Bacon Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Bacon Surname Meaning

The Bacon name appeared early in England after the Norman Conquest. Its root in Norfolk was said to have been buchen or beechen, a beech tree.

The word bacon relating to pork products did not come into use until around 1350. Bacon might then have come to mean someone who prepared and sold cured pork. It has been suggested that its prevalence in north Derbyshire is a remnant of the medieval pig farming there.

Bacon Surname Resources on The Internet

Bacon Surname Ancestry

  • from England (East Anglia)
  • to  America and Canada

England. There were early references to Bacon as a surname in Staffordshire and Somerset.

Norfolk and Suffolk.  The main sightings, however, were in Norfolk and Suffolk, starting in the 12th century. These Bacons were lords of Baconthorpe in Norfolk and later lived at Drinkstone in Suffolk.

They became nationally important with Sir Nicholas Bacon’s appointment as Queen Elizabeth’s Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. His adopted son, Francis Bacon, was a renowned philosopher of his day, an advocate and practitioner of the scientific method. He also rose to be Lord High Chancellor of England; but later fell from grace amid accusations of bribery.

Even so, the Bacon baronetcy was established as the premier baronetcy of England and has continued so until the present day. The current baronet, Sir Nicholas Bacon, runs a 5,500 acre estate at Raveningham near Norwich.

Anthony Bacon’s claimed linkage to Sir Nicholas Bacon and the Suffolk Bacons was probably spurious. He and his brother Thomas started out as tobacco merchants in Maryland. He later became the iron-master and colliery owner who made Merthyr Tydfil the iron-smelting center of Britain in the 18th century. He died in 1786 as one of the richest men of his time. However, none of his sons showed much interest in the business he had created.

Derbyshire  The Bacon name has been established in north Derbyshire since the 1600’s, in small villages such as Alfreton, Brassington, and Carsington. Thomas Bacon, a framework knitter, was one of the ringleaders in 1817 of the workers’ uprising in Pentrich. He and his brother John were transported to Australia for life.

George Bacon had left his home in north Wingfield, Derbyshire to start a lead mining and smelting operation at Allendale in Northumberland. The business prospered and the family became wealthy landowners, intermarrying with the landed gentry of the county. John Bacon inherited the estate of Newton Gap in Durham in 1748. However, his offspring were profligate.

William Bacon, burdened by gambling debts, shot himself in 1780: “He placed the muzzle of his gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger with his foot. The ball, after passing through his neck, made its way through a pane of glass in a staircase window, leaving a round hole the exact size of the bullet.”  The estate was eventually sold off in 1810.

The 19th century distribution of Bacons in England showed them mainly to be found on the eastern side of the country (south Yorkshire, East Anglia, Essex, and London) and in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

America. Early Bacons in America were to be found in Virginia, New England, New Jersey and Pennsylvania..

Virginia. Daniel Bacon arrived in Virginia in 1635 and Nathaniel Bacon in 1650. Twenty years later and making much more of a splash was another Nathaniel Bacon. A wealthy young colonist, he was the instigator of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 to drive the Indians off their land. He died later that year of dysentery and his revolt collapsed. Nathaniel left no offspring. His cousin Edmund who settled in New Kent county did.

New England.  Michael Bacon came to New England via Ulster in 1640 and settled in Dedham, Massachusetts. His son Michael built Bacon House in Bedford in 1682. From this family came the missionary David Bacon and his son, the Rev. Leonard Bacon. The family line, connecting back to the Suffolk Bacons, was traced by Thomas Baldwin in his 1915 book Michael Bacon of Dedham and His Descendants.

Others who came were:

  • Nathaniel Bacon who arrived in Barnstable on Cape Cod around 1640. His descendant, Daniel Bacon, was the sea captain who built Bacon Farm in Barnstable on retiring from seafaring in the 1830’s. The house is still standing (although converted recently into a condominium).
  • Andrew Bacon who came to Hartford, Connecticut around the same time, with his nephew Nathaniel to Middletown a few years later. A line from here extended to Philadelphia and then to New York where George Bacon and his son Francis grew the Bacon Piano Company in the mid 19th century. Others of this line were doctors in Georgia and Florida.

Quakers.  In 1693 a Quaker Bacon family helped buy Burlington, part of the southern tip of New Jersey on the Delaware river near Philadelphia, which became a Quaker town.

Quaker Bacons were also to be found in and around Philadelphia. Local historian Margaret Bacon has documented this Quaker history. A ninth generation Quaker was the city planner Edmund Bacon (his son is the actor Kevin Bacon). Prior to the Civil War, a Quaker Bacon family ran an underground railroad station for runaway slaves. These Bacons migrated to Berkeley on the West Coast in 1910.

Canada. Early Bacons to Canada included:

  • Miles and Ann Bacon, who came in 1820 from England via Rhode Island and settled in Caledon township, Ontario.
  • John Bacon, who arrived in 1829 from Ireland and later moved onto Toronto.
  • Joseph and Susannah Bacon, who came in 1835 from England and homesteaded in Bruce county, Ontario.

Joseph’s later letters to his family have subsequently been collated and published by his descendant, Dean Wheaton.

Bacon Surname Miscellany

Bacon Origins.  A Grimbaldus came from Normandy at the time of the Conquest and settled in Letheringsete near Holt in the county of Norfolk where he had grants of land.

He had three sons: Rudolf who became the lord of Letheringsete, Ranulf, and Edmund who became the rector at the church.  Ranulf resided at Thorp in Norfolk.   It has been stated that he was the one who assumed the name Bacon or Bacon-Thorpe, but some authorities attribute this name to his son Roger.  There were several places called Thorp in Norfolk and he added this name to distinguish himself from the other lords of Thorp.

The name Bacon was said to have been taken from the word buchen or beechen, meaning beech tree. Thorp was the Saxon name for village.  Thus we might call him the lord of the beech tree village. 

The Bacon Ancestry in Suffolk

Bacon Birth Birth
Ralph de Bacon 1160
Ralph de Bacon 1190 Baconthorpe, Norfolk
Roger Bacon 1214 Thorpe, Norfolk 1294
Robert Bacon 1245 Thorpe, Norfolk
John Bacon 1272 Monks Bradfield, Norfolk
John Bacon 1300 Monks Bradfield, Norfolk
John Bacon 1320 Hessett, Suffolk
John Bacon 1346 Hessett, Suffolk
John Bacon 1376 Hessett, Suffolk
Edmund Bacon 1422 Drinkstone, Suffolk 1453
John Bacon 1454 Drinkstone, Suffolk 1500
Robert Bacon 1479 Drinkstone, Suffolk 1548
Nicholas Bacon 1510 Chislehurst, Kent 1579
(Lord Keeper of the Great Seal)
Francis Bacon 1561 London 1626
(his adopted son)

Among the earliest of these Bacons was Roger Bacon, sometimes called Roger of the Black Art.  He wrote scientific and philosophical pieces.  In 1278 his works were condemned and he was imprisoned for fourteen years.  John Bacon, sometimes called Baconthorp from the name of the village in which he was born, became a learned monk and was known as “the resolute doctor.”  

Sir Nicholas Bacon was the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  His adopted son Francis was made Lord High Chancellor of England in 1618.  

The Birth of Francis Bacon.  The child was registered as “Mr. Franciscus Bacon” in the Church of St. Martins-in-the-Fields in London. 

The actual entry was on the first page of the book and ran as follows: “1560, 25 Januarie Baptizatus fuit Mr. Franciscus Bacon.”  Someone in a different handwriting, written a little later in paler ink, had added: “filius Dm Nicho: Bacon Magni Anglie Sigilli Custodis.”

It was significant that the entry was apparently made in the first instance without the name of the parent being declared. It was only later in the day, and by a different hand, that someone had added: “son of Nicholas Bacon.”

