This is an English surname. It is locational and originates either from the village of Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, then part of the county of Hampshire, or possibly from an area called Freshwater, in Pembrokeshire in South Wales, or from some now "lost" medieval place, which was renowned locally for its "fresh water". Over three thousand surnames of the British Isles are known to have originated from now lost sites, so whilst unusual, this is by no means a unique situation. The famous Victorian etymologist, Canon Charles Bardsley writing about this name in the year 1880 said that "he could find no trace of the surname in the county of Hampshire" and that he therefore concluded that it had to come from a lost village.However more modern experience of name research, suggests that it is quite common for a locational surname not to appear in its original homeland area at all, particularly as they were names were usually given to somebody as easy identification, after they moved away to somewhere else. Many surnames for instance are recorded in the city of London, but clearly originate from far away, where they do not appear in the modern lists at all. In this case the first recording is about as far away as it was possible to get, being in the county of Norfolk. There a John Freshwater was the rector of Little Thorp, in the year 1371.
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