A locative surname.

The Bradburn surname is of a type known as “locative”, which means it has its origin in the name of a place (see below). Other surname types include those based on an occupation (Smith, Cooper, Fletcher) or a personal characteristic (Long, Short, White, Brown) or the name of a parent (Williamson, Roberts, Hughes) or a topographical feature (Hill, Marsh, Wood) {B1}.
Locative surnames are often the easiest to trace back to their roots as they may have had only one place of origin. If this was a manor or even a farmstead then perhaps only one family may have taken and passed down the name. On the other hand, occupational surnames like Smith or Brewer may have had multiple origins wherever that trade was carried on and so the precise origin of any family bearing that name may be impossible to locate.

Spelling variations.

It is only in the last two hundred years that the spelling of surnames has stabilised to the extent that we now expect the surname we have inherited to be spelled in the same way whenever it is written down. For the six hundred years before that, most of the holders of the surnames were illiterate and so the priest or lawyer who was making a record had to spell the name as he thought he heard it pronounced by the holder. This resulted in many different spellings of the same surname in parish records and other early, handwritten documents.
Some of the spelling variants have made it through to the more stable spellings of today. The main current variants of Bradburn found today in England (and covered by this study) are Bradburne and Bradbourne. Many variants from earlier times such as Bradborn, Brodborn, Bradbourn, Bredburne, Bradbern, Bradbone, and around ten others are believed to be true spelling variants of Bradburn. They and their events are recorded in the database (see below) only if they seem clearly, from date and location, to be part of a local Bradburn family. The spelling variants may not always be a result of the ancient scribe writing down what he heard, but the handwriting of the sixteenth century and earlier is often very difficult for us to read today, leading to mis-transcriptions by those who are transcribing old documents to go onto the internet. For that reason, when extracting Bradburns from websites, the scans of the original images have always, when available, been examined to confirm or otherwise the correctness of the online transcription. When searching websites, “Br*d*b*rn*” is often used as the search term as this picks up most of the variant spellings.
In the following study, the spelling “Bradburn” is often used by the author as a general name covering any of the spelling variants which may occur in original documents.
For place names, the standard used is generally “town or village, county, country”. Since most of this study is at present about English Bradburns, where a place is in England, the country name has usually been omitted to prevent needless repetition.

Origins in Derbyshire, England and Kent, England

The Bradburn surname is almost certain to have originated in one, or probably in both, of two places in England called Bradbourne, one in Derbyshire, England and the other in Kent, England. The place name Bradbourne is from the time when Old English was spoken, from the fifth to the eleventh centuries, and is built up from “brad” meaning broad and “burna” meaning stream. The Bradbourne places mentioned here are both located next to broad streams.
First let us consider the manor and parish of Bradbourne, Kent in the south of England, which should not be confused with the parish of Brabourne (no “d”) which is also in Kent. Inherited English surnames for ordinary people were established first in the south of England, from around 1200, whereas they were adopted somewhat later further north in the country. The first documented use of Bradburn as a surname that I can at present find is for a Philip de Bradeburne, presumably of Kent, who was named in a Canterbury Cathedral document dated 25th March 1266 to 24th March 1267 {D1}. We will go into some more detail later about Bradburns in Kent, but although there was apparently an inherited Bradburn surname there by the beginning of Parish Records in the 1550s, it is difficult to link these people into one or more ongoing families or to trace back to their origin. The Kent Bradburns were not Lords of the Manor of Bradbourne, Kent, so early documentation mentioning them is scarce. The addition of the “de Placename” after a person’s given name was often used in early times (1200 to 1350 say) solely to identify that a person called, say, William was the one who came from the parish of Placename rather than any other William. Most ordinary people only had a given name at that time.
Bradbourne, Kent can no longer be found on a map, as the Bradbourne Hall and its 122-acre estate were sold to developers in 1927 and became a housing estate on the northern edge of the town of Sevenoaks, Kent. Its former position was on Ordnance Survey Landranger Series Map 188 at reference TQ 520563. Only the names of roads in that estate, Bradbourne Road, Bradbourne Park Road and Bradbourne Vale Road are left to remind us of what once was.
The manor and parish of Bradbourne, Derbyshire, in contrast, gives us a continuously documented family as they were the Lords of the Manor of Bradbourne, Derbyshire and were significant landowners which means that there exist a good number of legal documents in which they are mentioned, dating from the thirteenth century to the seventeenth century and beyond. They certainly did give rise to an inherited surname and people alive today in England can trace their ancestry to this family. I describe them as “the Old Derbyshire Bradburn family”.
Bradbourne, Derbyshire is a small hamlet and parish about four miles north-east of the town of Ashbourne, Derbyshire. Bradbourne, Derbyshire can be found on the British Ordnance Survey Maps, Landranger Series 1:50,000 scale, map 119,  or Outdoor Leisure Series 1:25,000 scale, map OL24, at map reference SK 207527. It stands beside a small valley with a good stream, called the Bradbourne Brook, running along it. This is the “broad burn” from which the parish gets its name. There is an ancient church in Bradbourne which dates mostly from the Norman period, around 1140, but has some earlier Saxon work in the north wall. There is a fine carved Norman doorway at the base of the tower. In the churchyard stands the carved shaft of a Saxon cross dating back to around the year 800.

