Select Unwin Surname Genealogy

Unwin was an important figure in Anglo-Saxon legend in England in the time before the Norman conquest.   He appeared as a warrior king, as in this later version of the Waldef story. 

"At the time after Arthur there reigned in Norfolk a certain king called Attalus.  In Suffolk ruled Unwyn, king of Thetford, who fought in single combat against Attalus.  But the two were reconciled without the intervention of a mediator."

The name Unwine developed as a personal name and later as a surname.

There are two Old English words from which this name might have derived.  The first was the personal name Hunwin, from hun meaning "bearcub" and wine meaning "friend."  The second was the Old English unwine, meaning "unfriend" or "enemy."  Both Hunwine and Unwine appeared in 13th century renderings of the name.

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England.  The 19th century surname distribution suggests two groupings of the Unwin name - first in East Anglia stretching down to London and second in the north, mainly in Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Derbyshire. 

East Anglia.  The name seems to have originated in East Anglia.  Later sightings in that region included:
  • the Rev. Morley Unwin in Huntingdon in the 1760's.  His son William was a friend to the poet William Cowper.  He was killed in a riding accident.
  • George Unwin who rented Baythorne Hall in Halstead, Essex in the late 19th century.  He started a grain business there.  The family still live at the hall.
  • and Unwin Seeds, the company first begun at Impington near Cambridge by William Unwin selling his sweet pea pod seeds.  The firm celebrated its centenary in 2003 by publishing Colin Hambridge's The Unwins Century.       
The Rev. Morley Unwin had come from an Unwin family long established at Castle Hedingham in Essex where they were clothiers.  Thomas Unwin of this family lived in some style at Black Notely Hall.  His sons were a clothier, a brewer, and Jacob who went on to found the Gresham Press.

Unwin thereby became a name in the London book publishing world.   Jacob Unwin had started the Gresham Press in London in 1826.   And Stanley Unwin of this family founded the publishing house of Allen & Unwin there in 1914.  His son Rayner, who as a young boy had recommended the publication of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, followed him at the helm.

Unwin's involvement in publishing predated Jacob Unwin.  Matthew Unwin was Birminghamís first printer in the early 1700ís and another Matthew Unwin, probably his son, Leicesterís first printer and active in the book trade from 1727 to 1743.
Elsewhere.  Then there were the Unwins further north.  Unwins in the Ravenscliffe area of North Staffordshire date from late Elizabethan times.  Simon Unwyn was High Sheriff of Staffordshire in the 1670's.  Unwin appeared in the parish records of Firbeck and other villages near Rotherham in the early 1700's. 

An Unwin family came from London and settled in Sutton in Ashfield in Derbyshire in the 1760's.  Samuel Unwin built a cotton mill, based on Arkwight's revolutionary new design, in the town in the 1770's. 

"The machinery of this factory was originally propelled by oxen and horses, which, however, were soon superseded by a large water-wheel when the concern was considerably extended.   Later, the supply of water being insufficient, the works were put in motion by steam." 

Unwin genealogy in England appeared in Philip Unwin's 1937 book Unwiniana.

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

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Stanley Unwin was a British publisher, founder of the Allen & Unwin publishing house in 1914.
Stanley Unwin, sometimes billed as Professor Stanley Unwin, was a British comedian and comic writer and the inventor of his own language "Unwinese."

Select Unwins Today
  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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