Wynn Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Wynn Meaning
Wynn as a surname comes in many variations.
Wynn,
Wynne, Winn, Gwynn, and Gwynne
are all found today in varying
numbers
around the world.
The principal origin of the name is the Welsh name Gwyn dating
back to the 8th century and
meaning “white” or “fair.”  This might
have been a descriptive nickname for the Anglo-Norman or Norse-Viking
invader
who was fair-skinned; or it simply described a child who was
fair-skinned.  The Gwyn
name also appeared in the Cornish language.  In England Winn could originate from the Old English word wine meaning “friend.”

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Wynn Ancestry

Wales.  The spelling in north
Wales tended to be Wynn or Wynne, in south Wales Gwynn or Gwynne.

North Wales  The
Wynns of Gwydir
castle

in
Caernarvonshire came from
Welsh stock that had involved themselves in the Wars of the Roses
during the 15th
century.  Meredith ap Ieuan ap Robert, the founder of the Wynn
dynasty,
was a
Lancastrian, a regional supporter of Henry VII, and had been able to
purchase
the fortified manor house of Gwydir around the year 1490.
It became their castle.  His
grandson Morys was the first formally to
adopt the name of Wynn in the 1550’s.

Sir John Wynn made the family one of the
leading families of North Wales in the early 1600’s.
His book The
History of the Gwydir Family
was intended to
assert his claim to an earlier royal ancestry.  His
son Richard was a Royalist who entertained King Charles I at Gwydir in
1645.

However, the Wynn male line came
to an end in 1674.  Sir John Wynn, a
cousin and a substantial landowner in his own right, lived into his
nineties.  But he died without issue in 1719.  Still, there
was yet another Wynn line,
commencing with Thomas Wynn of Bodvean, that was long prominent in
Caernarvon
affairs and was elevated to the peerage in 1776. 

The
Wynns
of Bodewryd in Anglesey claimed an early lineage, although the Wynn
name
in their case did not get established until the early 1600’s.  They lasted at Bodewryd only another
century.  The Wynnes of Copa’rieni in
Flintshire became Wynnes earlier, at the time of Queen Elizabeth.  Four generations of John Wynnes followed, the
last-named being an industrial pioneer who developed the town of
Trelawnyd
around lead mining in the early 1700’s. 

South
Wales  The Gwynne spelling occurred
more in south Wales.  Gwynnes held the
Taliaris estate in Carmarthenshire from the 1550’s; the Gwynnes of
Llanelwedd
were prominent in Radnorshire and Breconshire from the 1630’s; while
the Gwynnes
of Glanbran in Breconshire included Marmaduke Gwynne, an early
Methodist
convert.  By the late 19th century the
largest numbers of Gwynnes were in Glamorgan.


England
.
The
Wynn name from Wales extended into England, from north Wales into
Shropshire, Cheshire and Lancashire primarily.  Gwynn appeared in
Gloucestershire.  Nell Gwynn, the mistress of Charles II, was a
famous denizen of London.

The
Wynnes of Canterbury in Kent were said to have been related to John
Wynne, the
MP for Canterbury in 1356.  Robert Wynne
was a prosperous wool draper in the town who became its mayor in 1596.  Both he and his wife Frances died of the
plague in 1609, leaving all five of their young children orphans.  Their son Peter, who was able to board with
the local tailor, was later made a freemen of Canterbury by his right
of
birth.  His son Robert emigrated to
Virginia and prospered.

Winn in England may not
have had any Welsh connections. This includes the Winns in Cornwall
(such
as those at
Constantine and Wendron in the 18th century) and some of the Winns in
Yorkshire:

  • the Winn baronets of Nostell Priory near Wakefield were from
    London
    (where George Winn had been draper to Queen Elizabeth) and were
    descended from
    a cadet branch of the house of Gwydir
  • while the
    Winns from Thornton Steward
    in
    north Yorkshire were probably home-grown.  They
    occupied Nappa Hall in Askrigg from
    the 1780’s for several
    generations.  
  • as were the Winns from
    Gargrave near Skipton, starting with Thomas Winn who was born there
    around 1767.

Ireland.
Some Welsh Wynne crossed the Irish Channel.
Owen Wynne from a prominent Wynne family in
Merioneth acquired the Hazelwood House estate in Sligo in 1722.  They became large landowners in the
county.  There were six Owen Wynnes out
of seven Wynnes who held the estate from then until 1923
.


