Osborne Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Osborne Surname Meaning

The surname Osborne comes from the Old Norse or Viking personal name Asbjorn, comprised of as meaning “god,” and bjorn meaning “bear.”  The word “god bear” may have been a reference to the colossal Ursus spelaeus, an ancient bear that once roamed the plains of Europe after the last ice age.

The name had appeared in England before the Norman Conquest. The wife of Egbert, the king of Wessex, was called Osbern. But Osbern acheved a greater prominence in England through the Normans, first because of William FitzOsbern and then because of the spread of Norman Osberns in the Domesday Book.  Another William FitzOsbern led a popular uprising in London in 1196.

The first surname recording was a Henry Osbern in Cambridge in 1260. Over time Osbern became Osborn and Osborne. The Osbornes predominate today.

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Osborne Surname Ancestry

England. The Osbern name was widely spread throughout England in the Domesday Book. And the surname Osborne was also spread in the 19th century:

  • there was one cluster around London and the southeast (Kent and Essex)
  • another in the southwest (in particular in Devon and Cornwall)
  • and then it spread across the Midlands and into Yorkshire.

The manor of Osborne (originally Oustbourn) on the Isle of Wight which dates from about 1320 gave its name to Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s favorite residence.

Kent. The earliest record of an Osborne family comes from the will of Julian and Harjanna Osborn, recorded in Maidstone in Kent in 1404. Alexander Osborne was mayor of Maidstone in 1700 and the family remained in this area. The Osbornes at Hartlip near Sittingbourne dated from 1464. Thomas Osborne from Ashford was an early settler in New England in 1637. Later Osbornes in Kent were to be found in the seaside town of Deal.



Elsewhere.  Edward Osborne, a clothmaker in Elizabethan times, is said to have made his family’s fortune by leaping into the Thames to rescue the daughter of his employer. His descendants became landed gentry at Kiveton in Yorkshire and, as the Duke of Leeds, owned a number of estates around the country, in particular in the county of Buckinghamshire.  There were Osbornes recorded in the village of Castlethorpe in Buckinghamshire from the 1640’s onwards.

Another titled Osborne family started with Peter Osborne, also during the reign of Elizabeth. He acquired the family seat at Chicksands Priory in Bedfordshire in 1576. His Royalist family was rewarded for loyalty during the reign of Charles II. One sibling, Dorothy Osborne, created a stir by her affair with a prominent roundhead, William Temple. A later offspring, Danvers Osborne, was briefly, for five days, the Governor of New York.


Ireland. The name Osborne was brought to Ireland by the English in the 15th century. The main settlement point was at Waterford where an Osborne family owned Knockmaun castle and established itself as landed gentry. Their baronetcy at Ballintaylor in Tipperary dated from 1629:

  • the 17th baronet, Sir Peter Osborne, made his mark in London after he co-founded the Osborne & Little home furnishing store in 1968.
  • while his son George Osborne, a Conservative MP, became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2009.

The Osborne name spread across Ireland. One Osborne family was involved in granite mining in Ballyknockan, Wicklow.  Walter Osborne, born in Dublin, was a well-known Irish painter of the late 19th century.

Spain. The Osborne name came to prominence in Spain in a curious way. In the 1950’s the Osborne sherry company erected large images of bulls, in black with the maker’s name, on roadside advertising hoardings around Spain. This image became so iconic that the Osborne bull (toro de Osborne) is now regarded as the unofficial national symbol of Spain.

Grupo Osborne got its Osborne name from a young Englishman
from Devon named Thomas Osborne Mann who had come to Cadiz in 1772 and founded a winery. The Osborne sherry brand came some hundred years later.


America. Thomas Osborne arrived in Boston from Kent in 1637 and moved on the next year with other colonists to found the town of New Haven in Connecticut. He and his son Thomas later
settled on Long Island. The old Osborne house was built in East Hampton in 1680. The Maidstone Arms on this East Hampton site had Osbornes living there until the 1920’s and is an international hotel today.

Later in the 1600’s, Alexander Osborne had arrived in New England from Ireland as an indentured servant. He married Sarah Prince in Salem who – as Sarah Osborne – became one of the first persons to be accused of witchcraft in the town. She never came to trial; she died in 1692 while shackled in prison.


