Cumpston Research

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Origins of the name CUMPSTON & COMPTON


The following information was received initially from Robert Smith in 2003 and I am very grateful to him for his collaboration.  Since that time I have undertaken further work on each county seeking CUMPSTON and variants.


The Cumpston(e) Family Name


The name Cumpston(e) also spelt as Compston(e), Cumston(e) or Comston(e) originated in the North West of England.  During the period 1550 to 1799, 240 baptisms (95%) are found in Westmorland, North Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales. Seventy two per cent occur in Westmorland with more than half of these recorded in the parishes of Kirkby Stephen and Brough.


The surname is probably derived from a name given to the people who lived in the remote parts of the Pennines before the Norman Conquest. Danes settled the coastal areas and river valleys of Cumbria in the ninth century.  In the tenth century new invaders, this time Norse speakers from the old Viking settlements in Ireland and the Scottish Isles, fought with and conquered the Cumbrian Danes.  Over time the native Celts would have been assimilated into the Danish/Norse way of life, but semi-independent pockets of Celtic speakers would have survived in the uplands.   The new immigrants may have referred to these people by their name of Cymry (Celtic) adding the Norse word Stain to indicate that they lived in the hilly parts.  The Anglo-Saxons who held sway in Northumbria may have applied the name.  However, this is thought unlikely as there is little historical evidence to suggest that many Saxons settled West of the Pennines.


During the early Middle Ages, the population throughout England adopted surnames. In many cases these were occupational such as Smith or Baker. Others were patronymic, for example, Johnson or Robson, or descriptive such as Fairbrother or Lightfoot.  In some cases people would adopt a name from the district or village where they were born such as Halstead or Townsend.  In the case of the people who lived in the uplands of Westmorland and the Yorkshire Dales most would have adopted descriptive or occupational names.  Others, however, would have used the locality to describe themselves; hence Cymry + Stain becomes anglicized as Cumbre + Stan or Cumpston(e), and probably evolved as a name unique to one or two family groups who lived in a small and remote area.


Now all this does leave one outstanding question which relates to the connection between the Cumpstones of the North West and the surname of Cumpson/Cumson/Comson which was once concentrated in the West Midlands. Whilst there are examples which point to a connection between the two, it is thought that the names evolved quite separately, and is based again on an analysis of the distribution of baptisms covering the period 1550 to 1799.  This reveals that more than 90% of all Cumpsons are recorded in parishes in the West Midlands with heavy concentrations in the Counties of Worcestershire and Staffordshire (75%). Of all the baptisms in these two counties more than two-thirds appear in the registers of the adjacent parishes of Old Swinton (Worcs.) and Kingswinford/Brierley Hill (Staffs.).  Only four Compson baptisms have been found in England north of the Mersey.  Conversely, only twelve stray Cumpstone baptisms are found South of the Yorkshire Dales (four of these relate to a Cambridge family).  


Paradoxically, the two names may have a similar meaning.  Bearing in mind the close proximity to Wales the ancestors of the Cumpsons could have been small settlements of Welsh speakers, who would have described themselves as the Cymry.  Over the centuries this may have evolved by people describing an individual as a son of a Cymry which became anglicized as Cum + son, or Cumpson. The only problem with this is that the Saxons normally referred to the Celtic peoples as the wealisc (modern day Welsh) from the Anglo-Saxon word wealh meaning foreigner.  Examples of surnames derived from this source are Walton and Walcot. The only other explanation is that the name is a patronymic derived from an English surname such as Combe or Comp(ton).


Few persons named Cumpston live today in the Cumbria region.  By the time of the 1881 census many had already moved to the industrial areas of Scotland, Wales, Lancashire and the Midlands.






Starkly impressive Brough Castle stands on a ridge commanding strategic Stainmore Pass, on the site of a Roman fort. Frequently the target of Scots raids, its towering keep dates from c.1200, and more comfortable living quarters were later added by the Clifford family, only to be accidentally burnt following a 'great Christmas' party in 1521. Like so many other castles hereabouts, Brough was restored in the 17th century by the Lady Anne Clifford, traces of whose additions can still be seen.


St Michael's Parish Church, in pretty Church Brough near the castle, displays an exhibition about the region. This living church is open 10am-4pm daily (not English Heritage).

Tongland, Kirkcudbright.  SCOTLAND

The home of Cumpston Castle, although I have failed to find any Cumpstons living there!


"The parish is about eight miles in length from north to south, and varies in breadth from three miles to a half-a mile. It is separated from the parishes of Kirkcudbright and Kelton on the east, by the Dee; from the parish of Twynholm on the west, for two miles, by the Tarff; and on the upper part by two beautiful mountain lochs called Trostree and Culcagrie. The northern boundary is the parish of Balmaghie, from which it is not distinguished by any natural limit, except for half-a mile by a loch called Bargatton...


