The name Smallwood is of Anglo-Saxon/English origin and is considered topographical as it derived its name from the town found in Cheshire named Smallwood whose name evolved from the medieval name Smaleuuod. Smaleuuod is a compound of two medieval English words, “smael” which translates to “thin” or “slight” and “wudu” which translates to “wood”.
Surnames in Britain prior to the Norman conquest were largely unheard of. In the small settlements and villages which existed during earlier times, residents found little need for surnames as everyone in these communities new each other and a given name would usually suffice. However, with the passage of time, population growth and expansions of communities as villages gave way to towns and cities, it became necessary to add a qualifier to a people's names to distinguish them, one from another. Therefore one person may have been identified by their given name plus their occupation while another may have been identified by their given name and one of their parent's names. The introduction of surnames by the Norman aristocracy after the invasion seemed to be the next logical step in this evolution. There was a boundless supply from which surnames could be formed, in addition to the use of patriarchal/matriarchal names or reference to the individuals occupation, there were things such as defining physical traits, a familiar geographical location or a topographical landmark found near the individuals home or birthplace, the name of the village in which the person lived, and so much more. Soon, surnames would come not just to represent an individual but whole families.
There often exists variations in spelling of many surnames, as with many given names which date back to the early centuries. The variation in spelling of both given and surnames during this time period can be attributed to a lack of continuity regarding guidelines for spelling which was compounded by the diversity of languages in use in European countries at this time. The variations in the spelling of the surname Smallwood include but not limited to: Smallwood; Smalwood; and Smalewood among others.
The earliest record of any variation of this surname is that of William Smalwud which appears in the Essex tax rolls from 1220. These rolls, were a series of census and tax records kept by the English Treasury by order of King Henry III, with the oldest dating back to the 12th century. They hold the distinction of being the oldest consecutive set of records detailing English governance in the United Kingdom. These records span a period of over 700 years and have proven invaluable to researches over the years. Additional records John del Smalwode listed in London church records dated 1332. The Yorkshire tax rolls show records of Elizabeth Smallwode in 1379 and Randle Smallwood's will filed in Chester in 1592.
The first recorded immigrant to America bearing the surname or any variation of the spelling was Randall Smallwood who arrived in 1623 and settled in Virginia. John Smallwood landed and settled in Virginia in 1637. Hester Smallwood landed and settled in Maryland in 1650 and Mathew Smallwood arrived and settled in Virginia in 1652.
There were also many immigrants to the British Commonwealth countries of: Australia; Canada; South Africa and New Zealand bearing the surname Smallwood. Joseph Smallwood landed in 1783 and settled in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Thomas Smallwood and his sons George and John landed in 1858 and settled in South Australia. Henrik Smallwood was registered as having a small farm in Witwatersrand South Africa in 1886. Edward Smallwood landed in 1843 and settled Wellington, New Zealand.
Worldwide, the highest concentration of people with the surname Smallwood are found in the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. By state, the largest percentile of those with the surname Smallwood live in Georgia and Kentucky.
There are many persons of note who bear the surname Smallwood. One such person is Sir Denis Graham Smallwood, a British office and senior Royal Air Force Commander. Smallwood attended the King Edward VI School after which he joined the Royal Air Force. In 1941, during World War II he was appointed Officer Commanding of his squadron. After the war, Smallwood decided to make the military his career. Throughout his service, he received many promotions, some of his
accomplishments include being made Station Commander RAF Biggin Hill, he was promoted to Group Captain, Plans for the Air Task Force, he was made Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Operations), he became the Senior Air Staff Officer at Headquarters, and finally Commander-in-Chief, UJ Air Forces. In addition to the many advancements he made during his career, he also received the following awards, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire, Knight Commander of the Order of Bath, Distinguished Service Order, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.