Bradbourne Church
All Saint’s Church, Bradbourne, Derbyshire and the Saxon Cross.

Bradbourne is mentioned in the Domesday Book, compiled for King William the Conqueror in 1086, and this says that it was owned by the Saxon, Aelfric of Bradbourne, but passed to Henry de Ferrers after the Normans conquered England in 1066. In ancient documents, the place now spelled “Bradbourne” was spelled “Bradeburne” which is closer to the current spelling of the surname Bradburn. The family name of the early Derbyshire Bradburns was also spelled “Bradeburne”. It seems possible that in early times the name spelled “Bradeburne” was pronounced with the “u” sounding like an “o”, as Germans of today would pronounce it. This could have led to the later spelling Bradbourne and also to Bradborn which is found widely as a surname spelling in the Birmingham, England area in the seventeenth century.

The spreading of the Bradburn surname.

The Derbyshire Bradburn family can be found living from around 1280 to 1600 in their home, Lea Hall, (sometimes called “the Lee”) (Ordnance Survey reference SK 195517, the same map numbers as for Bradbourne) which is just on the other side of the Bradbourne Brook from the church of Bradbourne or in their second home called the Hough which was next to Hulland, Derbyshire, about 5 miles south east of Bradbourne, (marked by the word “moat” at Ordnance Survey reference SK 240464, Landranger map 119 again, or Explorer map 259). Lea Hall is now a separate small parish next to Bradbourne parish, and the outlines of the buildings of an ancient village can be seen in the fields of Lea Hall, especially after a snowfall. This may be the village named as “Little Bradeburne” in medieval documents. The Bradburn surname began to spread from Bradbourne and Lea Hall from around 1300, presumably as younger sons of the family left to live in different places.
The first contemporary reference to a Bradburn outside of Derbyshire (or Kent) found by this researcher is a document referring to a Henry de Bradburne in Chester, Cheshire, England in 1317. The mention is from the Crownmote Court Rolls of Chester {D2} in which Henry de Bradburne is accused on 30 May 1317 of raping the wife of Simon de Aldisleye. Henry was acquitted by the jury, but Simon was imprisoned! This is probably the Henry(1) de Bradeburne [I84] of the Derbyshire Bradburn family who was a follower of the Earl of Lancaster, and therefore still a resident of Derbyshire. He was either a lucky man or very influential as most other people tried at that court at that time were either acquitted or hanged.
The first mention I have found of a Bradburn apparently living away from Bradbourne is a puzzle. It is a mention in a long legal document dated 1323 {D3} of a man called Reginald de Bradeburne of Wallingford, Oxfordshire, boucher – which is French for “butcher”. He is one of a list of around a hundred people who are accused of destroying someone’s house and property in Nettlebed, Oxfordshire. Wallingford is about 20 miles south of Oxford, Oxfordshire and 45 miles west of London. It is in fact nearer to Bradbourne, Kent (65 miles) than to Bradbourne, Derbyshire (105 miles), so where Reginald came from is a bit of a mystery.
It is not until 1343 that we have found a mention of a Bradburn who really looks like a person whose family has spread from Derbyshire. He was Richard Bradbourne of Cestre (Chester, Cheshire) and is one of a list of around sixty people who are accused by Edward, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester, of preventing the Duke of benefitting from the looting of wrecks and of not getting his licence to move tin from the Cornish mines {D4}. This Richard could be the son of Sir Roger(1) de Bradeburne, the first head of the Derbyshire family, that is Richard de Bradeburne [I87]. It is not clear what a man of Chester is doing in Falmouth, Cornwall, although Chester was then a main port, especially for trade with Ireland. Many Bradburns are mentioned in Cheshire from then on, including a Robert de Bradborn, in 1350, master of a ship called “le Nicholas” who is of Chestre and Cornwall {D5} and William de Bradburn’, in 1383, citizen of Chester, of Hargrave, Cheshire, {D6}, who is a witness to a legal document.
