Hurst Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Hurst Meaning
root of the English surnames Hurst, Hirst, and Hearst is the Old
English hyrst, meaning a wooded
hill. It could be locational, to
describe someone who lived by a wooded hill, or (more likely) it could
derive from a
place-name with that spelling.
The Hirst
spelling is native to Yorkshire. Hurst place-names cropped up at various places
throughout England and the Hurst surname has been more widespread. Another spelling variant is Hearst.

Hurst Resources on

Hurst Ancestry

1881 census
showed 80% of the Hirsts in Yorkshire and 34% of
the Hursts
in Lancashire.

Yorkshire The
early spelling in Yorkshire seems to have been Hurst. Hursts were
recorded in

Methley near Leeds, and Dewsbury in the 16th century. William
Hurst, an
architect from Doncaster, was responsible for the building of Firbeck
hall and church near Rotherham in the early 1800’s.

But the Hirst spelling had begun to displace Hurst by that time.
At the time of the 1881 census Hirsts outnumbered Hursts in Yorkshire
by ten to one. The
largest number of these Hirsts was concentrated in the
metropolitan borough of Kirklees in the West Riding of Yorkshire,
notably in Huddersfield and villages in the Holme valley where the wool
trade and handloom
weaving were important. Coming from this area were:

  • William
    Hirst, born in Marsh, the so-called father of the Yorkshire woollen
    (although he himself went bankrupt in the crash of 1830)
  • Thomas
    in Heckmondwike
    the 19th century mathematician
  • and
    George Hirst,
    Yorkshire and England cricketer at the turn of the century.

Hirst name did extend elsewhere in Yorkshire. For instance, Jemmy Hirst,
the noted 18th century eccentric, lived at Rawcliffe near Goole in the
East Riding.

Lancashire The
largest number of Hursts in 1881 was in Lancashire. Hurst
place-names there resulted
in Hurst surnames:

  • Hurst
    Brook was a small hamlet near
    Ashton-under-Lyne. A

    Hurst family was said to have been descended from Nicholas de Hyrst
    living there in 1422.

    These Hursts were resident in Ashton-under-Lyne in the early
    1600’s. A number of Hursts were to be found in the wider Salford
    area from the 1700’s onward.
  • Tyldesley
    Hurst near present-day Wigan gave rise to Hurst families in Tyldesley
    and Shakerley. Jeffrey Hurst, a dissenter from Shakerley at the
    time of Queen Mary, was saved from martyrdom by the death of the Queen
    in 1558.

Leicestershire was another sizeable Hurst outpost, possibly from the
Bringhurst. Bringhurst was already a surname by 1320. The Hurst
family in Hinckley dates from the 16th
century and Hursts were to be found in Claybrook from the 1750’s and in
Wigston Magna from the early 1800’s.

The Hurst name in Hertfordshire goes back to the 13th century.
Hurst Hills in Oxfordshire and Sussex probably gave rise to Hurst
families in those two counties:

  • the
    Hursts in Oxfordshire date from the early 1500’s and were to be
    found in villages such as Great Milton, Great Haseley, Coombe,
    Wheately, and Leckhamstead.
  • while
    the Hursts
    at Horsham in Sussex also started around that time. The diary of Sarah
    who lived there between 1736 and 1808 has been
    preserved. Her younger brother Robert did well and his family
    acquired and
    onto Park House in Horsham from 1800 to 1929.
    Father, son, and grandson were MP’s for Horsham over the course of the
    19th centur

Ireland. Hurst in Ireland may
be of
English or of Irish origin, the latter being an anglicized form of the
Gaelic de Horsaigh. Fermanagh
accounted for 25% of the Hursts in
Ireland in Griffith’s Valuation on
the 1850’s. The Hurst name was evident in
and in Derryvallan parish. The Hearst
spelling can be found in Belfast.

. Hursts but not Hirsts
travelled to America. Two early arrivals were:

  • Tobias
    Hurst who came to Jamestown, Virginia on the Treasurer in 1618 at the age of
    22. He lived until 1655. However, he has no recorded
  • and
    James Hurst who arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts from Leiden in
    Holland in 1632 (possibly preceded by his daughter Patience) and was
    one of the early settlers of Dartmouth.

