Show ContentsBessell History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Bessell was brought to England by the Normans when they conquered the island in 1066. It is a name for a person involved in the measuring and trading of corn. The name springs from the Old English root bushel, which is a measure of volume which is still in use today. [1]

Another derivation of the name suggests that it stems from the Norman French root bichelle, which means hind or deer. Which derivation is applicable depends on the geographic roots of the particular family group in question.

Alternatively the name could have originated at Bossall, a parish, partly in the wapentake of Birdforth, but chiefly in that of Bulmer, North Riding of Yorkshire. "The village was formerly large, but at present consists of only three or four houses: foundations of buildings have been discovered in an adjoining field, thence called 'Old Bossall.' "[2]

There is good reason to believe the family originated in Devon. [3] Here the chapelry, and formerly a market-town of Newton-Bushell is found in the hundred of Teignbridge. "This place received its distinguishing appellation from Robert Bussell or Bushell, foster-child and kinsman of Theobald de English Ville; he was made lord of the manor by Henry III., in 1246, and granted to the inhabitants a charter for a market." [2]

Early Origins of the Bessell family

The surname Bessell was first found in Somerset where Roger Buissel was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. [4] Years later, Alan Buscel was a Yeoman of Cheshire c. 1140 and Richard Bussell was listed in the Pipe Rolls of Bedfordshire in 1200. The Assize Rolls for Somerset in 1243 included Richard Buschel. [1]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 included: Geoffrey Buscel, Norfolk; Reginald Buscel, Norfolk; William Bushel, Huntingdonshire; and John Bussel, Cambridgeshire. [5]

Another source notes that "Stephan Bussel man (i.e. the servant of Bussel)" was registered in Somerset, 1 Edward III (during the first year of the reign of King Edward III) as was Robert Busshel. [6]

The Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379 includes: Margareta Bosell; Johannes Bussell; Laurencius Bossell; and Johanna Bossell. [5]

Early History of the Bessell family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bessell research. Another 115 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1793 and 1807 are included under the topic Early Bessell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bessell Spelling Variations

Anglo-Norman names tend to be marked by an enormous number of spelling variations. This is largely due to the fact that Old and Middle English lacked any spelling rules when Norman French was introduced in the 11th century. The languages of the English courts at that time were French and Latin. These various languages mixed quite freely in the evolving social milieu. The final element of this mix is that medieval scribes spelled words according to their sounds rather than any definite rules, so a name was often spelled in as many different ways as the number of documents it appeared in. The name was spelled Bissell, Bichell and others.

Early Notables of the Bessell family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Bessell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Australia Bessell migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Bessell Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Charles Bessell, English convict from Gloucester, who was transported aboard the "Andromeda" on October 16, 1826, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia [7]
  • Mr. Thomas Bessell, English convict who was convicted in Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England for 14 years, transported aboard the "Clyde" on 20th August 1830, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [8]
  • Mrs. Caroline Bessell, (b. 1819), aged 39, Cornish general servant departing from Plymouth on 31st December 1857 aboard the ship "Coldstream" arriving in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on 13th April 1858 [9]
  • Mr. William Bessell, (b. 1848), aged 10, Cornish settler departing from Plymouth on 31st December 1857 aboard the ship "Coldstream" arriving in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on 13th April 1858 [9]
  • Mr. Charles Bessell, (b. 1853), aged 5, Cornish settler departing from Plymouth on 31st December 1857 aboard the ship "Coldstream" arriving in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on 13th April 1858 [9]

Contemporary Notables of the name Bessell (post 1700) +

  • Howard Weston "Ted" Bessell Jr. (1935-1996), American Primetime Emmy Award winning television actor and director, best known for his role as Donald Hollinger in the TV series That Girl (1966–1971)
  • Liam Bessell, American actor, known for Untenanted (2014) and Standing Still (2015)
  • Brigadier-General William Weston Jr. Bessell (1901-1977), American Commanding Officer Antilles Department (1946-1947) [10]
  • Edna Ida May Bessell MBE (b. 1946), née Tovey, English former international lawn bowler, two-time bronze medalist, winner of four national singles titles representing Somerset
  • Leonard Hubert "Bert" Bessell (1917-1981), Australian politician from Whitemore, Tasmania, elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly from 1956 to 1976
  • Brigadier General Alfred Joseph Bessell -Browne CB, CMG, DSO (1877-1947), Australian Army colonel and temporary brigadier general in the First World War
  • Eric James Bessell (1923-1979), Australian politician from Launceston, Tasmania, Senator for Tasmania (1974-1975)
  • Peter Joseph Bessell (1921-1985), British Liberal Party politician, and Member of Parliament for Bodmin in Cornwall from 1964 to 1970

  1. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  3. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  4. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  5. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  6. Dickinson, F.H., Kirby's Quest for Somerset of 16th of Edward the 3rd London: Harrison and Sons, Printers in Ordinary to Her Majesty, St, Martin's Lane, 1889. Print.
  7. State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Andromeda voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1826 with 147 passengers. Retrieved from
  8. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 19th February 2021). Retrieved from
  9. Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 3rd May 2018). Retrieved from
  10. Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2011, October 6) William Bessell. Retrieved from on Facebook