This ancient and distinguished surname, with over fifty entries in the "Dictionary of National Biography", and having no less than sixty Coats of Arms, is of Anglo-Scottish origins. It is either an occupational name for a fuller, or a locational name from a place called Walker in Northumberland. If occupational it derives from the pre 7th Century word "wealcere", and describes the work of the fuller to scour and thicken raw cloth in a large vessel containing a water mixture by trampling on it. Job descriptive surnames denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and became hereditary when a son followed the father into the same skill or business...
Walker (Variants: Waker) The origins of the Walker surname lie with the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. This was the regular term for the occupation during the Middle Ages in western and northern England. It has been used as a translation in Scotland of Gaelic Mac an Fhucadair ‘son of the fuller’.
An English and Scottish occupational name for Fuller deriving from the Old English welcrere, ‘one who trampled cloth in a bath of lye or kneaded it, in order to strengthen it’, derivative of wealcan ‘to walk,tread’. From Middle English walkere.
A fuller would scour and thicken raw cloth by beating it and tramping it in water. In the North of England, fullers’ earth is called ‘walker’s clay’ and a fulling-mill is called a ‘walk-mill’. In Scotland, to walk, still means to full cloth and in the north of England and south of Scotland a fulling-mill is still called a walk-mill. This name may signify either a fuller or an officer whose duty consisted in walking or inspecting a certain space of forest ground.
An early bearer of the surname was Willim Walker, 1580 in IGI (Selston, Notts).
An English convict from Nottinghamshire, William Walker was transported aboard the "Ann" in August 1809, settling in New South Wales, Australia.
Mary Edwards Walker, one of the earliest American feminists was known for wearing men’s clothes and later served in the American Civil War as a nurse. She established a women’s colony in 1897 known as ‘Adamless Eden’.
In 1891, the general population was widespread especially in Northern England, Midlands and Scotland. There were 86,727 occurrences in England and Wales and a further 14,035 recorded in Scotland.
In 1881, Nottinghamshire was a top county in the UK with 2,496 occurrences with 639 residing in the Nottingham St Mary district. In the South East of England, Kent was also a top county recorded with 1,775 occurrences. In the same year, the most common occupation in the UK for Walker was Farmer, along with Coal Miner and Labourer, which were reported jobs as the top 3 jobs worked. A less common occupation was Agricultural Labourer.
Geographically, there are many name related Walker locations, including Walker Fold, Walkerburn, Walkeringham, Walkerith, Walkering, Walker’s Green and Walkerton in the UK.
1881, 1891 Census
1881 Census in Kent
1881 Census in Nottinghamshire
Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890
The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016
1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain
1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain