To the Antipodes
From England 

Thurlow Connections

Dedicated to the families of Sarah (Thurley) & Wolton Wigg, William, 
John & Susan (Froment), Jane (Thurley) & Thomas Cole, and their
Descendants in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere who have their origins in 
Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, England as their linkage 

Surname variations of Thurlow

Thurlow | Thurloe | Thurlough | Thurley | Thurly | Thirley | Thirly | Thurleigh

Origins of "our" families

  • Beenham Berkshire, Bethnal Green London, Buckden Huntingdonshire, Bury St Edmunds Suffolk
  • Camberwell London, Cherry Hinton Cambridgeshire, Clerkenwell London, Conington Cambridgeshhire
  • Elsworth Cambridgeshire, Ely Cambridgeshire
  • Fenstanton Huntingdonshire
  • Hilton Huntingdonshire, Holborn London
  • Mile End London, Milton Cambridgeshire
  • Newmarket Suffolk
  • St Ives Huntingdonshire, Swavesey Cambridgeshire
  • Upton Berkshire
  • Woolhampton Berkshire
  • Yelling Huntingdonshire.

Among the proliferation of spellings, "Thurlow" and "Thurley" predominate and appear to have been interchangeable to the extent that some members appear under more than one spelling depending on the source document. My research tells me that the former spelling is more common among those who moved to London or Australia and New Zealand; the latter being retained by those who remained in rural England. We may never know for certain how the different surnames came about but suffice to say that an inability to read or write would have been the underlying reason.

The origin of the family name Thurlow is somewhat obscure. According to one source the name is said to be derived from an old English term meaning Warriors' Burial-mound. Another source makes connections with Thrillauue c1095, John de Thrillowe in Cambridge c1278, Antony Thurlowe in Suffolk c1327 and Thurlow, once again in Suffolk, in 1524. Other spellings that I have encountered during my research of the family tree include Furley, Thurl(e)y, Thirl(e)y, Thurleigh, and Thurloe. Worthy of mention is the name of John Thurloe who served as one of Oliver Cromwell's Ministers during his reign as Lord Protector of England between 1653 and 1658. Also of significance are the many references to Thurloe and Thurlow that lend their names to several landmarks in central London.

  • Thurlow is said to be a locality name: The villages of Little Thurlow and Great Thurlow south of Newmarket on route B1061 are said to be derived from Old English words meaning troop assembly hill.
  • Thurley, also said to be a locality name, is a variation of Thorley in Hertfordshire, reputed to be the home of the first family to be known by that name.
  • Thurleigh, once again a locality name, and meaning a person who hails from the Bedfordshire town/parish of Thurleigh.

In the 21st century when the population is better educated some may find it difficult to comprehend so many variations of spelling, but I think I can say without any doubt, had our ancestors received a contemporary education, they would have at least been able to write their own names rather than relying on sextons and parish clerks who, in most cases, recorded what they thought they heard. As villagers began to travel in search of work, many surnames became distorted and changed by local dialects, heavy accents, speech impediments or illiteracy, all of which, I suggest, have given rise to the many variations. Illiteracy would also explain why we find the mark "X" as a representation of one's signature in so many marriage documents of that era.

Cambridgeshire (CAM), the county where our ancestors lived and died, lies due north of London. It is bounded by Norfolk and Suffolk to the east, Essex and Hertford to the south, Bedford, Huntingdon and Northampton to the west, and Lincoln to the north. The county, as we know it today, now includes the former county of Huntingdonshire (HUN) which features in the early history of our family. Cambridge, the county's principal city is well known for its university, including Kings College Chapel, and Emmanuel, Jesus and Queen's Colleges.

Researching the family tree has raised some questions about our ancestral path but there is evidence to suggest that the family I have linked back to is the right connection. After consulting one or two relatives in England we have agreed on the genealogy that follows. If more conclusive evidence becomes available this will be reviewed. Acting on this premise, William Thurloe (Thurlow) is therefore the point of commencement for the purpose of the essays that follow.

Where did they go to settle?

Not everyone left old mother England, but some did, hoping to make their fortunes on the Australian and New Zealand goldfields. Some did well for themselves, others not quite so well and one might ask where are their descendants today? Most seem to have remained in the antipodes: the nucleus of descendants having scattered themselves throughout New Zealand with the principal concentrations being in Central Otago, with splinter groups in Southland, Canterbury, Wellington and Auckland; others gravitated in smaller numbers to the eastern states of Queeensland and Victoria, and some in Western Australia.

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 © Copyright 2008-2014 Ray & Sheila Thurlow


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Further Reading

Other articles of interest may be found in:

HUSBAND, John c2007, Pubs o’ the South : A Collection of Paintings and Drawings of the public houses of Otago, Dunedin, Central Otago, Southland & Invercargill, Invercargill

MASON, Judy and WILSON, Heather c1989, The History of Education in the Upper Manuherikia Valley: Becks, Cambrian, Lauder Railway, St Bathans, NZ

NICOLSON-GARRETT, Gladys 1977, St Bathans, John McIndoe, Dunedin

St Bathans : An Historic Town, 1977, Dunedin

WILSON, Heather and MASON, Judy c1989, St Bathans and Cambrian 125 Years of Sport and Entertainment, Wilson, Naseby NZ.


Hospitality, NZ August 1987 p46

Pacific Way, NZ July 1990 No. 31

Otago Daily Times, June 20, 1997 pp12-13

Otago Daily Times, December 21, 2001 p17

Otago Daily Times, Weekend, November 27-28, 2004

NZ Today, September 2006 No. 18


Historic St Bathans, a heritage mining site


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