Hall Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Hall Surname Meaning

The name could be locational or occupational; one who lived by a hall; or one who worked in a hall (perhaps as a servant).  Hall comes from the Old Norse holl, a spacious residence. It has been suggested that Hall was a family name with a meaning of “kind” or “forgiving” – from the belief that Viking thanes were eternally benevolent to those who lived within his hall.

Hall may also have come to England through the Norman “de Aula” which became Hall.  The name cropped up in different parts of the country, probably from different roots.

Hall Surname Resources on The Internet

Hall Surname Ancestry

  • from Northern England and Scotland
  • to Ireland (Ulster), America, Caribs (Jamaica), Canada and Australia

England.  The surname Hall is said to have originated in Lincolnshire in 1090 when Arthur Fitzwilliam changed his name to Arthur Hall to distinguish himself from his elder brother of the same name. Their home in the 16th century was Greatford Hall in Lincolnshire.

William de Aula, descended probably from an earlier de Aula family, was living in the early 14th century in Wiltshire and was the forebear of a prominent landowning Hall family in Bradford-on-Avon until the last male of the line died in 1711.

Dr. John Hall, born in Bedfordshire, lived at Stratford-upon-Avon at the time of Shakespeare.  He in fact married his eldest daughter Susanna there in 1607.  Their home, Hall’s Croft built in 1613, still stands.

Halls in NE England.  There were Hall reivers on the English/Scots border, one of the many in that region called reivers because of their banditry.

These Halls were described as follows:  “A large widely spread clan, at one time the most powerful in Redesdale, the Halls were well-hated and feared on both sides of the border. They were considered a clan to whom no quarter should be given.”  

Halls were also found in the Scottish valleys of Teviotdale and Liddesdale.  They were particularly dangerous in the 16th century before the time of Border pacification.  A Hall by the name of “Mad Jack Ha” who lived at Otterburn was later hung at Tyburn in London for his participation in the 1715 Rebellion.

Halls were prominent merchants and shipowners at Hull on the Yorkshire coast. One line of the family got into rope-making at Barton nearby, starting in 1767.  Hall’s Barton Ropery Co. prospered in the 19th century and remained in business until 1989.

Meanwhile George Hall of this family stayed with seafaring and shipowning.  His three sons – George, Thomas and John – emigrated to New Zealand in 1852. It was the youngest son John Hall who entered politics there and rose through the ranks to become New Zealand’s Prime Minister in 1879.

A majority of Halls lived in the north of England, according to the 19th century distribution of the Hall name.

Scotland. The de Aula/Hall name was brought to Scotland by the Normans. The Halls of Fulbar in Renfrewshire dated from 1370 but died out around 1550.  Andrew Hall was a merchant in Kirkcudbright in the late 1500’s. His son John was involved in the drafting of the 1611 King James Bible.

One record of a Hall family in Selkirk on the Scottish borders began with the marriage of Henry Hall and Helen Caldwals there in 1713.

Ireland. A number of English and Scots Halls left the Border area for Ulster at the time of the plantations in the 17th century:

  • John Hall was recorded as a tenant at Magheriboy in Fermanagh as early as 1619
  • the Rev. Thomas Hall was ordained as the Presbyterian minister at Larne in Antrim in 1646
  • while Francis Hall from Antrim acquired Narrow Water Castle in county Down in 1670. The Halls have lived there since that time and Roger Hall died there in 2007.

Antrim and Armagh have the largest number of Halls in Ireland today.

America.  Most Halls in America have been of English origin, the early ones coming to New England:

New England.  Early Halls here have been:

  • the Quaker John Hall who arrived in Charlestown from Warwickshire in 1630 and later moved to Cape Cod.  His descendants were to be found in Vermont and then in upstate New York.
  • John Hall who came to Newport, Rhode Island from Bradford in Wiltshire in 1639.
  • George Hall from Devon who was one of the founders of Taunton in Bristol county, Massachusetts in the same year.
  • and John Hall, a carpenter from Kent, who came to Boston around 1634 and settled in Middletown, Connecticut in the 1640’s.

A fourth John Hall, who had arrived in 1633 and made his home in Wallingford, Connecticut was the forebear of perhaps the most prominent of these early Halls.

His descendant Lyman hall was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and later Governor of Georgia. One of Lyman’s contemporaries Colonel Street Hall fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War; another, Colonel Elihu Hall, who was a wealthy Loyalist, left for London at that time and died soon after.

Elsewhere and Other Halls. John and Alice Hall from Sussex came to Charles county, Maryland around the year 1680.  Their descendants moved to Fayette county in SW Pennsylvania sometime in the mid-1700’s.

William Hall, seeking to avoid conscription into the British army, arrived with his mother and three brothers in Chester county, Pennsylvania in 1725.   This family later moved to Virginia.  William was killed by Cherokee Indians on the banks of the Staunton river in 1757.  His son John inherited his estate.

