Burton Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Burton Meaning
Burton derives from the place-name Burton, found
mainly in the midland
northern counties of England (the best known today being Burton on
Trent in
Staffordshire).  The derivation in most
cases is from the Old English burh meaning
“fort” and tun an “enclosure” or
“settlement.”  Ioluard in Burhtun
appeared as a name in Yorkshire as early as 1150

Burton Resources on

Burton Ancestry

The Burton name appeared in the English Midlands from
an early time.

Robert de Burton was
recorded in the village of Ibstock in Leicestershire around the year
1200.  From him came Sir William Burton,
bearer for Henry VI who died at the Battle of Towton in 1461:

  • there followed the Burtons of Lindley
    Hall where Ralph Burton was a country gentleman.  One
    son Robert was an Oxford scholar who
    wrote the classic book The Anatomy of
    .  Another son William was a
    noted antiquarian.
  • from another line via Sir William’s brother came
    Richard Burton, the sheriff of Derbyshire in 1628.

Other early
Burtons were Burton MP’s in
Nottinghamshire before and after the year 1400, Thomas Burton the wool
Loughborough in Leicestershire, and the Burtons of Longner Hall near Shrewsbury
in Shropshire.  Burtons have been living
at Longner Hall since 1346 and
perhaps earlier and are still there. Edward
Burton of this family survived Towton in 1461 and was
afterwards by Edward IV.  Richard Burton,
the 19th century explorer and orientalist, was a later descendant of
this family.

In the
mid 19th century John Burton from
Collingham in Nottinghamshire trained as a printer and then set up a
photography studio in Leicester.  He
prospered and even attracted royal patronage.
On his death in 1881 two of his sons, Oliver and John, carried
on his
business,  Two other sons, Alfred and
Walter, emigrated to New Zealand in 1868 and set up a successful
studio in Dunedin (although Walter later sadly took his own life)

Yorkshire  The
Burton name soon extended
north into Yorkshire.  Henry Burton was a
Puritan from the West Riding who had his ears cut off in 1637 for his
anti-establishment pamphlets.  Richard
Burton who emigrated to Virginia in the 1630’s came from a Yorkshire
family in
the West Riding.  Ralph Burton from
Cottingham in the East Riding was a colonial administrator in Canada in
1760’s.  Burtons were recorded in the
Grewelthorpe area of north Yorkshire from the 1770’s.

Elsewhere  The
Burton architect family
in London was originally Haliburton from Scotland who had shortened
name.  Father James Burton designed much
of the Georgian London in the early 1800’s.
His son Decimus (the tenth in the family) was also a notable
another son James a well-known Egyptologist.

America.  Richard Burton, who came to
Virginia from
London in 1634, was probably the first Burton to come to America.  His sons Thomas and John owned nearby
plantations, at Cobbs and Longfield in Henrico county. Descendant
Robert Burton fought in the
Revolutionary War and later served in the Continental Congress for
Virginia.  He was a guardian to his
nephew Hutchins Burton who became
the Governor of North Carolina. Numerous Burtons
of this family served on the
Confederate side during the Civil War.

John Burton from Raburn county in Georgia also fought on the
side.  His father Jeremiah had moved
there from South Carolina in the 1840’s, gave his name to Burton
township, and,
after it was flooded out in 1919, to Lake

Joseph Burton, a plumber from Romford in Essex, brought his
to Canada in 1818.  Later joined by
relatives, they made their home in Scarborough, now a suburb of Toronto.

Samuel and Hannah Burton from Lincolnshire
came around the same time and settled in Amherstburg,
Ontario where Taylor, the tenth in their family, was born.
Taylor was ordained an elder in the Mormon
church in 1843 and departed for Salt Lake valley five years later.  He practiced plural marriage and had twenty


Burton Miscellany

Burton Place Names.  

Cheshire – Burton on the Wirral

Cumbria – Burton-in-Kendal

Leicestershire – Burton Overy, Burton-on-the-Wolds

Lincolnshre – Burton, Burton-upon-Stather

Nottinghamshire – Burton Joyce

Staffordshire – Burton-upon-Trent

Yorkshire – Bishop Burton, Burton-in-Lonsdale, Burton-cum-Walden.

Edward Burton of Longner Hall.  Burton family has lived at Longner Hall since
the 14th century.  Edward
Burton of this family, a zealous Protestant,
was often on the run at the time of Queen Mary.

One day in 1558 he could hear the sound of church bells in
and, knowing that Queen Mary was dying, he sent his son to Shrewsbury
to see
if her sister Elizabeth, a Protestant, had acceded to the throne.

He told his son that when the young man could
see Longer Hall from the road he was to throw his hat into the air if
had indeed acceded.  His son did just
that, but old Edward was so overcome with emotion that he died on the

He was refused burial at St Chad’s church in Shrewsbury because of
his Protestant faith and was buried in the grounds of Longner instead.
There is an inscription around the memorial there which tells
the tale:

“Was it for denying Christ
some notorious fact
That this man’s body Christian Burial laced?
Oh no! not so his faithful true profession
was the chill cause
which then was
held transgression.”

John Burton and the Leicester Clock Tower.  It was a
bright Monday
morning on March 16, 1868 when the
foundation stone of Leicester’s new Clock Tower was put into place.  Originally
known as the Haymarket Memorial
Structure, the Clock Tower was the brainchild of John Burton, the
proprietor of
the Leicestershire Mercury and the founder
of John Burton and Sons, the famous printers and photographers
of Leicester.

