From FHM issue 153
What’s in a name? Wilkinson
Wilkinson belongs to that large group of surnames deriving from the first name William. Following the Conqueror’s appearance in 1066 this remained the most popular name in England for many years, and gave rise to numerous variations. One was the diminutive ‘Wilkin’, which produced the patronymic surname being looked at here, as well as Wilkins. The most common name from the William-related group in the UK is Williams.
Wilkinson is very much a northern English surname (Wilkins, on the other hand, is the variation more common in the south). The maps below show that at the end of the 19th century, the north west of England was the place that Wilkinsons were most likely to be found. Though by 1998 the name has spread to some extent throughout England (though hardly at all to Scotland), this focus remains, with most growth being in northerly counties.
Recent surveys have shown Wilkinson to be the 72nd most common surname in England and Wales. It does not break into the top 100 in Scotland, however, and is only 631st in the US.
Four Wilkinsons have won the Victoria Cross (three Thomases and an Alfred) and one, Geoffrey, won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1973. Another three have won Olympic gold medals. One of these, George, won three himself, at the 1900, 1908 and 1912 games, and is considered the world’s first great water polo player.
The famous firm Wilkinson Sword was founded by Henry Nock in 1772, making guns. After his death the business passed to his son-in-law James Wilkinson, who renamed the firm and moved into sword production. The company has made swords for the Queen – including for her Golden Jubilee – as well as being the manufacturer of the original Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, legendary weapon of the British commandos.
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