Recorded in many spelling forms including Culwen, Curwen, Kerwen, Kerwin, Kervyn, and Kerven, and often confused with the famous Irish surname Kirwan, this is an Anglo-Scottish surname of ancient and confusing origins. It is locational and derives from the village of Colvend, originally Culewen, on the mouth of the River Urr, in Kircudbrightshire, in Scotland. In the spelling of Curwen and its derivatives, the surname is English and Cumbrian, but is believed to also originate from the Scotland. The place name meaning and hence the surname is obscure, but is probably a development of the Olde English pre 7th century 'col wincel' or similar, the cold place! Being situated as it is on the mouth of a river, this would seem to be a logical explanation. Locational surnames were usually 'from' names, but in Gaelic regions the opposite applied, thus giving rise to the development of the 'clans' in the post medieval period. In this case examples of the surname recordings from those ancient times include Gilbert de Culewen, a charter witness for the Abbey of Holyrood in the year 1262, and Sir Thomas Culwenne, also a charter witness in 1289. In England Gilbert de Colwenn is recorded in Cumberland in 1332, and Robert Curwen of Yorkshire is recorded in the Poll Tax rolls for that county in 1379. Later recordings take from surviving church registers include: Joyce Kerwyn, who married Richard Tompson at St Helen's Bishopgate, London, on January 13th 1580, Alice Kervyn, who married John Watkinson at St Mary Magdalene, London, on December 19th 1588, and Catherine Kerwin, who married Nicholas Brown, at St Botolph's Bishopgate, also London, on July 7th 1766.
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