Grenfel History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the Grenfel family brought their name to England in the wave of migration after the Norman Conquest of 1066. They lived in one of the many places named Grenville in Normandy. Grenville was a seaport in Lower Normandy. [1]

There are also many places in Normandy called Grainville, which is a place-name derived from the Germanic personal name Guarin, which means guard, and the Old French word ville, which means village or settlement. [2]

Early Origins of the Grenfel family

The surname Grenfel was first found in Buckinghamshire, where they descend from Richard de Grenville who came with the Conqueror in the train of Walter Giffard, Earl of Longeville and Buckingham. He was son in law of Giffard. [3]

Cornwall and Devon is home to the family too as George Grenville of Stowe stated in 1711 in a letter to his nephew: "Your ancestors for at least five hundred years never made any alliances, male of female, out of the western counties: thus there is hardly a gentleman either in Cornwall or Devon, but has some of you blood, as you of theirs."

Here is another account of the family's origin: "The ancient and noble family of Grenville of Stow in Kilkhampton, so much renowned in Cornwall, came into England with William the Conqueror. Richard de Grenville, who first visited this country, and who was a military officer, is said to be a younger brother of Robert Fitzhaman, Earl of Carbill, Lord of Thurigny and Granville in France and Normandy, and to have lineally descended from Rollo Duke of Normandy. Richard de Grenville, on obtaining a settlement in England, married Isabel, daughter of the Earl of Buckingham, and thus became the common ancestor of the Grenvilles in Cornwall, Devonshire, and Buckinghamshire. Those who came into the western parts, took up their primary residence at Bideford, where one of them held three knights' fees in the reign of Henry II. during which period they appear to have had a seat at Stow in Kilkhampton; but at what time this settlement began is very uncertain." [4]

"The manor of Treglasta, which lies principally in Alternon, has its site at Treglasta in this parish. The manors of Halwell and Hendraburnick, were held formerly under Launceston Castle. These, with the manor of Tremeal, partly in this parish and partly in that of St. Juliot, were for some time in the Grenville family, from whom they were alienated prior to 1620." [4]

"[The parish of] Kilkhampton, which is rendered famous by the renowned family of Grenville, to whom it gave residence, and for furnishing to the celebrated Mr. Hervey an occasion to write his 'Meditations among the Tombs,' is situated in the northern part of Cornwall, in the deanery of Trigg Major, and in the hundred of Stratton, from which town it is about three miles and a half distant." [4]

Early History of the Grenfel family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Grenfel research. Another 145 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1165, 1315, 1542, 1591, 1576, 1577, 1596, 1643, 1600, 1658, 1628, 1701, 1661, 1701, 1691, 1693, 1692, 1711, 1707, 1666, 1735 and 1712 are included under the topic Early Grenfel History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Grenfel Spelling Variations

Before the last few hundred years the English language had no fixed system of spelling rules. For that reason, spelling variations occurred commonly in Anglo Norman surnames. Over the years, many variations of the name Grenfel were recorded, including Granville, Granfield, Grandfield, Greenfield and many more.

Early Notables of the Grenfel family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Sir Richard Grenville (1542-1591), an English sailor from Bideford, Devon, sea captain and explorer, Sheriff of Cornwall (1576-1577) and Sheriff of Cork; Sir Bevil Grenville (1596-1643), Royalist soldier in the English Civil War, and Member of Parliament; Sir Richard Grenville (Granville) (1600-1658), 1st Baronet, a Cornish Royalist leader during the English Civil War; John Granville, 1st Earl of Bath (1628-1701), English Royalist statesman during the English Civil War, who was made Lord...
Another 80 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Grenfel Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Grenfel family to Ireland

Some of the Grenfel family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. More information about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


New Zealand Grenfel 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:

Grenfel Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mrs. Grace Grenfel, (b. 1837), aged 37, Cornish settler departing on 20th March 1874 aboard the ship "Northampton" arriving in Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand on 6th June 1874 [5]
  • Miss Grace Grenfel, (b. 1874), aged Infant, Cornish settler departing on 20th March 1874 aboard the ship "Northampton" arriving in Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand on 6th June 1874 [5]
  • Miss Margaretta Grenfel, (b. 1860), aged 14, Cornish settler departing on 20th March 1874 aboard the ship "Northampton" arriving in Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand on 6th June 1874 [5]
  • Miss Mary Grenfel, (b. 1866), aged 8, Cornish settler departing on 20th March 1874 aboard the ship "Northampton" arriving in Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand on 6th June 1874 [5]
  • Miss Matilda Grenfel, (b. 1858), aged 16, Cornish servant departing on 20th March 1874 aboard the ship "Northampton" arriving in Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand on 6th June 1874 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


The Grenfel 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: Frangas non flectes
Motto Translation: Thou may'st break, but shalt not bend me.


  1. ^ 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)
  2. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  4. ^ Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  5. ^ Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 2018, April 30). Emigrants to Lyttelton 1858-84 [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.opc-cornwall.org/Resc/pdfs/new_zealand_assisted.pdf


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