Bretnor History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms
Bretnor is an ancient Norman name that arrived in England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Bretnor family lived in Essex. The name is a reference to the French province of Brettagne or Brittany. Families from this area largely consisted of the descendants of Celtic tribes who were originally forced to flee ancient Britain from the Roman Tyrant, Maximus, around 384 AD, and settled across the Channel. When the Romans left, the settlement remained, and carries the name to this day. From about 950 onwards, the Dukes of Brittany became closely related to the Dukes of Normandy, and even accompanied them at Hastings in 1066. Many of the Brettagne families who were granted land by William, Duke of Normandy had come in a complete circle, settling again on their former homeland in Powys, on the English- Welsh border.
Early Origins of the Bretnor family
The surname Bretnor was first found in the Domesday Book of 1086 where "no less than nine of this name appear: all of them probably Breton knights that had followed the fortunes of Alain-le-Roux or his kinsmen. Alured Brito held of the King a barony of twenty-two lordships in Devonshire: Gozelin another in Bucks, Gloucester, and Bedfordshire; Oger one in Leicester and Lincoln; Rainald one in Sussex; Tihel one in Essex and Norfolk; Waldeve one in Lincoln and Cheshire; and Maigno or Manno Brito one in Bucks and Leicestershire. Two others, Roger and William, were mesne-lords in Somerset and Huntingdon." 
"The manor of Kenardington [in Kent] formed a portion of the lands assigned by William the Conqueror for the defence of Dover Castle, and came by marriage in the reign of George I. to the Breton family, with whom it has since remained. " 
The name occurred many times throughout the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273: John de Brytaygn in Cambridgeshire; Giffard le Bretun in Buckinghamshire; Hugo le Bretun in Suffolk and more. The Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 listed Alicia de Britten; Elias de Britton; and Ricardus Britton. 
John le Breton (d. 1275), was Bishop of Hereford and was chosen bishop about Christmas 1268, being then a canon of Hereford, and was consecrated 2 June 1269. For about two years before this he was a justice of the king's court. He died 12 May 1275. 
Ranulph Brito or Le Breton (d. 1246), was Canon of St. Paul's and is first mentioned in the year 1221 as a chaplain of Hubert de Burgh. "During the administration of his patron he stood high in the favour of Henry III, and became the king's treasurer. " 
William Briton or Breton (d. 1356), was an early English "theologian, described as a Franciscan by all the literary biographers. No fact is known of his life." 
Early records of Warwickshire also found the family in the hamlet of Marston. "This place, anciently called Breton's Mannour, was held by Guido Breton in the reign of Henry IV.; the manor has since gone with that of Wolstan." 
Early History of the Bretnor family
This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bretnor research. Another 322 words (23 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1295, 1164, 1273, 1273, 1296, 1275, 1545, 1626, 1499, 1607 and 1618 are included under the topic Early Bretnor History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Bretnor Spelling Variations
Multitudes of spelling variations are a hallmark of Anglo Norman names. Most of these names evolved in the 11th and 12th century, in the time after the Normans introduced their own Norman French language into a country where Old and Middle English had no spelling rules and the languages of the court were French and Latin. To make matters worse, medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, so names frequently appeared differently in the various documents in which they were recorded. The name was spelled Breton, Britain, Britayne, Briton, Brittain, Brittaine, Brittan, Britten, Brittenie, Brittin, Britting, Britton, Brittone, Brettain, Bretaine, Bretayne, Brettin, Bretin, Brettan, Brettinie, Brettony, Brittany, Brettany, Britteny, Brittiny and many more.
Early Notables of the Bretnor family (pre 1700)
Outstanding amongst the family at this time was John de Breton (died 1275), medieval Bishop of Hereford, royal justice and sheriff, generally attributed to the term "Britton," the earliest summary of the law of England, written in French; and Nicholas Breton (1545-1626), English poet and novelist, from an old family settled at Layer-Breton, Essex. "His grandfather, William Breton of Colchester, died in 1499, and was buried there in the monastery of St. John. His father, also William Breton, was a younger son, came...
Another 82 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Bretnor Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the Bretnor family to Ireland
Some of the Bretnor family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 35 words (2 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the Bretnor family
Because of this political and religious unrest within English society, many people decided to immigrate to the colonies. Families left for Ireland, North America, and Australia in enormous numbers, traveling at high cost in extremely inhospitable conditions. The New World in particular was a desirable destination, but the long voyage caused many to arrive sick and starving. Those who made it, though, were welcomed by opportunities far greater than they had known at home in England. Many of these families went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name Bretnor or a variant listed above: Widow Breton and son who settled in Charles Town [Charleston], South Carolina in 1732; J. Breton settled in New Orleans in 1820; Elizabeth Breton settled in New York in 1820.
Related Stories +
The Bretnor Motto +
The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.
Motto: Cassis tutissima virtus
Motto Translation: Virtue is the safest helmet.
- ^ Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 1 of 3
- ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
- ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
- ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print