Grenfell History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Grenfell is a name that was carried to England in the great wave of migration from Normandy following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Grenfell family 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 Grenfell family

The surname Grenfell 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 Grenfell family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Grenfell 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 Grenfell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Grenfell Spelling Variations

Before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago, spelling variations of names were a common occurrence. Elements of Latin, Norman French and other languages became incorporated into English throughout the Middle Ages, and name spellings changed even among the literate. The variations of the surname Grenfell include Granville, Granfield, Grandfield, Greenfield and many more.

Early Notables of the Grenfell 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 Grenfell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Grenfell family to Ireland

Some of the Grenfell 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.


Australia Grenfell migration to Australia +

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

Grenfell Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Richard Grenfell, aged 38, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "William Money" in 1849 [5]
  • Anne Warren Grenfell, aged 32, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "William Money" in 1849 [5]
  • Mary Anne Grenfell, aged 12, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "William Money" in 1849 [5]
  • Richard Grenfell, aged 9, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "William Money" in 1849 [5]
  • Nicholas Grenfell, aged 3, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "William Money" in 1849 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Grenfell 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:

Grenfell Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Thomas Grenfell, (b. 1858), aged 20, Cornish farm labourer departing on 7th September 1878 aboard the ship "Opawa" going to Timaru, Canterbury, New Zealand arriving in port on 7th December 1878 [6]
  • Miss Jenifer Grenfell, (b.1811), aged 66, Cornish settler departing on 19th November 1877 aboard the ship "Piako" going to Bluff or Otago, New Zealand arriving in port on 5th February 1878 [6]
  • Mr. John Grenfell, (b.1853), aged 25, Cornish farm labourer departing on 29th August 1878 aboard the ship "Waitara" going to Bluff or Otago, New Zealand arriving in port on 3rd December 1878 [6]
  • Mr. John Henry Grenfell, (b.1867), aged 10, Cornish settler departing on 19th November 1877 aboard the ship "Piako" going to Bluff or Otago, New Zealand arriving in port on 5th February 1878 [6]
  • Mrs. Mary Grenfell, (b.1856), aged 22, Cornish settler departing on 29th August 1878 aboard the ship "Waitara" going to Bluff or Otago, New Zealand arriving in port on 3rd December 1878 [6]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Grenfell (post 1700) +

  • Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell KCMG (1865-1940), English medical missionary to Newfoundland and Labrador, eponym of Grenfell Cloth and Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 1997
  • George St. Leger Grenfell (1808-1868), British soldier of fortune who later fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War, leader of a notorious plot to seize control of parts of the Northern U.S
  • Francis Octavius Grenfell VC (1880-1915), English recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • George Grenfell (1849-1906), Cornish missionary and explorer in the Congo Free State
  • Stephen John Grenfell (1966-1985), English former footballer who played from 1985 to 1994
  • Bernard Pyne Grenfell (1869-1926), English scientist and Egyptologist, member of The Queen's College, Oxford
  • John Pascoe Grenfell (1800-1869), British officer of the Empire of Brazil, nephew of Pascoe Grenfell and grandfather to General Sir John Grenfell Maxwell [7]
  • Pascoe St Leger Grenfell (1761-1838), British businessman and politician from Marazion, Cornwall, Member of Parliament for Great Marlow (1802-1820) and for Penryn (1820-1826) [7]
  • Pascoe St Leger Grenfell (1798-1879), British businessman and patron, and a key backer of the South Australian Company, son of Pascoe Grenfell, eponym of Grenfell Street, Adelaide
  • John Granville Grenfell, Australian Gold Commissioner who was wounded by bushrangers near Narromine on December 7, 1866; he died 24 hours later from his wounds, eponym of Grenfell, New South Wales
  • ... (Another 8 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


The Grenfell 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. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) "WILLIAM MONEY" 1848-49. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1849WmMoney.htm
  6. ^ Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 2018, April 30). Emigrants to other ports, 1872 - 84 [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.opc-cornwall.org/Resc/pdfs/new_zealand_assisted.pdf
  7. ^ Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 30 June 2020


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