  • James Wyatt was an 18th century English architect, a rival to Robert Adam in the neoclassical style of that time.
  • Woodrow Wyatt was a controversial and somewhat eccentric 20th century journalist, writer, and Labor politician.
  • Oscar Wyatt has been a flamboyant Texas oilman.

Wyatt Numbers Today
  • 16,000 in the UK (most numerous in Surrey)
  • 17,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 9,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

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