I expected the explanation of the surname Weldon to be straightforward, but spelling variations complicate the issue. The obvious conclusion is that it is derived from the place of that name in Northamptonshire. This indeed seems to have been the source of the surname, for it was often recorded in Midland counties in the 1881 census. However, the national distribution of the name in 1881 shows that the 1206 Weldons were scattered thinly in Midland and Northern England (with the usual grouping in London). There was no obvious concentration of the name at that time. It seems to have had more than one place of origin.
One possible explanation for the wide distribution of the Weldons in the North is that they were recent immigrants in search of work in the industrial districts, for the published hearth tax returns of the 1660s for the West and East Ridings of Yorkshire, County Durham and Derbyshire record no Weldons. But this doesn’t seem likely, for they were scattered thinly.
One possibility is that some of the families named Weldon started off as Welton. Welton is a common minor place- name in various counties, including Cumberland, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, the East Riding and Somerset. The Nottinghamshire hearth tax returns of 1664, for example, name two households named Welten in the parish of Wellhaugh.
Another possible variant spelling is Wilden, which was also scattered widely in 1881.
But it seems to me that the most likely explanation for the scattered Weldons in the North and the Midlands might be that their name is a variant of Wheldon. The 505 Wheldons in 1881 were found principally in North Yorkshire, County Durham and Tyneside. The Durham hearth tax returns of 1666 record six households of Wheldons. The North Riding hearth tax returns of 1673 record three households of Whildons, one Wheldon, one Weldon (in Richmond) and four Wildens.
We should also consider Wheeldon. The 1881 census named 1476 people with this name, with a strong concentration in and around the Peak District (475 in Derbyshire, 286 Staffordshire, 194 Lancashire and 153 in Stockport). This surname is derived from a small place called Wheeldon in the parish of Hartington on the Derbyshire-Staffordshire border. Numerous Wheeldons are recorded in the Derbyshire hearth tax returns of 1670.
The scattered distribution of the Weldons in 1881 suggests that the name arose in a variety of ways that can be resolved only by detailed genealogical research and perhaps with the help of genetics. Nevertheless, the distribution maps suggest useful lines of enquiry.