Trevelyan History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Cornwall, one of the original six "Celtic nations" is the homeland to the surname Trevelyan. A revival of the Cornish language which began in the 9th century AD has begun. No doubt this was the language spoken by distant forebears of the Trevelyan family. Though surnames became common during medieval times, English people were formerly known only by a single name. The way in which hereditary surnames were adopted in medieval England is fascinating. Many Cornish surnames appear to be topographic surnames, which were given to people who resided near physical features such as hills, streams, churches, or types of trees, many are actually habitation surnames. The name Trevelyan is a local type of surname and the Trevelyan family lived in Cornwall, at the manor of Trevelyan, in the parish of St. Veep.

Treville St., Plymouth (mentioned in the Corporation books of 1494-5 as "Trevyllys-strete"), commemorates an old merchant family long resident there. [1]

Early Origins of the Trevelyan family

The surname Trevelyan was first found in Cornwall where this "Cornish family traced to Nicholas de Trevelyan living in the reign of Edward I, whose ancestors were of Trevelyan, in the parish of St. Velap, near Fowey, [in Cornwall] at a still earlier period." [2]

Another reference states "in 1273 Felicia, wife of William de Bodrugan, confirmed to Andrew, Trevelyan and Cumi and to Nicholas de Trevelyan her son." [3] Continuing, "Trevelien was [in] 1086 part of the great barony held by Offels from the Earl of Cornwall." [3]

Little Shelford in Cambridgeshire was home to another branch of the family. "In the chancel of the church is a monument to Sir John de Treville, a Knight Templar, and lord of the manor, with his figure in a recumbent position: a skeleton encased in lead was dug up near the altar in 1824, the hair of it being in a perfect state." [4]

"Basil, or Basill, [in the parish of St. Cleather] hath for many ages been the seat of the worshipful family of the Trevillians, or Trevelyans. Respecting this family a tradition uniformly prevailed, that in a very remote period, when that tract of land which once formed the country of Lyonesse near Penzance was inundated, either by the submersion of the ground, or the violent encroachment of the sea, an ancestor of the Trevillians who resided in these parts, mounted on a white horse, continued to buffet the waves until he safely-reached the continent of Cornwall. To commemorate this singular preservation, the event is said to have given the family arms, which are 'In a field gules, a demi-horse, argent, issuing out of the waves of the sea, azure.' " [5]

"The family of Trevillian or Trevelyan, resided for several ages in Cornwall, having a seat at Trevelyan, in St. Veep, and another at Basil. In the reign of Edward IV. they removed into Somersetshire, in consequence of a marriage with the heiress of Whalesborowe, who possessed Nettlecombe in Somersetshire." [5]

We did find this interesting entry about the Treville variant: "Edward I. granted lands at Helston 'by the tenure of grand sergeantry to William de Treville, on condition of his bringing a fish hook or iron crook and a boat and net, at his own proper costs and charges, for the King's fishing in the lake of Helston (Loo Pool), whenever the King should come to Helston, and as long as he should tarry there. From this I conclude that this William de Treville either had been or was Keeper of the royalty of this lake or pool by inheritance and held one Cornish acre of land, that is to say, one hundred and eighty English acres, in Eglesderry by the tenure of Serjeancy for that purpose." [5]

The Trevilles were seated at Ethy or Tethe in the parish of St. Winnow. They continued for about four hundred years longer. Richard de Trevill occurs in Bucks 1194-98 (Rotul. Curiae Regis). Saier de Trivilla witnesses Robert de Stuteville's grant to Wendling Abbey, Norfolk (Mon. Angl.). "The family of Treville possessed Rosemaund, Herefordshire. Of these, Alexander Treville (younger brother and heir of Baldwin, heir of Richard, heir of Baldwin), is stated to have had 'fayre lands in the counties of Hereford and Norfolk temp. Edward I."[1]

Alec Trevelyan (006), also known as Janus, was a fictional character and the main antagonist in the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye.

Early History of the Trevelyan family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Trevelyan research. Another 145 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 148 and 1481 are included under the topic Early Trevelyan History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Trevelyan 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 Trevelyan, Trevelion, Trevelian, Trevillian and others.

Early Notables of the Trevelyan family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Trevelyan Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Trevelyan migration to the United States +

An inquiry into the early roots of North American families reveals a number of immigrants bearing the name Trevelyan or a variant listed above:

Trevelyan Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • George Hamilton Trevelyan, who was naturalized in California in 1898

Australia Trevelyan migration to Australia +

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

Trevelyan Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • John Trevelyan, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Phoebe" in 1847 [6]
  • George Trevelyan, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Macedon" in 1849 [7]
  • Sarah Trevelyan, aged 18, a servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "South Sea"
  • Elizabeth Trevelyan, aged 26, a cook, who arrived in South Australia in 1858 aboard the ship "Confiance" [8]

New Zealand Trevelyan 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:

Trevelyan Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Francis Trevelyan, aged 20, a labourer, who arrived in Hawkes Bay aboard the ship "Renfrewshire" in 1878
  • Miss Agnes Trevelyan, (b. 1859), aged 18, Cornish servant departing on 29th September 1877 aboard the ship "Renfrewshire" going to Hawkes Bay, New Zealand arriving in port on 4th January 1878 [9]
  • Mr. Francis Trevelyan, (b. 1857), aged 20, Cornish general labourer departing on 29th September 1877 aboard the ship "Renfrewshire" going to Hawkes Bay, New Zealand arriving in port on 4th January 1878 [9]
  • Miss Harriet Trevelyan, (b. 1855), aged 22, Cornish general servant departing on 29th September 1877 aboard the ship "Renfrewshire" going to Hawkes Bay, New Zealand arriving in port on 4th January 1878 [9]
  • Edmund Trevelyan, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Maraval" in 1880
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Trevelyan (post 1700) +

  • Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan (1797-1879), English naturalist and geologist, the eldest son of Sir John Trevelyan, 5th Baronet, of Nettlecombe, Somerset
  • Laura Kate Trevelyan (b. 1968), English BBC anchor/correspondent based in New York City
  • Julian Trevelyan (1910-1988), English painter and etcher
  • Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan (1807-1886), British colonial administrator of India, Governor of Madras, fourth son of George Trevelyan (1764–1827), Archdeacon of Taunton
  • Humphrey Trevelyan KG GCMG CIE OBE (b. 1905), Baron Trevelyan, a British diplomat and author
  • Walter Raleigh Trevelyan FRSL (1923-2014), British author, editor, and publisher and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
  • John Trevelyan CBE (1903-1986), Secretary of the Board of the British Board of Film Censors from 1958 to 1971
  • George Macaulay Trevelyan OM CBE FRS (1876-1962), British historian and academic, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1898 to 1903, 6th Chancellor of Durham University (1950-1957)
  • Sir George Lowthian Trevelyan (1906-1996), 4th Baronet, a British educational pioneer and a founding father of the New Age movement
  • Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan (1870-1958), 3rd Baronet, a British politician and landowner, President of the Board of Education in 1924
  • ... (Another 2 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

The Trevelyan 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: Tyme tryeth troth
Motto Translation: Time tests faith

  1. ^ Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 3 of 3
  2. ^ Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.
  3. ^ 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)
  4. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  5. ^ Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  6. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) PHOEBE 1847. Retrieved from
  7. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) The MACEDON 1849. Retrieved from
  8. ^ South Australian Register Tuesday 30th November 1858. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Confiance 1858. Retrieved
  9. ^ Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 2018, April 30). Emigrants to other ports, 1872 - 84 [PDF]. Retrieved from on Facebook