Virginia and the Carolinas. Other Osbornes came via Virginia. Captain Enoch Osborne was a pioneer settler in Grayson county, Virginia in the 1750’s. Whilst his antecedents are uncertain, his descendants have been traced in books such as Rita Sutton’s 1973 book Early Osbornes and Alleys.

Descendants of Ephraim Osborne from North Carolina are to be found in Harlan county, Kentucky. Another Osborne family account started in the 1750’s, also in North Carolina. A later generation moved from Charleston, South Carolina through Alabama and Arkansas before heading for Hill county, Texas in 1855. This Osborne rover was a Presbyterian doctor.

Canada. Three Osborne brothers were said to have come to Newfoundland in the early 1800’s, one settling in Notre Dame Bay, another in Gooseberry Bay, and a third eventually in Port aux Basques.

Joseph Osborne was the skipper of a schooner which took families from Port aux Basques to colonize the offshore Anticosti islands.  However, when these islands were acquired on the early 1900’s by a French magnate as his personal fiefdom, the Osbornes – together with the other fishing folk there – were deported and sent off to the plains of Manitoba. The farming experiment did not work and they soon drifted back to the East Coast.

Australia. The name Osborne figured prominently in the early history of South Australia. The first instance was tragic. EE Osborne, a young apprentice printer in London, was brought to the new colony in 1836 to help start a newspaper there. He and a young doctor named Slater were walking on Kangaroo Island but lost contact with their party from the Africaine and were never seen again.

Henry Osborne provided a more substantive presence. Born the youngest of ten in Ireland (county Tyrone), he made his way to Australia in 1829. Ten years later, he set off with one free settler, three convicts, and three Aborigines for new lands in South Australia. He became a big cattle rancher in the Maitland area and entered local politics.

Joseph Osborn was one of the most successful racehorse owners in South Australia in the early 1900’s. In 1912 he sold his stable to buy a winery in McLaren Vale. This winery is now run by the fourth generation of Osborns.

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Osborne Surname Miscellany

William FitzOsbern.  William FitzOsbern, born in Normandy, was the illegitimate son of Osbern the Seneschal.  He became a close friend of William of Normandy and urged him to undertake the invasion of England.  According to the Norman chroniclers, FitzOsbern led the right wing of the Norman forces at Hastings.  William called him: “his dearest friend who had done more than any other man to bring about the invasion of England.”

After 1066, FitzOsbern led military campaigns in suppressing revolt around their new realm.  He held or built castles at Hereford, on the Welsh Marches (Clifford Castle), and on the Isle of Wight (Carisbrook).  His younger brother Osbern was later Bishop of Exeter.

He died in battle in Flanders in 1071.  The death-blow was dealt by one of his own men, no doubt settling an old score.  His son Roger FitzOsbern inherited his title and estates.  In 1075 Roger led an uprising in England against King William.  It lacked general support and was quickly suppressed.  Roger forfeited his
estates and was imprisoned for life.   Odericus Vitalis the Norman chronicler wrote in 1141 of the family being lost without trace: “Truly the world’s glory droops and withers like the flowers of grass.  It is spent and scattered like smoke.”

However, his name did live on at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, the favorite residence of Queen Victoria.

