Byron Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Byron Surname Meaning

The Byron surname originates from the place-name Byrom found in both Lancashire and Yorkshire.  This place-name, derived from the Old English byrum from byre meaning “barn” or “byre,” could be translated as “at the cattle shed.”     

Byron Surname Resources on The Internet

Byron Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Lancashire and Nottinghamshire)
  • to Ireland and America

England.  Ralph de Burun was a Norman knight who held Horestan Castle in Derbyshire by 1086 and possibly before.  A hundred years later, his descendant Robert took possession through marriage of Clayton Hall in Lancashire and adopted the name of Byron.

Clayton Hall was to be the Byron home for the next three hundred years.   By the early 1400’s Sir John Byron had established himself as one of the leading figures in Lancashire.  A later Sir John, known as “Little Sir John with the great beard,” was the High Sheriff of Lancashire in Elizabethan times.

Byrons were to be found at Clayton, Colwick and Newstead Abbey.  It was Sir John who acquired Newstead Abbey, the former Augustinian priory in Nottinghamshire, in 1540 at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. The line continued in the 17th century with John Byron, a Royalist supporter during the Civil War created the First Baron Byron, and in the 18th century with the brothers William and John Byron:

  • William became the 5th Baron Byron in 1736.  He was known as the wicked Lord Byron and he descended into madness and scandal before his death in 1798.
  • while John became a Vice-Admiral in the British navy who circumnavigated the world in 1765.  His son John, known as “Mad Jack,” died young at the age of thirty five; and his grandson George, better known as the famous Romantic poet Lord Byron, became the 6th Lord Byron in 1798.

Lord Byron was one of a trio of Romantic poets of the early 19th century, the others being John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, all of whom met early deaths.   On Lord Byron’s death in Greece in 1824, his title reverted to his cousin, a naval officer, and has continued until the current 13th Baron Byron of today.  The Byron history was recorded in Mark Byron’s 1985 book The Byron Chronicle.  

Ireland.  Luke Byron was a soldier from Yorkshire with Cromwell who was granted lands in Wexford. His descendants were to be found in New Ross and Wexford city.  Luke’s great grandson John Byron emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1816, but died there soon after.

The Byron name was to be found elsewhere in Ireland in Dublin and Antrim. It has also cropped up in Roscommon and Tipperary. Byron here could be a variant spelling of the Irish Byrne.

America.  There was a Henry Byrum who came to Essex county, Virginia from Lancashire as an indentured servant in 1696.  But most Byrons arrived from Ireland not England and their Byron name may have been an anglicized one.

Joseph Byron from Wexford came via Nova Scotia where he had been apprenticed to a tanner.  He moved to Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1832 where he started a leather tanning business. This was then continued by his son William who opened new tanneries in the 1890’s in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania and Williamsport in western Maryland. The tannery business continued in family hands until financial problems caused the Byrons to sell out in 1976.

In the interim the Byrons had become involved in Maryland politics.  Three generations of the Byron family were mayors of Williamsport; two Byron family members died in office as US Congressmen and were replaced by their wives in “widow mandate” elections; and one Byron represented Maryland in both houses of Congress and served as a judge on two federal benches.

Byron Surname Miscellany

The Buruns ithat Became Byrons.  Information from the Domesday Book of 1086 would indicate that Ralph and Erneis de Burun were brothers and had come to England at the time of the Norman Conquest along with their father Michel de Bures. This family would probably have originated from Bures near Bayeux in Normandy.

The Byrons of Clayton, Colwick, and Newstead Abbey.  Through the marriage of Robert de Byron and the heiress Cecilia Clayton at the end of the 12th century, the Byrons had acquired Clayton Hall near Manchester.  Some hundred years later, through another marriage to an heiress, they added the larger Nottinghamshire estates of the Colwicks to their Lancashire holdings.

Within a further hundred years the family had made Colwick its chief residence and it was there that Sir Nicholas Byron made his will in 1503 and asked to be buried.

His grandson Sir John Byron, known as Little Sir John with the Great Beard, acquired the Augustinian priory of Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire in 1540 at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. He converted the abbey into a private home. It remained in Byron hands until the poet Lord Byron, the 6th Lord Byron, was forced to sell it in 1818.

The Wicked Lord Byron.  William Byron, the 5th Lord Byron, inherited the family estates on the death of his father in 1736.  For many years his life ran on an even keel until it began a descent into madness and scandal.

In January 1765 Lord Byron killed his cousin and neighbor William Chaworth in a duel at the Stars and Garters Tavern in London.  The fight resulted from an argument the two had been engaged in over cups of wine, with both insisting they had more game on their estates.  Lord Byron and his cousin retired to a dim room to resolve their disagreement and it was there that Lord Byron thrust his sword through Chaworth’s stomach. Chaworth was mortally wounded and died the following day.

Lord Byron was tried in the House of Lords for Chaworth’s death, but under an ancient statute was found guilty only of manslaughter and forced to pay just a small fine.  Notwithstanding his virtual acquittal, he was generally regarded by the public as a guilty man and everyone stayed clear of him. Unrepentant, Lord Byron, on returning home to Newstead Abbey, mounted the sword he used to kill Chaworth on the wall in his bedroom.  It was at this time in his life that he was nicknamed “the Wicked Lord,” a title he very much enjoyed.