Virginia. Henry Hurst
came to Northumberland county in the northern neck of Virginia in
1650. John of Stafford and Henry of Orange are thought to be his
grandsons and from there the lines appear well documented. The
descendants of John Hurst
can be found in J.C. Hurst’s 1950 book Hursts
of Shenandoah

Tennessee and Kentucky.
Hurst came to
Tennessee from Shenandoah county, Virginia in 1807 and settled in
county. His brother Elijah followed him
shortly afterwards and Elijah’s son Fielding came to McNairy county in
southwest part of the state in 1833.
Fielding Hurst was for many years a respected farmer and
slave-owner. But his name was forever
blackened by the stories about him during the Civil War when Hurst
held sway.

Henry Hurst
from Frederick county, Virginia fought in the Revolutionary War and
died in Morgan county, Kentucky in 1844.


Hursts in America

have varied origins, not
just English but Irish and German as well.
The German name was usually Horst (of
similar meaning) which tended to become Hurst in America.
They were mainly to be found in
Pennsylvania. Their numbers included
Mennonite Horsts/Hursts and later arrivals from Baden.

And the Hearsts. John Hearst and his family
(first listed as Hearse) came from Belfast on the Belfast
to Charleston in 1766. They
settled in the Long Cane district of
South Carolina, then still Cherokee territory, which later became part
Abbeville county.

Son George migrated to Missouri. His son
William did not prosper, but his
grandson George did, first in mining and
then in publishing – acquiring the San
Francisco Daily Examiner
in 1882. It
was his son William Randolph Hearst who established the Hearst
empire. The family story was traced in
Judith Robinson’s 1991 book The Hearsts –
An American Dynasty.

Canada. William Hearst
emigrated from Fermanagh to Ontario sometime in the 1840’s. His
son William, who trained to be a lawyer, became Premier of Ontario in

and New Zealand
. Early Hursts in Australia were convicts. William Hurst of Bedfordshire
was transported
there for horse theft in 1823. The owner
of the horse, Owen Cambridge, in fact wrote a small book about his
chase across
England to catch Hurst and his horse. Hurst
ended up with his
in Tasmania.

Frederick Hurst led an
adventurous life. Born in Jersey in the
Channel Islands, he embarked with his parents in 1839 at the age of six
for New
Zealand. They settled near Wellington. In 1852 Frederick labored in the Bendigo
goldfields in Australia where he joined the Mormon church. Three years later he sailed for America by
way of Tahiti and the Hawaiian Islands.
Frederick was involved in many Mormon pioneer activities in Utah
and a mission to New Zealand later in his life.
In 1961 his grandson published his diary – The
Diary of Frederick William Hurst


Hurst Miscellany

Hirst and Hurst in the 1881 Census

Numbers (000’s) Hirst Hurst
Yorkshire    7.8    0.8
Lancashire    0.9    3.5
Cheshire    0.1    0.5
Leicestershire      –    0.5
London    0.2    0.9
Elsewhere    0.8    1.5
Total    9.8   10.7

The Yorkshire Hirsts were mainly concentrated in the Holme valley in
the West Riding.  Towns and villages such as Huddersfield,
Almondbury, Batley, Dewsbury, Meltham, Mirfield, and Slaithwaite had
sizeable Hirst populations.

The Diary of Sarah Hurst.  Sarah Hurst was born in 1736 and died in 1808.  For four of these years,
from 1759 to 1762, she kept a diary which has been preserved.  Her
father, like his father before him, was a tailor in Horsham in
Sussex.  The elder Hurst had also been something of a local
dignitary, serving as Surveyor of the Highways and Overseer of the

Sarah’s diaries at this time revealed her to have been a remarkable
woman: she was
well-educated, at ease in polite society, kept the accounts of the
business, did needlework for lady customers, and wrote poetry in her
spare time.

the main stories that ran through the diary was Sarah’s love for Henry
Smith, with
whom she fell in love when only sixteen years of age.  From
the diary it is clear that much of Sarah
and Henry’s affair was carried on in secret as the Smith family
opposed the marriage, mainly because Sarah’s father was a local
tradesman while
they were a family of London merchants.

Defying family expectations, Sarah and Harry
married in secret at Slinfold church on 28 April 1762.  The
pages of the diary were cut out around that
date so we do not know the full story of the marriage.  Until
the question of the dowry was sorted out,
Sarah and Harry kept their marriage quiet.  Sarah
was forced to lie on several occasions,
including to her mother-in-law who was fiercely against the marriage.  This was an entry at that time:

8 October 1762 Go
down to Mrs. Wicker and find there Dr. Smith’s
wife and my Harry’s mother.  The former
wishes me joy and says she heard I was married.  I
answer people will say anything.  Captain
Smith’s mother seemed greatly agitated
and said she knew it was not so.  It’s
wrong to be too positive, but we too often believe what we wish.  Poor woman, she will be horridly vexed when
she knows it’s true.”

Jemmy Hirst, An English Eccentric.  Jemmy Hirst was born in 1738 to a farmer family in Rawcliffe in
the East Riding of Yorkshire.  Even at
school he kept a pet jackdaw and trained a hedgehog to follow him
around.  His parents’ hope that he would
become a
priest never materialized after he was thrown out of school for his
pranks.  Hirst was apprenticed to a
tanner, fell in love with his daughter and became engaged to her.

Hirst’s eccentricity began when his betrothed died of smallpox after he
her from a flooding river. At first Hirst retired to his bed and
contracted “brain fever.”

When he recovered, he continued his habits of animal
training.  His first success was his
later favorite, a bull he named Jupiter and trained to behave as a
horse so
that he could ride him and use him to pull his carriage.
The carriage itself was made of wicker and had
unusually big wheels, looking like a lampshade upside down.  When
Jupiter found it hard to pull, Hirst fitted it with sails.
The experiment was unsuccessful and the
carriage crashed into a shop window in Pontefract.
Hirst was then banned from the town.

rode Jupiter in a fox hunt, using pigs as pointers instead of dogs.  He would go to
Doncaster races dressed in a
lambskin hat with a nine-foot brim and a waistcoat of duck feathers.  Hirst blew his hunting horn to summon
the poor and the elderly to his house for tea.
Sometimes the visitors found that the refreshments were served
their host’s favorite coffin.  Hirst hung
the walls of his house with bits of old rope and iron and wrote

Hirst’s fame grew enough that King George III was intrigued and invited
him to visit London.  When he arrived there
in his carriage he attracted much attention in his
costume.  During the visit one noble
began to laugh.  Jemmy proceeded to throw
a goblet of water in his face because he was clearly “having
hysterics.”  He announced that he
was pleased to find his monarch a “plain-looking fellow” and invited
him to visit him in Rawcliffe for a good brandy. The king did not
oblige, but
reputedly gave him a number of bottles from the royal wine cellar.

Jemmy Hirst
died in 1829.  His will left £12 to
twelve old maids who were to follow his coffin and two musicians, a
fiddler and
a bagpiper who were to play happy songs.
Only two old maids obliged.  He
left his accountant a piece of rope to “go hang himself with.”  The rumor went around that Hirst had had his
coffin built with windows and shelves which he kept in his front
room.  He
would charge people to sit in it.

The Early Years of Cricketer George Hirst.  George Herbert Hirst was born in Kirkheaton on 7 September
1871 at the Brown Cow public house in
St. Mary’s Lane.  The pub was run by his
parents James and Sarah Maria Hirst.  James
also farmed six acres attached to the pub.

George left school at the age of 10 and went to
work as a wirer for a hand-loom weaver.  He also helped his
grandfather droving
the cattle but, as his granddaughter said, he told her that he always
cricket from noon till night otherwise.”

recalled in 1937, when asked to write a passage for a brochure to raise
money for
the new Kirkheaton pavilion:

the Old Brown
Inn there we boys played our cricket in the yard and the intake
below.  It would be about 1885 or 1886 when
I joined Kirkheaton. We lads practiced cricket and football every spare
we could get after work.  In fact, our
parents said we lived at the ground.  Practice
with a ball makes the player – well we got our share.”

he worked in Robson’s dye-works on
the other side of the valley, and all the time he was playing cricket
as a
“Saturday man,” first for Elland, then for Mirfield, and afterwards for
Huddersfield.  In 1889 he played his
first game for Yorkshire when he was only 17.