Halls in America did not just come from England. A number arrived from Ireland, many of them Scots Irish.  James Hall left Derry in 1720 for Pennsylvania, later settling in 1752 in Iredell county, North Carolina.  His line was covered in Mary Lizzie Adams 1949 book The Hall Family History.

Some came also from Germany and Sweden. Hall here was probably the anglicized name of their German or Swedish name.

Caribbean.  Thomas Hall from Worcester, born around 1660, was one of the earliest British settlers in Jamaica.  By the 1720’s he and his family were engaged in producing sugar, molasses and rum for export back to England.

There was another notable 18th century Hall family in Jamaica. The first here has been traced to John Hall, born in 1722. His original family records are those that were kept by his wife Allegonda Boom.

Canada.  Nicholas Hall from Ulster, encouraged to move to Canada after the War of 1812, came and settled in Lanark county, Ontario, marrying a French Canadian there. 

John Hall from Ulster had enlisted in the British First Dragoon Guards and been sent to Canada in the 1830’s. He and his wife Jane eventually stayed there, making their home in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  These Halls were generally Protestant.  But some became Catholic.

Australia. George and Ellen Hall from Sussex arrived in Adelaide in South Australia in 1849. On arrival George listed himself as a soft drinks manufacturer.  However, that was not to happen until two years later when he founded his company Geo. Hall & Sons, specializing in Stonie ginger beer. Geo. Hall & Sons was a successful soft drinks business in Australia until its sale in 1972 to the Coca Cola bottlers.

Daniel Hall from Cheshire had arrived in South Australia in 1839, ten years earlier, but his life was more of a struggle.  Within a year both his wife Ann and daughter Elizabeth were dead and he was seeking relief.  His son William, however, did prosper as a farmer in the Flinders Range. Other Halls of the family made their home at Lyndoch in the Barossa valley.

Hall Surname Miscellany

The de Aula/Hall Family of Bradford.  The family of Hall, prominent in the Wiltshire town of Bradford-upon-Avon from the 14th to the 18th century, took their name from an earlier de Aula family.

William de Aula, his wife Katherine, and his son Thomas were living there in the early 1300’s in the reign of Edward II.  William, son of John de Aula, was presented in 1350 to the chapel of Barley in Bradford parish. Thomas atte Halle was alive in 1350 and 1360.  He was succeeded by his son Thomas Halle who came of age in 1373.  The name became Hall with Thomas Hall who was alive in 1450.

John Hall probably built the present Hall mansion in Bradford.   He died in 1631, leaving a son and heir, Thomas. Thomas Hall, later knighted, was a Royalist and forfeited his estates in 1647.  He was succeeded in 1663 by his son John, the last of his line, who died in 1711.

Hall Border Reivers.  Among the Hall Border reivers in Redesdale in the late 1500’s, the historian George Fraser mentioned two by name.  Eddie Hall he described as “that famous thief;” and George Hall of Bordupp as “a notorious thief and murderer.”  George had served as a mercenary in the Low Countries and, because of this service, had been allowed to resettle in Redesdale.

Later, after the Border pacification, there was this report of a Hall, sent to Ireland, who had then returned.

“John Hall of Elsdon, known as Long Parcies Jocke, was reported to have returned out of Ireland by what passed we know not, a riotous liver, ill reputed and much suspected, having nothing to maintain himself with but by keeping an alehouse.  This information was gleaned from a survey of all notorious, lewd, idle, and misbehaved persons in Redesdale.”

George Hall’s Seafaring Escapades.  George Hall was born in Hull in 1782, the eleventh child of John and Eleanor Hall.  John Hall was evidently a sea captain and George followed him into a seagoing career, becoming a cabin boy at the age of thirteen.

His early seagoing career coincided with the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and he was detained by the French on at least two occasions.

When his first ship was captured he was just a cabin boy but he slipped away and eventually got back to Hull by way of a circuitous voyage and by pretending to be an American crew member on a couple of United States ships.

In 1805 he was on another ship taken by the French.  This time he was held for almost six years.  George managed to escape in 1810 but was soon recaptured.  Later that year he managed to get away once more. After walking across France to the English Channel coast, he obtained passage to England from smugglers, being landed near Rye on New Year’s Day 1811.

George returned to Hull and rose through the ranks to become a captain He married Grace Williamson, the daughter of a local merchant, in 1817.  The couple had five children – George, Ann, Thomas, John and Grace.

Richard Hall (1729-1801).  Richard Hall was a hosier – he made silk stockings – and owned a haberdashery shop at Number One London Bridge. He had married a wealthy heiress and in tme became extremely prosperous. Sadly, his wife died in 1780 when she was just 46.

