NOTES ON SURNAMES (HULL) 31
KERWIN The experts who take note of this name make it a variant of the Cumbrian surname Curwen. I have yet to see evidence of a connection between Curwen and Kerwin, but it is a possible origin.
Earliest references to Kerwin that I’ve seen place it in the south of England. There is also a mysterious surname, Kyrven that is mentioned in Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, anno 1537; Robert Kyrven, a leading citizen of Coventry.
Notices I’ve collected for the name in Hull suggest that some local Kerwins may have had an Irish, Kirwan, origin. For example, the register of Holy Trinity church records the marriage in 1820 of John Kerwin and Bridget Fitzpatrick. This couple are probably identical with John Kirwan and Bridget Fitzpatrick who had four children baptised at St. Charles Catholic church after its opening in 1829.
Other Irish Kerwins occur in the 19th century census returns; for example, Patrick Kerwin an Irish-born labourer living in Middle Street, West End, in 1861.
The spelling Kerwin occurs in the civil registers for the Hull district from 1875, but the spelling Kirwin occurs from 1849 (i.e., the years following post-famine Irish emigration), and Kirwin is a variant of Kirwan in Ireland.
None of these instances prove an Irish origin for Hull Kerwins, certainly not for Kerwins elsewhere. There is likely to be another origin, whether an altered spelling of Curwen or an Old English given name with the -win component that occurs in Goodwin, Unwin, etc. Win means friend, unwin, enemy.
The Irish surname Kirwan, Kirwin, was in its original Irish form Ó Ciardhubháin (modern Ó Ciarabháin), a family famous as one of the fourteen “Tribes of Galway”, the fourteen merchant families who dominated the city, and provided all its mayors and aldermen. The first Kirwan in Galway was William who settled there in 1488. His younger son, Patrick, was Warden of Galway city c. 1500. William’s elder son was the ancestor of a long line of aldermen of the city.
Curwen was the name of an English family of the Anglo-Scots border. The name comes from a place name of the Scottish side of the border, now called Colvend, but once called Culewen, as was the family.
Gilbert de Colwenn in Cumberland 1322.
Robert Curwen in Yorkshire 1379.
Sir Henry Curwen was sheriff of Workington, Cumberland, in the reign of James I.
Addendum, 30.4.13: it appears that there is, or was, a minor Norfolk place name, Kerwin or Kerwen, viz –
“Aliva or Avelina le Mareschall was living in the 34th of Henry III, when a fine was levied between Maud de Belhous, and Aliva of the fishery of Whytford, and the moiety of the fishery of Kerwin in Tudenham Faldgate, (that is North Tudenham,) which Aliva granted to belong to Maud, so that neither she nor her heirs should take any reeds therein, or have any right of common in Kerwen …”
(From: ‘Mitford Hundred and Half: Hokering’, An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: volume 10 (1809), pp. 228-231. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk)