Swinnerton History

The original history of the family was written by the Hon and Revd Canon G. T. O. Bridgman, a noted Staffordshire historian, and was published as Part Two of Volume VII (1886) of the William Salt Archaeological Society's Collections for a History of Staffordshire, entitled

An account of the Family of Swynnerton of Swynnerton and elsewhere in the County of Stafford

The Revd Charles Swynnerton contributed the last 43 pages culled from the many letters and documents he had acquired during his researches into his own branch of the family, either by correspondence or on his few furloughs from his duties as an army Chaplain in India.

There is one quotation from the book which has always amused the family. It says, "During the troublous times which succeeded the accession of King Edward II, and for nearly the whole of that reign, the law was practically in a state of abeyance, and the whole county of Stafford was at that time a scene of unbridled license ... The Inquisitions which were held in Staffordshire between 1323 and 1326 brought to light deeds of rapine and violence in which nearly all the leading families of the county were involved. Among these the Swynnertons were conspicuous."

Interest in the family history lapsed after his death in 1928, but was revived by Iain Swinnerton in 1952 who founded the Swinnerton Society in 1974. The society became a registered charity in 1986 - the first One-Name Society to be so recognized. However, the burden of administering this eventually became too onerous, owing to the reduction in membership caused by the deaths of many of the early members, and it was replaced by the present Swinnerton Family Society in April 2010.

History of the Swinnerton Name

The first bearer of the name appears in the records first as Robert Fitz Aelen but later appears as Robert de Swynnerton (1166-90). This was the period when surnames were first being used instead of patronymics.

However, the name has been spelled in many ways over the generations. Until the introduction of compulsory education in 1880, it is estimated that less than 40% of the population could sign their name, let alone read and write. Consequently, when people went to church for a baptism, marriage or burial, the name was written down as heard - a local accent or bad cold could transform the spelling into something quite different! This, of course, equally applied to registrars after 1837.

So today, we have eight variations still in use in the global family - Swin(n)erton, Swynnerton, Swenerton, Swenarton, Swinarton, Swinnington, and Sinnerton.

We can account for some of these. The Swynnertons are descendants of the Revd Charles Swynnerton and of Frederick Swynnerton. The Revd Charles Swynnerton was born and baptized Swinnerton but decided to change the spelling in later life - he persuaded two of his brothers, Joseph and Frederick, to also change, but his other three brothers, Mark, Robert, and Godfrey, refused. There are also two modern instances of this happening, one in England and the other in the USA, the latter adopting the mediaeval 'de Swynnerton'.

Swenerton and Swenarton originated in Ireland. They first appear some years after a Cromwellian Captain, Thomas Swinerton, (also listed in the same roll as Thomas Swinnerton!) was granted land in Ireland in lieu of pay. The names were later exported to America. Swinarton was similarly exported to Canada, and Swinnington was the result of a man from the Shropshire / Welsh borders and local accent moving to the industrial Midlands, although it also appears at one period in an American family.

As to Sinnerton - some deny any connection but there is documentary proof of a man born as Swinnerton but buried as Sinnerton, his descendants using the latter name ever after. The Revd Charles Swynnerton related in his notes that some old Staffordshire people told him in the 1870s that their grandparents pronounced the name of the village without the 'w' (as in 'sword').

35% of our members do not bear any of those names but they are descended from someone who did. Membership is open to anyone interested in the name and family.

Some notable bearers of the Swinnerton name are shown on the Names page.

What's in a Name? - some variations on our name found over the centuries