It had all begun in the
1850’s when,
after years of
campaigning by the East Gates Improvement Committee of which
Burton was Honorary Secretary, the
dilapidated Haymarket where the people of Leicester would meet to buy
and sell hay
was torn down to pave the way for a large open space.  The area
was then paved.  But the
town’s hay was still stored there, making
it still untidy.

What was
proposed for the space was “a
sort of Gothic square tower” with a bold,
illuminated clock on each of the four sides.  However,
the town
council made
it clear that the building of such a Clock
Tower would have to be paid
for by those wanting to construct it.  So
subscription arrangements therefore had to be

Burton led the way, using his own newspaper as
his tool to request money.  The
final number of subscribers to Burton’s “little
hobby” was 472 people and they
raised £872 in total.  John it was who laid the
foundation stone for the new

In March
1869, when the work was finally complete with
the clocks connected and statues erected, John Burton was presented
with a
final gift for his vision.  About a
dozen subscribers presented a valuable
signet ring containing a large sardonyx stone, on which was engraved a
view of
the tower, Mr Burton’s initials and the year 1868.

Governor Burton’s Ghost.  The circumstances of Governor Hutchins Burton’s death have long been part of family oral tradition and North Carolina
lore.  As Armistead Gordon recounted in
Marguerite du Pont Lee’s Virginia Ghosts
and Others:

the historic homes in the old county and town of Halifax,
North Carolina is Rocky Hill the
summer residence of Governor Hutchins G. Burton, a distinguished lawyer
statesman of the Revolutionary period.

Burton and his family were staying at Rocky
in the spring of 1836, when he was called to Texas where he
owned a
large tract of land. Setting out by stage coach, he arrived at
Salisbury in the
western part of the state and stopped there on his way south to look
after some
business in court. Meeting his cousin Robert Burton of Lincoln county
he went
home with him to spend a few days. On the trip to Lincoln county he and
cousin visited the Wayside Inn and spent the night. Here he was taken
ill and he
died within twenty-four hours.

wife had been on a visit and was returning to
Rocky Hill about dusk in her carriage.
As her entourage approached the house up on a high hill she saw
Governor Burton
coming down the hill on the white horse which he usually rode. Her
was distracted momentarily by the crying of her child.
When she looked again, expecting her husband
to speak as he approached the carriage, both rider and horse had

account of the slow mail facilities of the time, Mrs. Burton did not
hear of
the Governor’s death until three weeks after it occurred.  She then learned that he had died at the very
hour when the apparition had appeared to her and her carriage driver.”

Burtons and Lake Burton in Georgia.  In the 1840’s Jeremiah Burton and his wife Edy and their family made
their way from South Carolina to Rabun county in
Georgia.  Jeremiah
acquired over 1,000 acres of land along the Tallulah river.  Being
quite industrious, he built
the Burton store that
contained the Post Office and he constructed
near his store the first bridge
across the river.  He
participated in
numerous civic functions and occasionally served
as bailiff
in the local superior court.

It seems
that Jeremiah Burton was so well respected by his
peers that they started referring to the community
as Burton.  Jeremiah died in 1902.  According
to family legend, he was buried
with his hat on.

Three generations of
Burtons lived there.  Jeremiah’s eldest
son John fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War.
He was said to be a talented man.  He
built a turning lathe that was powered by
a foot treadle and a grain mill “to grind coarse to fine and with the
to adjust for a grinder that was just right to the stills.”

indicate that in 1902 the community was being called
Burton.  However, Burton
never was an
incorporated town. It disappeared when the township and the surrounding
land was flooded in 1919 to
create Lake Burton.  John Burton moved to
Clarkesville where he
died in 1922.

Richard Jenkins aka Burton.  Richard Burton the actor was born Richard Jenkins in Port Talbot, Wales in 1925,
the twelfth of thirteen children of a coal miner.  His
father was a “twelve-pints-a-day man” who
would sometimes go off on drinking and gambling sprees for weeks.

The young Richard found succor and inspiration
at school from a master there, Philip Burton.
Philip Burton was his surrogate father who tutored him so that
he was
able to study at Oxford University.
Richard took his name and became Richard Burton.

Gone for a Burton.  Gone for a Burton was common RAF slang in World War Two.  The expression referred to RAF pilots who failed
to return from their missions.  Burton
here probably meant Burton’s Ales from Burton on Trent.
The pilot had supposedly gone for a beer but
wasn’t coming back.


Burton Names

  • Robert Burton was the 17th century
    scholar at Oxford University, best known for his The
    Anatomy of Melancholy
  • Sir Richard Burton was a famous 19th century
    explorer and writer. 
  • Montague
    , born Moshe Osinsky in Lithuania, founded Burton the large UK men’s clothing chain.   
  • Richard Burton, born
    Richard Jenkins, was the Welsh-born actor of the 1960’s and 1970’s,
    known as
    well for his marriage to the actress Elizabeth Taylor. 
  • Tim Burton is an
    American film director and producer

Select Burton Numbers Today

  • 49,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 35,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 25,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Burton and Like Surnames

Some surnames have originated from the English Midlands – the swathe of countryside which covers such counties as Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.  These are some of the noteworthy surnames that you can check out.




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