Show ContentsKempthorne History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Kempthorne history begins in Cornwall, a rugged coastal region in southwestern England. Quite distinct from Devon, the adjoining county, Cornwall had its own spoken language until the late 18th century. The Kempthorne history began here. The manner in which hereditary surnames arose is interesting. Local surnames were derived from where the original bearer lived, was born, or held land. Unlike most Celtic peoples, who favored patronymic names, the Cornish predominantly used local surnames. The Kempthorne family originally lived in Devon at Kempthorne in the parish of Beer-Ferris (now Bere Ferrers.) 1 2

"The family name (which was originally Ley) was derived from an estate so called in the parish of Beer-Ferris, co, Devon." 3

Early Origins of the Kempthorne family

The surname Kempthorne was first found in Devon, but this village has long been lost and the majority of the family claim neighbouring Cornwall as their homeland. "Tonacombe, [in the parish of Morwinstow, Cornwall] which was formerly the seat of a family called Kempthorne alias Lea, was carried in Marriage to the Waddons, towards the conclusion of the seventeenth century." 4

"At Widcombe, [Devon] here was born, in 1620, Admiral Sir John Kempthorne, who first showed his mettle by engaging in the frigate Mary Rose a squadron of seven Turkish men-of-war, and sinking or capturing the whole. He was made Admiral for his distinguished services in 1665, under the Duke of York, and took part in several engagements with the Dutch, as well as that at Solebay. Subsequently one of the Commissioners of the Navy, he died at Portsmouth in 1679. " 5

Early History of the Kempthorne family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kempthorne research. Another 163 words (12 lines of text) covering the years 1500, 1585, 1602, 1620 and 1679 are included under the topic Early Kempthorne History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Kempthorne Spelling Variations

Cornish surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The official court languages, which were Latin and French, were also influential on the spelling of a surname. Since the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent in medieval times, and scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings of their surname in the ancient chronicles. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into England, which accelerated and accentuated the alterations to the spelling of various surnames. Lastly, spelling variations often resulted from the linguistic differences between the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. However, they became increasingly Anglicized, and Cornish became extinct as a spoken language in 1777, although it has been revived by Cornish patriots in the modern era. The name has been spelled Kempthorne, Kempthorn, Kimpthorne, Kimpthorn and others.

Early Notables of the Kempthorne family

Notable amongst the family at this time was

  • Richard Kempthorne, Archdeacon of St. Helena

New Zealand Kempthorne 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:

Kempthorne Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Kempthorne, aged 32, a miner, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cartvale" in 1874
  • Kezia Kempthorne, aged 28, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cartvale" in 1874
  • Bessie A. Kempthorne, aged 9, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cartvale" in 1874
  • Miss Bessie A. Kempthorne, (b. 1865), aged 9, Cornish settler departing on 25th June 1874 aboard the ship "Cartvale" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 11th October 1874 6
  • Mrs. Kezia Kempthorne, (b. 1846), aged 28, Cornish settler departing on 25th June 1874 aboard the ship "Cartvale" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 11th October 1874 6
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Kempthorne (post 1700) +

  • Patricia Kempthorne (b. 1950), American First Lady of Idaho (1999-2006) and the wife of Gov. Dirk Kempthorne
  • Dirk Arthur Kempthorne (b. 1951), American politician, 49th United States Secretary of the Interior (2006-2009), 30th Governor of Idaho (1999-2006)
  • John Augustine Kempthorne (1864-1946), English Anglican Bishop, the 2nd Bishop of Hull (1910-1913), Bishop of Lichfield (1913-1937)
  • John Kempthorne (1775-1838), English clergyman and hymnwriter, son of Admiral James Kempthorne
  • Thomas Whitelock Kempthorne (1834-1915), Cornish-born, New Zealand manufacturing chemist and businessman who co-founded Kempthorne Prosser in 1870 in Dunedin
  • Sampson Kempthorne (1809-1873), British architect who specialized in the design of workhouses, before his emigrating to New Zealand
  • Richard Kempthorne, New Zealand politician, Mayor of Tasman (2007-)
  • Leonard Stanley Kempthorne CBE (1886-1963), New Zealand Anglican Bishop of Polynesia (1922-1962)
  • Oscar Kempthorne (1919-2000), British statistician and geneticist from St Tudy, Cornwall
  • Allin Kempthorne, British comedy actor, writer and entertainer from Penryn, Cornwall

  1. Harrison, Henry, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary Baltimore: Geneological Publishing Company, 2013. Print
  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. Lower, 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. Worth, R.N., A History of Devonshire London: Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, E.G., 1895. Digital
  6. Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 2018, April 30). Emigrants to Wellington 1872-1880 [PDF]. Retrieved from on Facebook