One contemporary source suggested that Sir Nicholas was only the foster father to the child.  In fact, on his death in 1579, Sir Nicholas left in his will large sums to his children by his first wife and a sufficient income for his second wife Anne and her son Anthony.  But the name of Francis was not even mentioned.  He didn’t leave him a single penny.

How come?  Some have speculated that Francis was in fact the love child of the Queen and Robert Dudley. At the time of Francis’s birth, the chief Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth was Sir Nicholas’s wife, Lady Anne Bacon.  If such a child were to be born to the Queen and such a child had to be kept for the moment secret, would it not be natural for her to turn to Lady Bacon, her closest, most intimate, and greatest friend for counsel and advice?

The Death of Francis Bacon.  In April 1626, Sir Francis Bacon came to Highgate in London and died at the empty Arundel mansion.  A famous and influential account of the circumstances of his death was given by John Aubrey in his Brief Lives.

Aubrey’s vivid account, which portrays Bacon as a martyr to experimental scientific method, has him journeying to Highgate through the snow with the King’s physician when he is suddenly inspired by the possibility of using the snow to preserve meat:

“They were resolved they would try the experiment presently.  They alighted out of the coach, went into a poor woman’s house at the bottom of Highgate Hill, and bought a fowl and made the woman exenterate it.”

After stuffing the fowl with snow, Bacon happened to contract a fatal case of pneumonia.  Some people, including Aubrey, consider these two contiguous possibly coincidental events as related and causative of his death:

“The snow so chilled him that he immediately fell so extremely ill, that he could not return to his lodging … but went to the Earl of Arundel’s house at Highgate, where they put him into … a damp bed that had not been lain-in … which gave him such a cold that, in 2 or 3 days as I remember Mr. Hobbes told me, he died of suffocation.”

Reader Feedback – Bacon from Suffolk.  I was intrigued by a possible origin of the Bacon name. ‘Beechen’ sounds much more solid than Bacon!  I used to be depressed by the number of shop assistants who couldn’t spell ‘Bacon’ when they were taking my order for one of their items not in stock.  At least these days they don’t ask ‘Do you have a phone to contact you?”

Retirement and COVID-19 have spurred me on to chase my section of the family history.  Most of my memories of hearing about the family came from my grandmother and her daughter.  My section of the Bacons was in Hadleigh, Suffolk, and Islington, London. I was surprised how mobile they were in contrast to my wife’s family who up to the 20th century have mostly travelled within a 10-mile radius.

If you use Ancestry you can see my trail of the tree back to the early 1600’s. I’m not quite sure of those early relatives.  But I think Nathaniel Bacon (1691– 1773) is reasonably accurate.

Andrew Bacon (

Bacon’s Rebellion.  Woodrow Wilson in his History of the American People had the following to say about Nathaniel Bacon and Bacon’s Rebellion.  

“Here was more than could be endured; and there were men in Virginia who were ready to defy the governor and get their rights by arms.  Nathaniel Bacon had sworn with a hot oath that if the redskins meddled with him he would harry them, commission or no commission, and he kept his threat.  He was of the hot blood that dares a great independence.   

He was a great grandson of Sir Thomas Bacon of Friston Flail in Suffolk, cousin to the great Lord Bacon, of whose fame the world has been full these fifty years.  Although he was but nine-and-twenty, study at the Inns of Court and much travel in foreign lands had added to his gentle breeding the popular manners and the easy self-confidence of a man of the world.   

He had turned his back upon England and come with his young wife to be a planter on the James river in Virginia.  In May came news that the Indians had attacked his own upper plantation and had murdered his overseer and one of his favorite servants.   

He did not hesitate what to do.  A company of armed and mounted men begged him to go with them against the redskins and he led them forth upon their bloody errand without law or license, member of the governor’s council and magistrate that he was. 

Word then came to him that the governor had refused his commission and had proclaimed him and all with him to be outlaws It was flat rebellion.  But Bacon’s pulse only quickened and Virginia for a while seemed to be his to command.”

Captain Daniel Bacon of Barnstable.  When the first railroad was built on Cape Cod, the Bacons related that one of the women of the family had such an aversion to its being laid that, when she went out to drive, she carried a large turkey-feather fan to hold in front of her eyes so that she couldn’t see the trains go by.

Life on the Cape was excellent training for the sea and it wasn’t at all surprising that a later member of the family, Daniel Bacon, should set out in 1809 on the old family horse to Boston to seek his fortune as a sailor. He shipped before the mast and soon rose in rank to captain ships owned by the prominent Boston merchants of the day.  He spent the latter years of his sailing life as a ship-owner and merchant for his own account, trading mainly in the Pacific. He had built then the famous Gamecock, the first of the speedy California clippers. 

A prized family possession was a silver tray service given to Captain Bacon by the underwriters for saving the cargo of his vessel which grounded in a storm at Nantasket.  Young Bacon hired an ox-team and drove back and forth through the icy water until all the cargo was safely onshore. 

Bacon Quakers from Pennsylvania to California.  These Bacons came from a long line of Quakers who had immigrated from England to Massachusetts in 1632 to escape religious persecution.  The family later bought part of the southern tip of New Jersey on the Delaware River from the Native Americans in 1683 through the offices of William Penn.

Barbara Bacon’s grandfather had opposed slavery and worked with the Underground Railroad before and during the Civil War.  Her father Herbert Bacon spearheaded the establishment of Stone Face Park in Berkeley, California.

Barbara herself had been born in Pennsylvania and moved to Berkeley in 1910 when she was three.  Her family had lived in the Claremont district for several years before moving to the Thousand Oaks area in 1916 because they wanted to live in the country.  In the 1930’s she started a piano teaching career that would last well into her eighties.  She married Thomas Hinshaw in 1942 and lived onto 2001, passing away just one day after her 94th birthday.

Reader Feedback – The Bacons of Newton Gap.  I am a Bacon.  My pedigree line was entered in the records of the College of Arms by my ancestor Charles Bacon in 1810 and I have been able to update my pedigree to the present and maintain my right to the armorial bearings that was granted to my ancestor John Bacon of Newton Gap, county Durham in 1752.

The earliest Bacon, Thomas, came from North Wingfield in Derbyshire where the family had been husbandmen.  Son George moved north to Allendale in Northumberland in the late 1600’s to mine and smelt lead.  The Bacons prospered and soon became wealthy landowners, intermarrying with the landed gentry of the county.

John Bacon was not a descendant of Sir Francis Bacon and you are not correct when you say that John Bacon bought Newton Gap.  John Bacon succeeded his father in 1748 and by his will inherited the capital messuages of Steward, Styford, and Newton Gap.  When the estates of the Forsters devolved to the Bacons, they assumed the additional name of Forster.

John William Bacon Forster had three sons.  The eldest William shot himself in the old hall at Newton Gap but he had impregnated his wife Frances and a son, William Bacon Forster, was born posthumously.  This account is in The History of Bishop Auckland.

I descend from the second son John Bacon Forster.  Later the Forster name was dropped and we again became just Bacon.

Brian Bacon (

Bacon Names

  • Roger Bacon, born into a landowning family in Somerset in 1214, was a philosopher, writer, and an early man of science.
  • Francis Bacon, the adopted son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, was a renowned philosopher of the early 17th century who also had a political career.
  • Anthony Bacon was the industrialist who was primarily responsible for the emergence of Merthyr Tydfil in Wales as the iron-smelting center of Britain in the 18th century.
  • Francis Bacon, born in Dublin, was a 20th century figurative painter best known for his bold, austere, and often violent and nighmarish imagery.
  • Kevin Bacon is a successful American film actor. He hails from Philadelphia.

Bacon Numbers Today

  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 9,000 in America (most numerous in California).
  • 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

Bacon and Like Surnames

Many surnames have come from East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk) and surrounding areas in eastern England.  These are some of the noteworthy surnames that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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