Hursts in America by Country of Origin

Country Numbers Percent
England    416    58%
Ireland    154    21%
Germany    133    19%
Elsewhere     13     2%
Total    716

There were
in addition 290 Horsts who immigrated to America from Germany, some of
adopted the Hurst name.

Hurst Nation.  Colonel Fielding Hurst led the Sixth Tennessee
Cavalry, a Union regiment, in SW Tennessee during the Civil War.  His family also owned a block of land that
served as an enclave for Union sympathizers in a rebel state.  It became known as the Hurst Nation.   The land was about five miles wide and
stretched 15 miles down the west side of what was then McNairy county.  The Hursts
controlled the numerous east-west routes from the Tennessee river to
that traversed their holdings.

with the Yankees did not sit well with
most of the Hurst neighbors.  Many
considered people like the Hursts worse than the Yankees.
citizen wrote:

as we called them, were our worst enemies.
These were the men of our own and adjoining counties who had gone over
to the
Yankees.  Those were the meanest and cruelest class we had to deal
with.  They scrupled less at murder and all sorts of outrages,
most of
them being the very scum of the country.”

was one line of verse that was written
at the time:

for the children who lie now in bed.
The widow, the aged, the soldier who bled.
For out of the “Nation” comes a sickness and curse –
God save us all from the demon called Hurst.

vandals of old through our land they did ride
With hunger and death always close by their side.
Came terror, his herald, but the wailing comes first
We know he is coming, that demon called Hurst.”

In West Tennessee, the site
of much guerrilla fighting, Civil War scars have run deep.
toward the Hursts took generations to undo.  That animosity stoked
stories, even legends, through the years.  The story has been told
how, on a patrol to LaGrange, Hurst carried with him a band of
Confederate prisoners and, at every mile post, killed one, cut his
head off and hung it on a post.

Surprisingly, the Hurst home still stands.  Some say it is the
oldest structure in McNairy county.  It is said to be
haunted.  According to legend, Hurst died there after being shot
by one of his many enemies.  Some have suggested that he died at
the top of the stairs on the second floor.  On the anniversary of
his death, the blood reappears and he can be heard screaming.

These Hurst tales may have been exaggerated and Hurst painted more of
an ogre than he actually was.  Resentment against him grew in the
after the defeat in the Civil War.

Reader Feedback – Henry Hurst, Revolutionary War Soldier.  Henry Hurst is one of my
relatives and served in the Revolutionary War.   I
believe he had a brother from John Mill
Creek who also served in the same war.

Hurst was the son of Elisha Hurst.  He was born on 27 October,
1762 in Frederick county, Virginia and
his first wife Elizabeth Kiser (born the same year) there.
She died in Shenandoah county,
Virginia. He died in 1844 in Morgan
county, Kentucky.

Any information you might have, also the names
of others who have researched him or relatives, etc.

Linda Gay Tooley (

The Hurst Family in Australia.  William Hurst
and Mary Keep had married in Wootton, Bedfordshire in 1814 and they had
children, four in Bedfordshire prior to William’s transportation to
Tasmania in
1823 and four more after Mary joined him there in 1829.

These children enjoyed
remarkably long lives.  A newspaper
report in 1919 noted that two were still living, Elizabeth aged 89 and
aged 82.  The ages of the six that had
died were Ambrose 94, Sarah 90, Rebecca 89, Rhoda 78, Leah 75, and Emma

total combined ages of the family reached 632 years, which was believed
to be a
record for one family.  Elizabeth in fact
lived onto 1923 (aged 93), William to 1927 (aged 90).



Hurst Names

  • George Hirst was a Yorkshire
    and English cricketing all-rounder who played between 1890 and 1920. 
  • William Randolph Hearst was the American newspaper
    publisher who built the nation’s largest newspaper chain in the early 1900’s. 
  • Geoff Hurst was the English footballer
    who scored a hat-trick for his country in the 1966 World Cup final. 
  • Damien Hirst is an English artist, the
    most prominent member of a group known as the Young British Artists in the 1990’s

Hurst/Hirst/Hearst Numbers Today

  • 34,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 17,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply