The surname Docwra originated from the Cumberland villages of Dockray, one of which is in Matterdale near to Penrith, and the other is not far from Wigton.

It is generally thought that the Matterdale village was the origin of most Docwra surnames, although there was an old farm house called Dockray Hall in the other village.

In Penrith there is a building which is claimed to be the original house or hall of the Docwra family there, whilst several miles away in Grasmere there is a Docwra Cottage.

In 1409 a Roger Dockwra was appointed incumbent of the Parish of Burton - he was vicar until his death in 1437.

At some time in the 14th century, people who used the name de Dockwra or de Dockeray moved southwards into Westmorland, and by around 1400 were found living in Kendal. Just to the north of the town was Dockwray Hall, which was the family seat up until the early 17th century when it passed out of the family by marriage. The Hall was demolished some time in the mid-19th century, but its site is clearly shown on early maps of the town. The Docwra family also had a town house in Stricklandgate, Kendal: almost on the site where the GPO now stands.

A younger branch of the Kendal family of Dockwras moved south again, and settled in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. The reason for this migration seems to have been the wool trade, it being deemed wise to have someone trustworthy to hand for the Great Stourbridge Fair.

At various times members of the family moved to London or elsewhere, and we have found instances of a family group in Norfolk, Berkshire, and Bedfordshire, whilst in Yorkshire there was a significant number of Docwras to be found until the last century.

The variant Dockwray seems to be peculiar to the North-East of England, with examples in several villages and towns and a particularly close connection with South Shields.

The variant Dockree is to be found in Manchester and London mainly, whilst Dockerills/Dockrills and Dockerells/Dockrells can mostly be located in records of Essex and Cambridgeshire.