During the “parish register era” which began in 1538 and continued until 1837 (and beyond) when Civil Registration was introduced in England, all baptisms, marriages and burials were recorded in a register at the church where the ceremony occurred. During these three hundred years, the greatest number of Bradburns in England is found in the county of Cheshire, England. There are some known links between the Bradburns of Cheshire and the original Derbyshire Bradburn family, but more needs to be done to determine the origin of the around ten families of Bradburns who were recorded in the parish registers of Cheshire from around 1560.
Cheshire is a county of rich farmland some 50 miles west of Bradbourne, Derbyshire, and most of the Bradburns found there from 1560 were farmers or farm labourers, but there are other good farming areas 50 miles from Bradbourne, so why was Cheshire apparently favoured?  One possible reason is that, during the wars against the Welsh, in the late thirteenth and again in the early fifteenth centuries, when the English headquarters were in Chester, the county town of Cheshire, the King was said to reward those who helped him in the war with grants of land in Cheshire {D?}. Another reason was that Cheshire was a refuge for people on the run from the law in other counties and Richard de Bradeburne [I87] does appear to have come under that heading (see later).
When the industrial revolution came in the 1780s, the agricultural Bradburns began to leave Cheshire for better paid work the new industrial areas in the county of Lancashire which borders the north of Cheshire. They were mainly in the areas around Manchester and in the 1851 England & Wales Census, the majority of English Bradburns are found in Lancashire, especially in the large parish of Eccles, to the west of Manchester.
The other area of England to which the Derbyshire Bradburns migrated in some numbers is the area around the town of Birmingham which is about forty miles to the south-west of Bradbourne, Derbyshire. Bradburns are especially found around the counties of Shropshire and Staffordshire.
Bradburns were found in London from early times and in some cases these were members of the Derbyshire family who were living there and, for instance, practising law. In other cases it is probable that they were descendants of Kent Bradburns, as people from Bradbourne, Kent do seem to have carried the place name as their surname.


The whole of Ireland was ruled by the English king during the fourteenth century and the first mentions of a Bradburn in Ireland were of a Thomas de Bradburn, a chaplain and clerk, who was mentioned several times between 1351 and 1356. The story of the Bradburns in Ireland is being researched by James Bradburn of Chicago who believes his ancestors came from there.


North America

The first mention, so far found, of a Bradburn in North America was on January 7, 1633 when Alexander Bradburn of Accomac, Virginia, USA appeared in court to acknowledge a debt of 2 barrels of corn. Today there are more Bradburns in North America than in the United Kingdom and the story of the US and Canadian Bradburns will be picked up at a later date.
The other part of the world where there are significant numbers of Bradburns is in Australia and New Zealand, and this also will be a separate story.
It is thought that there are today around 2000 people in the United Kingdom with the surname Bradburn (and its variants). North America currently has about 2300 Bradburns, while Australia and New Zealand have in the hundreds. Bradburn is one of the less common English surnames.


One of the techniques which one-name genealogists are using to try to identify different families within the name that they are researching is DNA profiling. The Y-chromosome DNA is present only in males and is passed down from father to son to grandson, just as the surname is usually passed down. A Bradburn Y-DNA project has been started at, the leading US exponent of this field, and although only seven Bradburns have thus far been tested, a pattern may be emerging. If this pattern is continued, it seems that the British and Australian Bradburns belong to one “DNA family” and the North American Bradburns to another. Perhaps most of the American Bradburns are descended from London/Kent Bradburns who had a different genealogical origin from the Derbyshire Bradburns.
The DNA haplotype of the Derbyshire Bradburns appears to be I-M253, whereas the North American Bradburns, who may have originated in Kent, have so far shown to be R-M269.


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The history and holders of a surname