Recorded in several forms including Penvarne, Penvarden, and the usual Penwarden, this is an English and Cornish surname. It originates from Penwarne near Mawnam and Mevagissey in the south of the county, or possibly from a lost hamlet or single farm apparently near the town of St Austell originally called "pen-gwernen" or similar. These places all have a similar meaning of the place (pen) by the alder trees. Locational surnames are usually "from" names. That is to say names given to people after they left their original homes to live somewhere else. As throughout the centuries spelling was at best erratic, and local dialects very thick, most such names then developed variant spelling forms. However in Cornwall and other Celtic and sometimes Gaelic regions, locational surnames were often applied to all the people in a particular place. This "development" usually in the 17th century, totally negated the very purpose of surnames and lead to the creation of the occupational nicknames such as Penwarden, the butcher, or whatever. Early examples of the surname recording taken from surviving Cornish church registers of the 16th century onwards include: Thomas Penwarden, at Marhamchurch, on November 27th 1588, Austice Penvarne who married Robert Carter at Poundstock, on January 24th 1642, and Vasula Penwarden, who was christened at Poundstock, on April 1st 1649.
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