This Scottish and English habitation name of COWDIN is from any of at least three places so called. The one in Northumberland occurs in the year 1286 as Colden, and is derived from the Old English word COL (char, coal) and DENU (valley) literally meaning the dweller in the valley of the coal. That in East Yorkshire occurs in the Domesday Book of 1086 as COLEDUN, and is from the Old English COLDUN. The place in Kent occurs in the year 1160 as CUDENA and is from the Old English word CUDENN, the dweller at the cow-pasture. The last does not appear to have yielded any surnames; the name is more or less restricted to the north of England, and is also found in Northern Ireland, where it may be of Scottish origin, from places so called near Dollar and Dalkieth, Lothian. The bulk of European surnames in countries such as England and France were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries. The process started earlier and continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the 11th century people did not have surnames, whereas by the 15th century they did. Early records in Scotland mention one Joneta Cowden, heir of William Cowden, who was the burgess of Edinburgh in 1595. Hugo Cawdoun was on an inquest in Edinburgh in 1643. Katherine Cowden and Agnes Cowdon in Tinwald were examined for the Test in 1685. (The Test was an act passed in the Scottish Parliament in 1681, which was practically a repudiation of the Covenant, and an acknowledgement that the King was supreme in all causes "as well ecclesiastical as civil".) Patrick Cowdane appears in Traprainlawend in the year 1689. The burghs of Scotland owe much of their prosperity to the large immigration of foreigners which went on during the 12th and 13th centuries. The original founders of the towns, were in many cases wanderers from Flanders, who brought with them their habits of industry and knowledge of trade and manufacture. Settlers of this description came in great numbers to England in the reign of Henry I (1100-1135) and when Henry II (1154-1189) drove all foreigners out of his dominions they flocked into Scotland, where a more enlightened policy made them welcome.
The associated coat of arms is recorded in
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