Burnel History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Burnel is a name whose history is entwined with the ancient Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. It was a name for a person with brown hair or a dark complexion. The surname Burnel is derived from the Old English word burnel. This word comes from the Old French word brunel, which is a diminutive of the Old French word brun. Normally a nickname, Burnel was also used as a personal name.

Early Origins of the Burnel family

The surname Burnel was first found in Shropshire where they were a family of great antiquity. They held a family seat at Acton Burnell in the county of Salop where they were found as early as 1087 according to Dugdale. They also acquired Holgate in the same shire and one of the first on record was Lesire le Burnell, whose son Robert Burnell (1239-1292) was Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1275 and Lord Chancellor of England from 1274-1292. He was "descended from a knightly family in Shropshire, and was born at their seat of Acton Burnell, near Shrewsbury. After he became famous the monks of Buildwas forged a genealogy which traced his family back to the Conquest." [1]

Another branch of the family was found in the parish of Sibthorpe in Nottinghamshire. "This place was anciently of some importance, and was the residence of the Burnell family, of whose spacious mansion, however, no remains now exist." [2]

The parish of Acton-Burnell is of great importance to the family too. "This place, which is of considerable antiquity, is on a branch of the Roman Watling-street. It takes the adjunct to its name from the family of Burnell, of whom Robert, Bishop of Bath and Wells, and Lord High Chancellor in the reign of Edward I., had a castle in the parish, of which there are still some remains. Nicholas Burnell, a distinguished warrior in the reign of Edward III., was born and buried here." [2]

Early History of the Burnel family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Burnel research. Another 48 words (3 lines of text) covering the years 1571, 1542 and 1641 are included under the topic Early Burnel History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Burnel Spelling Variations

Before the last few hundred years, the English language had no fast system of spelling rules. For that reason, spelling variations are commonly found in early Anglo-Saxon surnames. Over the years, many variations of the name Burnel were recorded, including Burnell, Burnhill, Byrnell and others.

Early Notables of the Burnel family (pre 1700)

Distinguished members of the family include Edward Burnell ( fl. 1542), English professor of Greek at Rostock, Germany. [1] Henry Burnell fl. 1641), the dramatist, belongs to the Anglo-Irish family of Burnell, which acquired considerable estates in Leinster...
Another 36 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Burnel Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Burnel family to Ireland

Some of the Burnel family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 33 words (2 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


New Zealand Burnel migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Burnel Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • John Burnel, aged 25, a farm labourer, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Dallam Tower" in 1875


The Burnel 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: Caritas fructum habet
Motto Translation: Charity bears fruit.


  1. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  2. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.


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