Select Walpole Surname Genealogy

The Walpole surname came from the Walpole place-name at Marshland near the Wash in Norfolk.   Walpole, recorded as Walepol in a Saxon charter in 1050, derived from the Old English words welle and pol meaning “a pool surrounded by a wall.”  According to the 1868 National Gazetteer, Walpole was situated by a Roman sea-wall.

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Select Walpole Ancestry

England.   Norfolk was the county with the highest number of Walpoles in the 1881 UK census. 

The forefather of the Walpole family in Norfolk is thought to have been Reginald de Walpole who lived at Walpole in the early 1100’s.  A Walpole line established itself a century or so later at Houghton and they became merchants in King’s Lynn who rose to gentry status by early Tudor times. 

However, because they were Catholics, they dropped out of public life under Elizabeth and were all but extinguished as a family.  Some of them had become Jesuit priests – including Henry Walpole the martyr who was executed in York in 1595 in the barbaric fashion of being hung, drawn and quartered.

The Walpole line did survive and eventually prospered through the only Protestant branch at Houghton.  This line, the line of the Sir Robert Walpole the future Prime Minister, began four generations earlier with Calibut Walpole in the late 1500’s.

These Walpoles were pre-eminent in England during the 1700’s:
  • Sir Robert Walpole, who might be considered Britain’s first Prime Minister, held that position for over twenty years – from 1721 to 1742.  Created the Earl of Orford, he used his wealth to build his palatial home at Houghton Hall.
  • whilst his youngest son Horace Walpole was the celebrated writer, art historian, man of letters, and Whig politician later in the century.  He made his home at Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, the neo-Gothic house he had built in the 1750's overlooking the Thames.
Charlotte Walpole was an illegitimate niece of Horace Walpole.  She enjoyed a short career on the London stage in the 1770’s before moving to France where she was recruited as an agent and spy for the royalists.  Her activities had no success despite her spending considerable sums of her fortune on her missions.

Among later Walpoles were politicians, army officers, and clergymen.  Somerset Walpole was an Anglican priest in New Zealand and New York before being appointed Bishop of Edinburgh in 1910.  His son Hugh Walpole was a popular English novelist of the 1920’s and 1930’s. 

Sir William Walpole moved into real estate in the 1930’s which later proved highly profitable.  The Walpole Estate had an estimated £7.5 billion in assets in 2012.  The holdings of the Walpole Estate are held by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Sir William Walpole.

Ireland.  William Walpole was an English Quaker who came to Laios (then Queen’s county) in the late 1600’s and settled in the Mountmellick area.  Later Walpoles did well in the linen industry.  Edward Walpole invested its profits in the nid-19th century into ornamental gardens at Mount Usher in county Wicklow.  These gardens remained with the Walpole family until 1980.

There were other Walpoles in Leitrim from the 18th century.

  The following two Walpoles who came to America were from Ireland:
  • Mathew Walpole from Leitrim came to New York in 1816, followed by his two sons Martin and Mathew a year later.  The family settled in Morgan county, Ohio.
  • while Richard Walpole arrived in 1836 and farmed at Schenectady in upstate New York.  His son Thomas ran a general truck and express business in Oswego.
Australia.  Henry Walpole from Little Harrowden in Northamptonshire came with his family to South Australia on the Bolivar in 1850.  Henry built the Bolivar Hotel in Burton and ran it from 1854 to 1866.  He died at Kapunda in 1875.

Select Walpole Miscellany

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

Select Walpole Names

Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister, held that position for over twenty years – from 1721 to 1742.
Horace Walpole
was a celebrated writer, art historian, man of letters, and Whig politician in the mid/late 1700’s.

Hugh Walpole
was a popular English novelist of the 1920’s and 1930’s who subsequently fell out of favor.

Select Walpoles Today
  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in Norfolk)
  • 1,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 1,300 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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