AN EAST KENT FAMILY : THE BURVILLEs
The printed version consists of 500 A4
pages book plus a CD. The latter contains the family boxes (with birth,
marriage & death details), chapter references and a group of
Burville-related images which have been collected over the years. A CD
was used as printed family boxes and references would have doubled the
number of printed pages. The research reveals where and how those with
the surname lived and died, the influence of historical events on their
lives and, based on evidence provided, the most likely origin of the
surname. The period covered is from the 12th century, i.e. as early as
they have been found, up to the early 20th century.
In addition to skilled craftsmen, tradesmen, seamen and agricultural
workers the Bailiwick includes many examples of wealthy landowners and
highly educated people. James, a Queens’ College Cambridge graduate and
Six Preacher of Canterbury Cathedral, lived at the beginning of the 17th
century when the family was thriving and “going places”. During the
Commonwealth period he and his family were obliged to flee to Ireland,
but returned after the Restoration. His descendants included university
graduates, clerics, lawyers and commissioned officers in the armed
The spelling of surnames was to a great extent at the whim of the
recorder, especially for the many who were illiterate and could not
specify the spelling of their surnames. In 17th century property
dealings, even Six Preacher James of Northbourne and his wealthy father
carpenter William of East Studdal had their name recorded as “Burvill
alias Burfield”. These alternative forms of the surname were used
intermittently down the centuries for members of the all three Bailiwick
Sets. In the Eastry~Tilmanstone area the surnames Burfeld and Barfeld
can be traced back to at least the 13th century
Members of the Bailiwick spread from East Kent to other parts of England
and Wales, sometimes taking the surname Burwell and being lost to the
Bailiwick. Others went further to North America and Australia where they
prospered with roads being named after them and, in Northern Australia,
the geographical feature known as Burvill Point. For some the motivation
to emigrate was the threat or actuality of the workhouse.
The popular claims of Huguenot origin lack supporting evidence. However,
the early 17th century immigrant Huguenot merchant and draper David
Berville of Dover was doubtless the genuine article but no connection
with the Bailiwick has been established. An Anglican family from
Folkestone did worship at the Black Prince’s Chantry in the crypt of
Canterbury Cathedral, where their children were baptised as Huguenots,
but they later returned to the Church of England.
There are four major sources of English surnames and all have been
considered as a provenance for Burville. The most common origin at just
over a third are names associated with a place and these are categorized
as Locative. In East Kent the name atte Well, which over the years often
migrates to Atwell or just Wells, was a common name which clearly refers
to a person living by or near a well. If one does a naive analysis of
the elements of Burville various possibilities offer themselves, such as
a fortified (bur) house or settlement (ville).
The second most common source is Relationships covering approximately
one third of surnames. The patronyms, such as Johnson and Stevenson, are
obvious examples but in Kent it was also quite common for a tenant to
take the name of his landlord and for an apprentice to take the name of
his master. So the Norman de Auberville family, who arrived with the
Conqueror and held a lot of property in Kent, including castles, could
have been a source for Burville.
Occupations account for one sixth of surnames. Smith and Shepherd are
obvious examples. A barvel was a leather apron used by washerwomen and
fishermen suggesting that perhaps the name has an occupational origin. A
barbel was “a sort of petticoat worn by Folkestone fishermen”. The two
words are from the common root of barm-fell, a term for a leather apron.
The remaining one eighth of surnames has a Nickname source of which
Short and Long are a matching pair: whether the original owners were
well described is debatable as often the opposite was the case. An
individual, who had difficulty controlling their saliva, could have been
given the name Barvel as it also refers to a bib.
From the evidence the author identifies the only credible source for the
origin of the surname.
AN EAST KENT FAMILY : THE BURVILLEs features some basic maps and naïve
illustrations by the author and includes a comprehensive set of indexes
to facilitate access to the information contained in both the book and
the CD. When all hardcopy versions of the book are sold a complete CD
version will be offered.
The book’s structure, following the introductory chapters, takes the
reader to most locations inhabited by members of the Bailiwick. A
journey is made around the Kent coast, with excursions inland, before
visiting other parts of the British Isles including London. After
visiting North America and Australia there is a return to East Kent
where the author identifies the origin of the family name.
Those interested in this research can contact author Dr Peter Burville
by email or on 01304-853267 (441304853267).