America.
  The
first Wynn in America is believed to have
been Captain Peter Wynne who came to Jamestown on the Mary
and Margaret
in 1608.
But he died a year later of fever.  Robert Wynne from
Canterbury
arrived in Virginia in the 1650’s and settled in Charles City county.  He was a landowner and a politician, serving
in the House of Burgesses.
  His
descendants migrated to
North Carolina and Georgia.  Walter F.
Winn was the long-time photographer for the Atlanta
Journal.

There
was an early Welsh contingent from Puleston in Flintshire that came to
America,
starting sometime in the 1670’s.  Dr. Thomas Wynne was a Quaker on
the Welcome with William Penn in 1682.
By the early 1700’s there were Winns in
Virginia as well – Minor Winn in Fauquier county, Colonel Thomas Winn
in Lunenburg
county, and others in Hanover county.
Charles and Louise Wynn’s 1991 book The
Wynns of Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia
covered these later
lines.

There
were
various 19th century Wynne connections between Tennessee and Texas:

  • A.R.
    Wynne,
    the merchant, slave trader and land speculator, had been born in Sumner
    county,
    Tennessee in 1800 (from parents coming from Virginia).
    His son James, nicknamed “Bolivar,” fought in
    the Mexican War and later settled in Washington county, Texas.
  • Richard
    Wynne
    moved from Tennessee to Rusk, Texas as a young boy in the 1850’s.  He later served as sheriff of Rusk county and
    was elected to the state Senate.
  • while
    Buck Wynne who also grew up in Rusk
    county was the forebear of the successful and flamboyant Wynne legal family of Wills Point, Texas.  Their numbers included Toddie Lee Wynne who
    made his fortune in oil with Clint Murchison in the 1930’s.

Canada.  Captain Edward Wynne had led an early English colony to
Ferryland in Newfoundland in 1621.  The
colony grew to 100 by 1625.  But
then Edward Wynne disappeared from history. 
William
Wynn
and his wife Mary were Loyalists from upstate New York who departed for
New
Brunswick in 1783 and later settled in the Niagara region.
 

Australia.   Perhaps the best-known Wynns in Australia have been the
Wynn wine merchants in Melbourne.  Shlomo Weintraub had learnt
wine-making at the family business in Lodz in Poland.  He decided
to escape military service there by fleeing via Bremen in Germany for a
new life in Australia.  On his arrival in Melbourne in 1913 he
quickly anglicized his name to Samuel Wynn.

In 1927 he established Australia Wines Ltd which, by the mid-1940’s,
had become the largest winemakers and retailers in Australia.  His
son David took over the running of the business in 1948 until it was
sold to Allied Breweries in 1972.

 


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Wynn Miscellany

Gwydir Castle and the Wynns.  The first
recorded owners of Gwydircastle in Caernarvonshire were the Coetmores, who were
responsible for building the Hall Range, the earliest
surviving part of the house.

Following the Wars of the Roses, the castle was rebuilt around 1490
by Meredith ap Ieuan ap Robert, founder of the Wynn dynasty and a
leading
regional supporter of King Henry VII. Originally a fortified manor
house,
Gwydir acquired additions in the 1540’s, incorporating reused gothic
building
material from nearby Maenan Abbey.  A turret was added around
this time and Sir John Wynn’s initials can be seen above the main
entrance
in the
courtyard gatehouse along with the date of 1555.  The
castle was
given an Elizabethan porch and gardens in
the 1590’s.

The Wynns were supporters of King Charles I.  John
Williams, his Lord Keeper, stayed at
Gwydir. And the King himself is said to have visited in 1645 as guest
of Sir
Richard Wynn, Treasurer to Queen Henrietta Maria and Chief Groom of the
Royal
Bedchamber.

The
castle has the reputation for being one of the most haunted houses in
Wales,
the “Grey Lady” being the most commonly seen together with the ghost
of a monk said to have been trapped in a tunnel leading from the secret
room
and Sir John Wynn himself.  Judy Corbett’s
2004 book Castles in the Air described some of these
ghosts.

Wynn and Variants in the UK.  Wynn
in the UK is mainly but not solely a
Welsh-origin name.  It comes in many
spelling variations.  Wynn, Wynne, Winn,
Gwynn, and Gwynne are all found today.
The spelling in the 16th century could be interchangeable.
Robert Wynn of Conway in north Wales, for instance, was recorded as
Gwynne, Wynn, and Wynne at various times in his career.

The
spelling had stabilized by the 19th century.  The surname
distribution in the 1881 UK census can give us some
clarity as to where each of these names has been concentrated.  