The old lord seemed to have been a most spiteful and cantankerous character. He always carried firearms on his person, being probably rather tired of using his sword, and his only companions were two fierce dogs, a mastiff and a bull-dog.

The ruin of his wealth and property began when his son and heir eloped with Juliana Byron, the daughter of his younger brother.  Lord Byron felt that intermarrying would produce children plagued with madness and strongly opposed the union.  When defied by his son, Lord Byron became enraged and committed himself to ruining his inheritance so that, in the event of his death, his son would receive nothing but debt and worthless property.

His vicious plan was thwarted when his son died in 1776.  Lord Byron also outlived his grandson, a young man who at the age of twenty two was killed by cannon fire in 1794 while fighting in Corsica.  Instead it was his great nephew George Gordon Byron, the famous Romantic poet, who became the 6th Baron Byron when Lord Byron died in 1798 at the age of seventy five.

Lord Byron and Newstead Abbey.  The country folk in Sherwood Forest had detested the Old Lord, the Wicked Lord Byron, and wished that the Byrons would leave.  There was an old saying that whenever a vessel freighted with ling should cross Sherwood Forest, then Newstead would pass out of Byron hands. Ling in the dialect of Nottingham was the name for heather.  With this plant they heaped the fated bark as it passed so that it would arrive full freighted at Newstead.

The poet Lord George Byron inherited the estate in 1798 and was to hold it twenty years.  What had been once an elegant house was by that time a Gothic ruin.  Lord Byron, however, loved it and spent much time in this, his ancestral home.  He kept a stocked wine cellar, maintained an excellent library, and used both the Great Hall and the Dining Room.

When he was forced to sell the estate in 1818, he wrote the following lines of regret on leaving Newstead Abbey:

  • “Thou, the hall of my fathers, art gone to decay;
  • In thy once smiling garden, the hemlock and thistle
  • Have choked up the rose which once bloomed in the way.
  • Of the mail-covered barons who, proudly, to battle
  • Led thy vassals from Europe to Palestine’s plain,
  • The escutcheon and shield, which with every wind rattle,
  • Are the only sad vestiges now that remain.”

The Poet Lord George Byron, England’s First Celebrity.  During his travels in the Orient beginning in 1809, Byron had penned a semi-autobiographical poem of his experiences entitled Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. On his return to London in 1812, he sought a publisher for these writings.  He did find one, John Murray, and – to the surprise of both – this book when released turned out to be an overnight sensation with the reading public of the time.

As Byron himself said: “I awoke one morning and found myself famous.”  His readers, especially the ladies, were entranced by the brooding Byronic character that he projected.  Byromania had arrived.

He was never out of the news in England over the next four years, in good and bad ways.  In good ways his poetry sold.  In bad ways, even though this was Regency England, many were appalled by his outrageous sexual behavior.

There were accusations of sodomy on one side and the trio of women in his life – Lady Caroline Lamb, Annabella Millbanke (whom he was to marry), and his half-sister Augusta – on the other.  Stories came out about Lady Caroline’s pubic hair, possible incest with Augusta, and a possible threesome with him, Annabella and Augusta.

In 1816 after a bitter separation from Annabella, Byron left England, never to return.  He spent eight years rolling round Europe in a great black coach in self-imposed exile. Yet the public appetite for everything Byronic – his life, his loves, his poetry – remained insatiable.

His affairs with ladies continued, notably with Countess Teresa Guiccioli in Ravenna.  The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley who visited him remarked about his household there as follows:

“Besides servants, Lord B.’s establishment consists of ten horses, eight enormous dogs, three monkeys, five cats, an eagle, a crow, and a falcon; and all these, except the horses, walk about the house which every now and then resounds with their unarbitrated quarrels as if they were the masters of it.”

Byron’s death from fever in April 1824 in Greece at the age of 36, while working for the Greeks in their War of Independence, was received with shock and disbelief back in England.

However, because of his questionable morality, his body was denied burial at Westminster Abbey.  Instead he lay in state in London for two days in an atmosphere of near-hysterical emotion.  This was only outdone by the funeral procession itself when crowds pushed and shoved to get a sight of the cortege.

Byrons in Office in Maryland.  Two Byron family members died in office as US Congressmen in Maryland and were replaced by their wives in “widow mandate” elections.

William Devereux Byron was US Congressman who represented the 6th Congressional district of Maryland where he had been elected in 1939 after a close contest with the Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Walter Johnson.  On February 26, 1941, he boarded Eastern Airlines flight 21 at Washington DC that was bound for Brownsville by way of Atlanta. On its approach to Atlanta’s Chandler Field, the Douglas DC-3 crashed, killing 9 of the 16 persons on board including Byron.  His widow Katharine was elected in a special election to complete his term of office.

Their son Goodloe represented the same Congressional district from 1971 until October 1978 when he died in office from a heart attack. He was replaced by his widow Beverly in 1979.

Byron Names

  • Robert de Byron, the Lord of Clayton in Lancashire in the late 1100’s, was the first to adopt the name of Byron. 
  • Vice Admiral John Byron, known as Foul-weather Jack, circumnavigated the world in 1765. 
  • Lord Byron, George Gordon Byron, was the famous Romantic poet of the early 19th century.

Byron Numbers Today

  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 3,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Byron and Like Surnames

These are the names of some literary giants.  If you are interested in the name behind the literary figure, please click on the surname below.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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