Richard then fell out with his three children (he immediately remarried and the children didn’t approve of his new bride.  He retired to become a farmer at Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds, vowing never to speak another word to his children.  And nor did he, for the rest of his life. He went on to have two more children, a son and a daughter

The Halls of Narrow Water Castle.  In 1670 the Narrow Water estate in county Down came into the possession of Francis Hall.  His family had originated in Holland but had sought sanctuary in England a century before. With his wife Mary and their four children Francis settled here, building Mount Hall, an Irish long house, that became the Hall residence for the next century and a half.  By astute marriage alliances the Halls later acquired much more land for their estates.

In 1816 the Newry architect Thomas Duff was commissioned by Roger Hall to design an Elizabethan revival-style house adjoining Mount Hall.  That is still the Hall family home today.  Some building materials were imported by their sailing ships.  Granite from Mullaghglass was also used.  The furniture, panelling and carving was the work of Curran & Sons of Lisburn.  The house took twenty years to complete and Duff did not survive to see it finished.

Roger Hall died in 1865 and willed his estates to his brother Madden, and on Madden’s death, to his nephew William James Hall.  He was the son of the Rev Savage Hall, rector of Loughgall.  William joined the Royal Artillery and later developed tea plantations in Ceylon, leaving his uncle Madden to look after the estates.

Roger Toby Hall served and suffered in the Great War and was invalided out to Gibraltar where he met and married Marie Patron.  Their return was to estates much reduced as a result of the Land Acts of those times.  Roger bred horses and greyhounds and enjoyed riding despite his shrapnel and shell-shock wounds.

At the outbreak of the Second World War the Castle was commandeered for military billets.  Both British and American military personnel were stationed there.  Post-War the Castle for a while functioned as a hotel.  By 1952 it closed and was converted into twelve flats.   Today the castle is a venue for conferences, wedding and the like.

Halls in America by Country of Origin

Country Numbers Percent
England  3,697    68
Ireland  1,127    20
Scotland    317     6
Germany    295     5
Sweden    120     1
Total  5,596   100

Reader Feedback – Halls in Jamaica.  Please can you provide any information on the original line of Halls who resided in St Catherine or Redhills.  I understand there was a William Hall who married Francis Matthews who are my relatives.

Errol Hall (halle343@gmx.com).

John Hall and Allegonda Boom in Jamaica.  In 1758 John Hall, aged 36, married Allegonda Boom, aged 21, at Port Royal in Jamaica.  John was a tavern keeper in Kingston and this apparently was his second marriage.  Allegonda joined him in Kingston.

They lived in a place and at a time when death rates, due to yellow fever and malaria, were shockingly high. The family only made it through this generation because Allegonda had nine children before dying in 1775 at the young age of 37.  Of these nine, four died in infancy and five survived.

What happened to John after Allegonda died?  He married again.  And his new wife was also called Allegonda!  John Hall married the widow Allegonda Tweerts in 1789 and their baby daughter, naturally named Allegonda, was born a year later.  John died in 1797 and his second wife Allegonda lived until 1812.

The Halls of Niagara-on-the-Lake – Protestant or Catholic?  John and Jane Hall hailed from Ulster and had arrived in Niagara-on-the-Lake in the 1830’s.  Initially their children there were baptized in the Anglican Church.

That was until one stormy night when John mounted his horse to go from suburban Irishtown to St. Mark’s Rectory to get the rector to come and baptize one of the children, an infant in danger of death.  It was a stormy and forbidding night and the rector refused to go, postponing the trip until the morrow.

Made of sterner stuff and believing in the efficacy of baptism in opening the gates of Heaven, John called upon the Catholic priest.  He without more ado mounted on the horse behind him and rode out into the wild night on an errand that seemed to both of them of vast importance.

From that day John told his wife to bring up the children in the Catholic religion. He was most severe throughout his life in seeing that the children attended to their religious duties.

Hall Names

  • Arthur Fitzwilliam Hall was in 1090 the first of the Halls in England.
  • Charles Hall was an early American explorer of the Arctic.
  • Sir John Hall was New Zealand Prime Minister in 1878 and an early advocate of the female vote.
  • Wes Hall was a great fast bowler in the West Indian cricket team of the 1960’s.
  • Sir Peter Hall is a well-known English theatre and film director.

Hall Numbers Today

  • 130,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 184,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 66,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Hall and Like Surnames

The border between Scotland and England was a lawless area for well over three hundred years and the subject of many stories and hearsays.  Families on both sides of the border took part in the raids, attacking villages and stealing cattle on the way.  Eventually, following the unification of the Scottish and English crowns in 1603, the area was pacified.  There were mass executions and banishments, many to the new Protestant colony in Ulster.

These were some of the prominent Border family surnames at that time that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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