Wynn and Wynne

Wynn
and Wynne are clearly closely
related.  Wynne is strongest in North
Wales (principally Denbighshire) and extending into Cheshire and
Lancashire.  Wynn was more found in the
English border counties such as Shropshire and Gloucestershire. 

Gwynn and Gwynne

Gwynne has been the more common and has been
mainly found in south Wales, notably in 1881 in Glamorgan.
Gwynn is more the English spelling.  

Winn

This does appear to have different
origins.  The main numbers were to be
found down the East Coast of England, principally in Yorkshire but extending
into Lincolnshire.  There was a small
enclave also in Cornwall, reflecting possibly the Cornish variation on
the
Welsh name.

Reader Feedback – The Winns from Thornton Stewart.  The Winns from Thornton Stewart in north Yorkshire were my lot.  The name I believe comes from Patrick Brompton and I think that these Winns were related to Francis Winn of Prior House in Bedale who was Mayor of Richmond.  The surname was spelt Wynd in Bedale.

There is someone who has said that my Winns owned a coach
with the same crest as the Winns from Nostell Priory (who spelt their
name Gwinn on occasions).  However, this coach story is just
hearsay.

Regards. Julie Brutnell (heavensguide@hotmail.com)

Winville at Askrigg in North Yorkshire.  Winville opposite the Post Office was the residence of George Winn and his wife Elizabeth. George was born in 1808 at Nappa Hall in Askrigg along with his elder
brother John who became the vicar of St Andrews Church in Aysgarth.  George followed the family tradition and
became a solicitor and local councillor, as was his son William.

Winnville is now the White Rose Hotel.

Dr. Thomas Wynne the Barber Surgeon.  Dr. Thomas Wynne, a self-declared doctor or “barber surgeon” as he was called, was a prominent Quaker in north Wales, one who had
been arrested and imprisoned for six years in Denbighshire.
In 1681 he learned about William Penn, came
to London, and was on the Welcome
with Penn to Pennsylvania a year later, acting as his personal
physician.

He
settled in Philadelphia.  His home Wynnestay,
built in 1689, is one of the oldest extant buildings in Philadelphia
(now to be
found near Wynnefield station).

Thomas
Wynne died in Philadelphia in 1692.
Jonathan, a son by his first wife Martha, was his heir and made
his home
at Wynnestay.  Two
Jonathans later the Wynns acquired for
themselves in 1774 a farmhouse in Chester county.

The Wynne Family of Wills Point, Texas.  Buck Wynne was the son of a poor Rusk county farmer from Tennessee who rode into Wills Point, east of Dallas, in 1877 with nothing
but a rifle and a pair of lawbooks in his saddlebags.

Fat Dad, as his grandchildren came to call
him, was the forebear of a flamboyant clan that has given contemporary
Texas such
necessities as the Styrofoam cup (invented by a Wynne on his mother’s
side),
the Cattle Baron’s Ball (in 1973), as well as Texas’s answer to
Disneyland – Six Flags Over Texas opened by Angus
Wynne Jr. in Arlington in 1961.  His son
Shannon is a Dallas restauranteur best known for his Flying
Saucer Draught Emporium
. 

The Winn Family in South Australia.  The Winn
Family arrived in South Australia on the sailing ship Shack-O-Mackson in 1852. Richard Winn was an experienced farmer and
settled at Coromandel Valley.  Their
eldest son Oliver became a butcher, whereas their third son Walter,
born in
1862, took over the family business when he was only eighteen and
became a
baker.  Walter married Margaret Fisher and
they raised four children.

With
four
young children and the bakery and general store, the Winn family had a
busy
life. After returning from the First World War, their son Hector would
take
over the business.   In
1970 the Coromandel Valley and District branch
of the National Trust was offered their building as a museum.

 


Select Wynn Names

John Wynn ap Maredudd who died in 1559 was the
forebear of the Wynn dynasty at Gwydir castle in Caernarvonshire.
Nell Gwynn
, London born, was the long-time
mistress of King Charles II.
Arthur Wynne was the British-born
inventor of the modern crossword puzzle in New York in the 1910’s.
Tony Gwynne was the baseball outfielder of the
San
Diego
Padres who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.
Steve
Wynn
, born Stephen Weinberg, was responsible for the refurbishing
and
building of hotels along the Las Vegas Strip during the 1990’s

Select Wynn and Variant Names Numbers Today

  • 20,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 19,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

 

 

 

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