...Of the two rivers which form the western and eastern boundary, the Tarff is by much the smaller; it has its rise in Loch Whynnion, about fourteen miles from the sea, and after pursuing a very winding course, and presenting a a great variety of channel, it joins the Dee at Cumpston Castle. It is a beautiful, limpid stream, abounding with yellow trout, salmon trout, herling, and occasionally with salmon. In the middle of its course there is a water fall, or rather a succession of waterfalls, called the Linn of Lairdmannoch, between fifty and sixty feet in height, which can be seen from a single point of view.


There is a port at Tongland bridge to which sloops of 30 or 40 tons come regularly, occasionally a small brig imports lime, coal, and bone manure. Exports grain, potatoes, and timber. The lime and coals are brought from Cumberland, the bone manure from Liverpool and Ireland...


The large cattle are all of the Galloway Breed, with the exception of those on three or four farms, where the Ayrshire kind have been introduced, with a view to the dairy system..."


(Rev. Dugald Stewart Williamson, Minister) New Statistical Account, Blackwood

With thanks to GENUKI for this item.

Click to enlarge photo



This interesting name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational surname from the numerous places so called in Berkshire, Hampshire, Somerset, and Surrey, to name but a few. The derivation which seems the most probable, due to the fact that it is still a popular descriptive address, is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "cumb", a narrow valley, with "tun", a farm, thus "valley farm". However, there is a possibility that the derivation is from a Norman personal name "Comin", which was introduced after the Conquest of 1066, and is found in Scotland as the surname "Cummings". This name is recorded in America as early as 1623, when one Frances Compton is listed as "living" in Virginia. Henry Compton (1805 - 1877) who is amongst several namebearers listed in the "Dictionary of National Biography", was a comedian who appeared on the stage in both England and Ireland, and was acknowledged to be the best Shakespearean Clown of his epoch. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gladwin de Cumtuna, which was dated 1167 - 1175, in the "Early Yorkshire Charters", during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "The Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.



Contone (xi cent.).

Compton parish, 2 miles north-west of Godalming, 4 miles west by south of Guildford, is about 2½ miles from north to south, 1½ miles from east to west, and contains 1,995 acres. The northern part of the parish extends over the narrow chalk ridge of the Hog's Back, the main part is in the Green Sand, with a considerable outcrop of the Atherfield Clay in the eastern part. On the west the land rises towards the high ground about Puttenham Heath. Compton Common lies east of the village. Northeast of the village, south of the Hog's Back, are two eminences in the sand, one Budburrow Hill, now crowned by the mortuary chapel, the other Rowbury Hill, near the house of the late Mr. G. F. Watts, R.A., called Limnerslease. These are apparently referred to by Aubrey (1673) and Coxe (circa 1726) as Robin Hood's Butts, and connected with an apocryphal story of a French invasion, and defeat of the invaders. The time indicated is that of the invasion of Louis of France in 1216, but there was no battle at Compton, and the hills are natural. It is said that skeletons were found here, but if so they were only interments of probably Anglo-Saxon date. Neolithic flint implements and flakes are not uncommon on the north side of the parish.From: 'Parishes: Compton', A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3 (1911), pp. 16-24. URL:  Date accessed: 22 August 2009.



Gladwin de Cumtuna 1167-1175 Yorkshire (Calendar of Charter Rolls)


William de Compton 1212 Pl ( Pipe Rolls)


Nicholas de Cumpton 1263 FFL ( Feet of Fines Lincolnshire)


Richard Compton 1376 FFEss (Feet of Fines Essex)



The Ancient Parish of COLLINGHAM

[Transcribed information from the early 1820s]

"COLLINGHAM, a parish-town, in the lower-division of Skyrack; 1 mile S. of Wetherby, 6¼ from Tadcaster, 9 from Leeds, 12¾ from Otley, 15¼ from York. Pop. 286. The Church is a vicarage, dedicated to St. Oswald (see Churches for photograph), in the deanry of the Ainsty, value, £3. 11s. 5½d. Patrons, the Trustees of Lady Betty Hastings."


"CUMPTON, a farm-house in the township and parish of Collingham; 2½ miles S. of Wetherby, 6 from Tadcaster."

The Coat of Arms was kindly supplied by John Hill, Brenda's husband.  It was produced by the Historical Research Centre 2005.  


I have added it to this website for interest only and not for any genealogical importance.


It gives a very short overview of some of the places that early CUMPSTONs lived, but I have found no evidence of a Coat of Arms for any members of this family.  


The College of Arms

states specifically that 'coats of arms do not belong to surnames.' (see the relevant FAQ on this website).


It suggests also that the name was introduced into the USA around 1852 by Thomas Cumpston in

Philadelphia, whereas I have many entries well before this date.