Bannister


Select Bannister Surname Genealogy

The word Bannister as a stair rail did not appear in the English language until the 17th century.  The Bannister surname instead is thought to have come from the French banastres, meaning a basket weaver. Another view is that it comes from balneator, the master of the bath.  In either case, there appears to be a Norman imprint to the name.   A surname variant has been Banister.

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Select Bannister Ancestry

England.   Banastre appeared in 12th century Cheshire records where Richard Banastre was named as one of the barons of Chester.  However, the main concentration of this name has been in Lancashire. 

Lancashire  The name first appears here near present-day Wigan.  Sir Adam Banastre was a landowner in the parish of Standish who led a local uprising, known as Banastre's rebellion, in 1315.  It failed and Sir Adam lost his head.  Bannisters were then to be found in the dales of East Lancashire, in Altham (where they owned the manor) and in Barnoldswick.

A Bannister family had settled at Park Hill in Pendle in the 1400's.  Nicholas Bannister was the magistrate who interrogated the so-called Pendle witches in the famous trial of 1612; and it was John Bannister who helped quell the Pendle forest riots of 1748.  Their farmhouse now forms the headquarters of the Heritage Trust in the northwest.  This family produced Roger Bannister, the first man to break the four minute mile record. They had been in the textile business, first in wool and then in cotton, and now run the country house Coniston Hotel in the Yorkshire dales.

The Bannister name also crops up in nearby mill towns such as Colne, Burnley, Rochdale, and Chorley.  Billy Bannister, a footballer from Burnley, was good enough to play for England at the turn of the century.   John Bannister was the late Victorian historian of Chorley.

Elsewhere  The Banastre name was also to be found in Berkshire from early times.  These Banastres held the manor of Finchampstead in Windsor forest.  They became Banisters rather than Bannisters. 

A John Banester was bailiff of the Nether Inn in Eastbourne in 1495.  Later Bannister references in Sussex were in Fletching near Uckfield, Ringmer, and in Beeding and Steyning. 

The Bannister name also cropped up in Lincolnshire (Bourne and Sleaford) and in Essex (Doddinghurst).

America.  Banisters and Bannisters were both evident.  Christopher and Jane Banister were among the earliest settlers of Marlborough, Massachusetts.  Andrew Banister from this family ended up in Hawaii in the 1850's.   Thomas and Sarah Banister came to Boston around 1685.  His son and grandson set themselves up as merchants in Newport, Rhode Island.  Banister's house and Banister's wharf remain from this colonial time.

The Rev. John Banister arrived in Virginia in the late 1670's and spent fourteen years collecting specimens of plants and insects and sending them back to England.  Although he himself met with an untimely death, his son John built the family home at Battersea near Petersburg and was a patriot commander during the Revolutionary War. 

Another Virginia line started with the birth of Burrel Banister there in the 1770's and went via Kentucky and Indiana to Banister Hollow in Camden county, Missouri.  The Banisters who arrived there in the 1840's were apparently all musicians.  Two sons, John and Will Banister, later took off for Fort Worth, Texas.

Balaam Banister was first recorded in the 1800 census, aged around 24, at Abbeville in South Carolina.  He migrated from there to Georgia and Kentucky before settling in Louisiana.  Burrell, thought to be his brother, moved to Kentucky and then in 1811 to Indiana when it was still Indian territory.  There were also related Banister lines, according to DNA testing, elsewhere in South Carolina, in Tennessee, and later in Texas.

A Bannister family from South Carolina were early settlers in Talladega county, Alabama in the 1830's. Edward Bannister's bible is still held by one of his descendants.

Canada.  The first Bannister in Canada seems to have been of Irish origin, a John Bannister who settled in Trinity, Newfoundland in the 1780's.  Thomas Bannister arrived in 1810 from England and settled as a farmer in Elgin, New Brunswick.  Later, in the 1850's, William Bannister from Suffolk started his farm in Vanessa, Ontario.  His descendant Mark Bannister is still growing tobacco on that land today.

Australia and New ZealandGeorge Bannister was a convict on the first fleet which arrived in Australia in 1789.  Forty years later, Captain Thomas Bannister arrived on the Atwick from Steyning in Sussex in greater style, with his own cabin and three servants to attend him.  He became the first European to explore the area now known as the Williams district in Western Australia.  Thomas was the brother of Saxe Bannister, the controversial first Attorney General of New South Wales.

A Bannister family came to New Zealand on the Bolton in 1840 from Dudley in the Black Country (where William Bannister had been manager of Lord Ward's limestone works).  His son Edwin became a farmer in Johnsonville near Wellington.  Joseph Bannister arrived from Lincolnshire in 1853 in search of gold in the Victorian goldfields. 

Select Bannister Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


Select Bannister Names

Sir Adam Banastre was the Lancashire landowner who led Banastre's rebellion (with unfortunate results) in 1315.
Richard Banister from Lincolnshire has been called the father of British opthalmology.  In 1622 he published the first good clinical description of glaucoma.
Joseph Bannister was a well-known 17th century pirate who was captured and executed in Jamaica in 1687.
Charles Bannister was a well-known actor and singer on the London stage in the 18th century.
Roger Bannister was the first man to break the four minute mile record in 1953.
Jo Bannister the novelist was born in Rochdale, Lancashire.

Select Bannisters Today
  • 14,000 in the UK (most numerous in Manchester)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in South Carolina) 
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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