Osberns in the Domesday Book

Southeast
Essex Osbern Epping, Tilbury, Wheatley,
Wickford
Hampshire Bishop Osbern Farringdon
Osbern the falconer Gorley
Kent Osbern son of Ledhard Deal
Osbern Paisforiere Lullingstone
Surrey Osbern d’Eu Leatherhead
Bishop Osbern Tyting
Sussex Osbern various places
Bishop Osbern various places
Osbern FitzGeoffrey Laughton, Willingdon
Southwest
Cornwall Bishop Osbern Stratton, Treliever
Devon Bishop Osbern various places
Osbern from Ludhael Sydeham, Tapeley
Osbern de Sacey Clyst Gerred, Lambert, Parford,
Shilston
Dorset Osbern Goldhill
Gloucester Osbern Giffard various places
Osbern Condicote, Long Newnton
Osbern FitzRichard Newent
Hereford Osbern FitzRichard various places
Somerset Osbern Giffard Woodborough
Wiltshire Bishop Osbern Chippenham, Britford, Homington
Osbern the Priest Elstone, Hill Deverill,
Orcheston, Sherington
Osbern Giffard Tytherington Kellaways, Ugford
Worcester Osbern FitzRichard various places
West
Cheshire Hugh FitzOsbern various places
Osbern FitzTezzo various places
Osbern various places
Shropshire Osbern FitzRichard Ashford, Badger, Brockton,
Burford, Ludford
Stafford Osbern Milwich
Central/Midlands
Bedford Osbern Fisher Carlton, Sharnbrook
Osbern FitzRichard Easton, Keysoe, Riseley
Osbern FitzWalter Little Barford
Berkshire Osbern Cumnor
Osbern Giffard Early, West Hanney
Leicester Osbern various places
Northampton Osbern Croughton, Culworth, Welton
Warwickshire Osbern FitzRichard various places
Osbern Grafton, Wilmcote, Billesley
East Anglia
Lincolnshire Osbern various places
Osbern the Priest Faldingworth, Marston
Osbern d’Arcis Redbourne, Scawby
Norfolk Bishop Osbern various places
Suffolk Osbern de Wancey Asbocking
Osbern Masculus Blythburgh
Osbern Depden, Higham, Raydon
Northeast
Yorkshire Osbern d’Arcis various places

Edward Osborne Dives into the Thames.  While Edward Osborne was apprenticed in 1545 to William Hewett, Lord Mayor of London, it was recorded by John Stow that he made his fortune by leaping into the Thames from a window on one of the Bridge houses to save his master’s infant daughter, Anne, who had been dropped into the river by her nursemaid.

The story of the rescue and their subsequent courtship was first published in 1720 by John Strype.  He wrote:  “Sir William was pleased to say, Osborn saved her and Osborn should enjoy her.”

The story also became the subject of a popular Victorian novel, The Colloquies of Edward Osborne, by Anne Manning.

Edward became an eminent member of the Clothworkers’ Company. He was a freeman of the company in 1553, took his own first apprentice in 1559, and was admitted to the livery in 1560.  His story of rescue passed into Clothworker lore.  It was painted in the lunette at one end of the plastered barrel ceiling in the drawing room of the Victorian fifth hall.

Edward married Anne in 1562 and got an estate at Barking in Essex, together with lands in the parishes of Wales and Harthill in Yorkshire.  They had five children.  On the death of his father-in-law, Sir William Hewett, in 1566, he succeeded to Hewett’s extensive business, his mansion in Philpot Lane, and to his estates in Yorkshire.

Death in New York.  On October 11, 1753, Danvers Osborne had dinner with his host, the lawyer Joseph Murray.  He excused himself early and went upstairs to his room.  Here he conversed with his secretary who noticed that Osborne did not look well.  When the latter departed, Osborne began burning his papers, shooing away a servant who came to check on him.

Sometime between midnight and 4 am, Osborne snuck downstairs into the garden. The moon was full that night.  According to our best evidence, he then looped his handkerchief around a fence hook at the lower end of the garden facing the river and then inserted his head into the loop.  His body was spotted by a fisherman about 4.30 am and by an elderly petitioner named Philips Cosby around 7.30 am.

Osborne’s brief tenure merited hardly a single sentence in any of
the leading histories of New York.  One scholar’s contribution was a single line: “He was found hanging from a tree in the garden of the governor’s mansion,” which somehow manages to be incorrect on two counts.  Other scholars seemed not to be aware that he even existed.

We have few sources about the Osborne episode.  The best is a small folder at the New York Historical Society, under misc. mss Osborne, which contains copies of depositions given by the witnesses on October 14.  It allows us to reconstruct a fairly detailed narrative.  Another source is a brief account in William Smith Jr’s History of the Province of New York.  Finally, there is a fragmentary analysis in Smith and Livingston’s 1758 Report on the Military Operations in North America.

These accounts concur in asserting that the death was a suicide; and there are good reasons for thinking so.  But there was enough shady stuff going on that there may be reason to consider it murder, with a definite culprit – Oliver DeLancey, operating under the direction of the conniving and powerful politician James DeLancey.

The Osbornes’ Hunting Trip.  Nuckolls related the following story about the Osborne family in 1760 during their early years in Virginia:

“An incident occurred with the Osborne brothers in their newly operated territory that tells of the dangers and exposures to which pioneer settlers were exposed.  Enoch Osborne and his brothers Solomon and Ephraim went into what is now Wautauga, North Carolina on a hunting trip, deer being plentiful that season.  Getting wet by a shower of rain and wet bushes, they struck up camp in the evening and lay down to rest and sleep, hanging up their clothes by the campfire to dry.

