Show ContentsBrowyer History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Browyer came to England with the ancestors of the Browyer family in the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Browyer family lived in Devon. The name comes from the Norman area of Brovera or Brueria, now Breviare, near Caen, in Normandy. In its more obvious Old English derivation, the name indicates the bearer is a professional brewer of beers or ales, and stems from the root breowan, of the same meaning.

Early Origins of the Browyer family

The surname Browyer was first found in Devon where they were found "at the time of the Domesday Survey and founded Tor Abbey." [1] Another source provides more detail. "Of 32 Praemonstratensian monasteries in England, that of Torre, founded and endowed by William de Brewer in 1196, was by far the richest; it was dedicated to Our Holy Saviour, the Virgin Mary, and the Holy Trinity. " [2]

"In 1196, William de Briwere founded the great Abbey of Torre. De Briwere was a man of mark. There is a tradition that he was born on the shores of Torbay ; there is another that he was found exposed on a heath, as an infant, and thence acquired his surname. Prince makes him out to be the descendant of Richard Bruer, a companion of the Conqueror. Whatever his origin, he won wealth and fame. In some way not clear he succeeded to the manor of Torre ; and he held prominent positions in the Courts of Henry II., Richard I., John, and Henry III. a statesman of ability and trust. " [3]

Henry de Briwere is generally thought to be one of the first recorded there, held five fees in Devon during the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154.) [4]

"The Abbey of Dunkeswell, [Devon] sheltered among the neighbouring hills, was founded in 1201 by William Lord Briwere. Two years previously, he had acquired the manor of Dunkeswell, and this formed part of the endowment of the Abbey, with Briwere's lands in Wolford and at Uffculme. Dunkeswell was colonized by monks from Ford, and the convent of that place was liberal of its gifts to the daughter house. There were also other donors, so that the Abbey had a very fair start in life. Dunkeswell was chosen by the founder as his burial-place in 1227, and it is presumed that his wife was also buried there. Not long since, two stone coffins were found within the ruins of the Abbey Church, one containing the bones of a man, and the other those of a woman ; and these are believed to have been the remains of Lord and Lady Briwere. All the bones were placed in one of the coffins, and reinterred." [3]

"Buckland Brewer, [Devon] has name from the Briweres; and, by the gift of William Lord Briwere, formed part of the endowments of the Abbeys of Dunkeswell and Torre. " [3]

"Tawstock used, in the common talk of the countryside, to be regarded as having the finest manor, the richest rectory, and the most stately residence at any rate in North Devon. William Lord Briwere held it in the reign of Henry II., and gave it to his daughter on her marriage with Robert, Earl of Leicester. " [3]

William Brewer, Briwere or Bruer (d. 1226), was Baron and judge, the son of Henry Brewer (Dugdale, Baronage), who was "sheriff of Devon during the latter part of the reign of Henry II, and was a justice itinerant in 1187. He bought land at Ilesham in Devon, and received from the king the office of forester of the forest of Bere in Hampshire. When Richard left England, in December 1189, he appointed Brewer to be one of the four justices to whom he committed the charge of the kingdom. During the reign of John, Brewer held a prominent place among the king's counsellors. His name appears among the witnesses of the disgraceful treaty made with Philip at Thouars in 1206. He died in 1226, having assumed, probably when actually dying, as was not infrequently done, the habit of a monk at Dunkeswell, and was buried there in the church he had founded. During the reigns of John and Henry III he acquired great possessions. " [5]

Another noted source gives insight into St. Breward or Simon Ward, Cornwall and the aforementioned William Brewer. "According to popular opinion, as well as historical records, this parish derived its name from a warlike bishop, whose name it bears, and by whom its church was founded. William Brewer, who was consecrated Bishop of Exeter in 1224, was the son of Lord Brewer, Baron Odecomb in Somersetshire." [6]

Early History of the Browyer family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Browyer research. Another 171 words (12 lines of text) covering the years 1200, 1611, 1626, 1626, 1655, 1624, 1611, 1611, 1744, 1822, 1744, 1776, 1780, 1743, 1724 and 1726 are included under the topic Early Browyer History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Browyer 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 Brewer, Bruer, Bruyere, Brewyer, Breuer, Brower and others.

Early Notables of the Browyer family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Thomas Brewer, born in 1611 who was educated at Christ's Hospital until 1626, and brought up as a performer on the viol. was educated at Christ's Hospital [App. p.564 "till 1626"], and brought up as a performer on the viol. He flourished in the time of Charles I, the Protectorate, and part of the reign of Charles II. He was the composer of several excellent fantasias for the viol; and many rounds and catches of his are printed in Hilton's 'Catch that Catch can.' He was the composer of the pretty three-part song...
Another 272 words (19 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Browyer Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Browyer 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 Browyer or a variant listed above: Daniel Brewer who settled in Barbados in 1680; John Brewer and his wife Marie, who came to Boston Massachusetts in 1632; Obadiah Brewer, who was on record in New England in 1647.

  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  3. Worth, R.N., A History of Devonshire London: Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, E.G., 1895. Digital
  4. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  5. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  6. Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print on Facebook