The Bednall Archive
Last updated 16/02/2010
Names originated in a variety of ways of which the most common were:
by derivation from a personal name, i.e. Jackson, Simpson, Richardson, Alkin,
2. from the occupation or trade of a medieval ancestor, i.e. Smith, Baxter, Cooper, Webster, Tailor, Sharman, etc.;
3. from personal characteristics, i.e. Strong i' the Arm, Short, Elvin, Blackamore;
4. from topographical features, i.e. Hill, Attewell, Bottom, Bywaters;
5. from place names, i.e., Dudley, Nottingham, Acton, Ashley, Buxton, Leicester.
rarer forms are generally those which derive from Saxon or Norman family names
such as Orme, Untan, and Harcourt or from the lesser known names of places
which were settlements in the middle ages but have since been
abandoned or, if they survive, are now farms, hamlets, or small
villages. The Bednall, Badnall, Beadnell group of names fit into the
latter category, being (as defined by Beaney) " local surnames
derived from particular towns, villages or estate". There
are, however, no references to these names in Beaney’s "English
Surnames", or in C.W.Bardsley's "Dictionary of English and
Welsh Surnames"* - except for the incorrect assertion in the latter
that Badnall was a modern corruption of Bagnall.
*Published by TheGenealogical Publishing Co. Inc, 1980.
Although their earliest recorded use in England dates back to the 6th century AD, it was not until after the Norman Conquest that the use of hereditary surnames began to become more common. They were first used by the upper levels of feudal society such as barons, knights. franklins etc, whose example was subsequently copied by tradesmen and artisans and eventually, the rest of society. Although fairly common by the end of the 12th century it was not until the end of the 14th century, the end of a period thought by some to be "the crucial period when in most social classes, bye-names were being replaced by hereditary surnames", that surnames became almost universal. It is interesting to note that the historian Camden wrote (with regard to surnames) "it was considered a disgrace for a gentleman to have but one single name as the meaner sorts and bastards had."**
**Surnames of the UK: A Concise Etymological Dictionary, Henry Harrison, Clearfield, Baltimore, 1996. see also The Historical Review Vol. 97 January 1982 Oxford University Press. Page 174 Short Notices No. 382, "A review by John Keep" http://jstor.org/stable/568833 .
According to some authorities the rules of Norman primogeniture gave particular importance to locative surnames and forms the foundation for most such names in Britain. The author claims that it was very uncommon for other family member to use that same surname during the lifetime of the father.
father's death the eldest son would inherit all, including the right to the
surname both in England and Normandy or Brittany. The younger sons usually
adopted the locative surnames of their own new domains which can make it
difficult to trace relationships between father and younger sons. On the
eldest son's death, the rights went to his sons or in the absence of progeny
to the next youngest son of the father. The son inheriting these rights would
then change his surname from the one which he had previously been using to
that of his father. Locative surnames were as important, legally, as the
knight's seal, and became his domain name. They were proof of his entitlement
to his holding, his new domain. Most younger sons would never get to use the
family surname. The prefix “Fitz “ was believed to be a sign of bastardy
but a more plausible explanation might be that it was given to a younger son
who did not hold a domain. and could not, therefore, use his father's surname
until after the father's death, if then. Later this son might marry a woman
who was a heiress and take the name of her domain or might acquire a domain of
his own by deed of gift, purchase or other means which would or could be the
source of a new surname. Hence, Fitz may for many have been a temporary
Note: In the reign of the English King Edward IV (1465), the law (5 Edward IV. cap. 3.) stipulated that every Irishman living within a specified area of Ireland take an English name and comply with other English customs on pain of forfeiting his possessions. The law was expressed as follows: "It is ordained and established by authority of the said Parliament, that every Irishman that dwells betwixt or amongst Englishmen in the County of Dublin, Myeth, Uriell and Kildare, shall go like to one Englishman in apparel and shaving off his beard above the mouth and shall be within one year sworn the liege man of the King in the hands of the lieutenant or deputy, or such as he will assigns to receive this oath for the multitude that is to be sworn, and shall take to him an English surname of one townie, as Sutton, Chester, Trym, Skryne, Cork, Kinsale; or colour, as white, black, brown; or art or science, as smith or carpenter; or office, as cook, butler; and that he and his issue shall use this name under pain of forfeiting of his goods yearly till the premises be done, to be levied two times by the year to the King's Wars, according to the discretion of the lieutenant of the King or his deputy."
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names (Ekwall 4th Edition) gives the following information concerning the meaning of the name and its early known forms:
Badenhall Staffordshire ; Bada's Halh - Bada's nook or remote place or valley .Early forms-Badehal - in the Doomsday Book circa 1185, and Badenhale-Book of Fees 1242;
Bednall Staffordshire; Beda's Halh- Definition as for Badenhall. Early forms -Bedehala in the Doomsday Book 1185, Bedenhale in the Subsidy Rolls of 1327;
Beadnell Northumberland; Beda's Halh- Beda's flat (alluvial) land by the side of a river. Early forms- Bedehal in the Pipe Rolls of 1161, Bedenhale in the Pipe Rolls of 1177;
In the Place Names of Northumberland and Durham (Cambridge Archaeological and Ethnological Series-Allen/Mower 1920) Beadnell's early forms are given as:- Bedehall (1160), Bedenhala (1176), Bedenhall (1251) and Beednal in 1273. The derivation is given as "Bedwine's healh-KCY Phonology" and the author continues- "at first sight one would take this to be identical with Bednall in Staffordshire or Beadanhalan (B.C.S.936) with the first element being generally significant of the Old English Beada or Beda but it is impossible to believe that the suffix -an- could thus have survived in Northumbria@. N.B. B.C.S, signifies Birch, Cartulorium Saxonicum.
A further place name from which the Bednall/Badnall personal name may have been derived is that of Battenhall in the parish of St.Peters without Worcester, in the Oswaldslow Hundred of Worcestershire. The "Place Names of Worcestershire" -English Place Name Society- gives the following meaning and early forms of the name:
Battenhall Worcestershire; ..."Bata's nook v healh. The personal name Bata is only recorded as a nickname in Old English and in Batcombe.... Early forms of the name are:
Batenhale in a lease circa A.D.969, B.C.S.1240; see also Feet of Fines A.D.1304 and PRO Patent Rolls 1335;
Oldebatenhale-Index to Charters & Rolls in the British Museum, B.D.1365;
Battenhull-PRO Letters & Papers 1542;
Batenhall -PRO Letters & Papers 1545;
Batnold Wills 1557.
Bednall/Badnall/Beadnell etc names seem therefore to have their origins
in place names derived from Old English personal names - Bada, Beda
or Bata- associated with a topographical feature - a sheltered or
secret place, corner of a field or, in Northumbria, a flat or alluvial piece
of land within the loop or a bend in a river. Figure ? shows just such a nook
on which is sited a small Chapel supposedly dedicated to St. Ebba?
It is also interesting to note with regard to the Badnall name that have their origin in Eccleshall Staffordshire, that that most of the Eccleshall portion of Baden Hall Farm lies in a triangle formed by two watercourses marking the boundary between the ancient parishes of Eccleshall and Chebsey.
©A.W.Bednall, Macclesfield 1996-2001