The Indians surprised them by shooting into the camp.  They killed Solomon.  An Indian chased Enoch some distance, but then lost him in the dark.  Ephraim, after fleeing from camp, carefully crept back to his horse that was fastened to a tree, loosed him and rode home.  Enoch returned home without shoes and in his night clothing.”

A Mystery Crime Weekend in the Hamptons.  It is the early 1920’s and you have arrived at the famous Maidstone Arms, a bed and breakfast inn.  The inn is located in the up-and-coming East Hampton area on Long Island and the building dates back to the 1600’s.  The beautiful grounds include quaint cottages for the guests, a lovely manicured garden, a relaxing pond, and an ancient cemetery.  The Maidstone Arms was originally the home of the Osborne family and was also used as a tannery for nearly a century.  Now travellers from all over the state of New York and beyond frequent the inn to relax, honeymoon, and vacation.

But all is not so tranquil at the Maidstone Arms.  Since the disappearance of the previous owner, Donald Osborne, staff and guests have reported ghostly sightings of the man appearing all over the grounds and other strange happenings at the inn.  The rumors of the spectre terrified the guests and panicked the staff. A medium was finally brought in to find the source of the supernatural occurrences and to find out how to put the spirit to rest.

Joseph Osborn and Footbolt.  Joseph Rowe Osborn, born in 1852, was a colorful character with an apparent multitude of talents.  He was a lay preacher, mining speculator, public servant, teetotaler and local politician. Although not a drinker, he joined the Thomas Hardy & Sons wine company in 1881, eventually becoming a partner and director.

Joe was also an enthusiastic patron of the turf and was one of the most successful racehorse owners in South Australia in the early 1900’s.  When his colt, a chestnut named Footbolt, delivered a winning streak of six races, Joe was able to purchase the first of the d’Arenberg vineyards and establish what are now the oldest vineyards in McLaren Vale.  These vineyards have passed through four generations of Osborns, from son  Frank to grandson d’Arry  and great grandson Chester.

It was fitting, therefore, that the premier wine of this vineyard should bear the great racehorse’s name.  The 2005 Footbolt Shiraz exhibits aromas of satsuma plums, cherries and cranberries with dried floral herbs, spice and dark chocolate.  The expressive palate delivers luscious red fruit, plums and blueberries with licorice and spice among cedar oak and savory tannins.  This wine is approachable now and will gain considerable complexity with age.

Reader Feedback – Adam Osborne and His Family.  Adam Osborne was a British PC pioneer with his Osborne laptop computer in the early 1980’s.  He came from a talented family.  His uncle Harold was a scholar and editor of the British Journal of Aesthetics. and his father Arthur a writer of spiritual books.

Arthur Osborne, born in London in 1906 to middle class parents, had gotten interested in Eastern spirituality from an early age.  He married in Poland shortly before World War II.  However, the family of his wife Lucia rejected him for not being Jewish.  They soon left Poland and eventually settled in south India in 1942 near the ashram of a sage known as Sri Bhagvan Ramana Maharshi.  It was there that Arthur wrote his books on philosophy and comparative theology and it was there that their son Adam was born.

Kind regards, Anastasia Kershaw (anakershaw@gmail.com)

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Osborne Names
  • William FitzOsbern was William the Conqueror’s right hand man during the invasion of England and the man who suppressed revolt around the country after 1066.
  • Dorothy Osborne from Bedfordshire is noted for the letters she wrote to her husband Sir William Temple in the late 1600’s.
  • Walter Osborne, born in Dublin, was a well-known Irish painter of the late 19th century.
  • John Osborne was the English playwright and critic of the Establishment best remembered for his 1956 play Look Back in Anger.
  • Charlie Osborne was a renowned fiddler in the Appalachian Mountains who died in 1992 at the age of a hundred and one.
  • Adam Osborne was a British PC pioneer with his Osborne laptop computer of the early 1980’s.
  • George Osborne was the British Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Cameron administration.
Osborne Numbers Today
  • 40,000 in the UK (most numerous in Cornwall)
  • 40,000 in America (most numerous in Ohio)
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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