Probyn Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Probyn Surname Meaning

The name Probyn is of Welsh origin. It comes from the Welsh “ap Robin,” meaning son of Robin. Many “P” origin surnames come from the same roots.

The transition to English-type surnames happened much later in Wales than it did in England. The complex nomenclature of “son of/son of” etc in the Welsh form continued until well into the late 16th century.

Thus we have, in a deed transaction recorded in 1575 in Llanrwst, the purchaser being Robert ap Thomas ap Howell ap Robyn, an interesting mix of English and Welsh names in a Welsh style.

Probyn Surname Resources on The Internet

Probyn and Probin Surname Ancestry

  • from Wales and England (Gloucestershire)

Wales. Under the English influence, ap Robyn began to translate into Probyn, Probin, Proby, and other variants, first in the border counties and later in the Welsh heartlands. There was a Probyn family of some repute that held lands and estates in north Wales, as well as across the border at Oldcastle near Malpas in Cheshire.

The Probin spelling has persisted in north Wales, in Cheshire and elsewhere. But generally Probyn has become the standard form.

England. In England, the largest concentration of Probyns has been in Gloucestershire. Probyns can be traced to Newland near the Forest of Dean from 1570.  A Probyn family were tanners there over six generations.

Additional Probyn bases were established in Gloucestershire when Sir Edmund Probyn in 1740 acquired the Longhope manor on the road to Ross-on-Wye and the Huntley manor a little to the north in Newent. There were Probyns also across the border in present-day Gwent.

Some Probyns migrated to London. Sir Edmund Probyn made his name there in law, Sir Dighton Probyn in the army, and Sir Leslie Probyn in the diplomatic service.

Probyn Family History in Sussex

My cousin’s Probyn family line is in Sussex on the south coast of England.  It began in Newent in Gloucestershire, moved to Birmingham in the 1840’s, and then to Brighton in the 1930’s.

Just click below if you want to read more about this:

Probyn Surname Miscellany

A Probyn Lease in Ruthin (Clywd).  A lease agreement in 1516 between:

David Milton of Chester, gentleman and Richard ap John ap Robyn of Ruthyn, gentleman and Johanna verch. John ap Gruffith, his wife a demise in fee farm of burgage and garden in Castle Street in Ruthyn between the tenement of Henry Grey, Esq. on the north side and the tenement of John Longeford on the south side and in length from the King’s garden to the street. Rent: four shillings per annum.

Newland House and the Probyns.  Newland House, a substantial house at the south-west corner of the churchyard, was the home of the Probyns, who were the principal gentry family at Newland in the 18th century and evidently did much to establish it as a popular residential village.

The house in the main street east of the churchyard was rebuilt in 1694 by William Probyn, whose family held it on long leases from Bell’s charity.  Before 1816 it became the Ostrich inn, the sign derived from the Probyn crest.

The Dower House (formerly Dark House), in the same group of buildings, was apparently the house that Sir Edmund Probyn left to his sister Frances in 1742, with reversion to his nephew William Hopkins.  Later it belonged to Edmund Probyn who left it to two daughters while they remained unmarried.

The main part of the house is of the early 18th century and of five bays with a hipped roof. About 1820 a room with a canted bay was added at the southwest and later in the 19th century two wings were added at the rear. Parts of an early 18th century staircase survive, but the interior of the original house has been largely refitted.

In one of the former open fields at Newland, there was a line of merestones bearing the initials of John Probyn and the Countess of Newburgh.  The stones were still standing in 1969.

An Eyewitness Account in 1745.  “I remember my great grandmother who told me some particulars she remembered of the army of the Pretender coming to Ross, to which place she was riding on a pillion behind her father when she saw the red coats of the rebels, and her father turned around and galloped back to Monmouth where he lived, calling out:  “The rebels are at Ross!”  The church bells rang to call everyone, the yeomanry were called out, and a man and a horse were depatched to summon troops from Bristol.  So the rebels were turned back.  This was in 1745.

This great grandmother also told me that she remembered her great grandfather telling her that she remembered her great grandfather telling her that he had been present as a child at the beheading of Charles I.  So that takes you back 242 years through three narrators.”

The great grandmother is understood to be Frances, the wife of Thomas Probyn, and the extract above is a part of a letter written by her great great grandaughter,, Caroline Skinner, in 1891 to her grandson.

The Burns’ Gun Made by John Probin.  The Burns’ gun was a four-bore flintlock carbine and would fire a lead ball weighing a quarter of a pound or 113 grams. It was made in 1790 by John Probin, of London and Birmingham, gunmaker to the Prince of Wales, later George IV.

Burns would have carried this gun in the course of his duties as an Excise Officer. He would also have taken his measuring or gauging rod.  This is a stick marked with various scales for measuring the quantity of beer and wine in barrels.

Reader Feedback – Probin/Probyn in Birmingham.  My great grandfather was a gunsmith in Birmingham. Could this have been the John Probin of the Burns Gun? Note that my address is now in New South Wales.

Clive Probyn (

Portraits of Dighton Probyn.  Louis Desanges painted Probyn’s portrait about 1860 for the Victoria Cross Gallery in the National Army Museum.  There is also a sketch of him leading a charge at the Battle of Chang-Tsia-Wan on 18 September 1860 by Henry Hope Crealock.

On 26 June 1867, whilst on furlough in London, Probyn also sat to the fashionable Scottish portrait painter James Rannie Swinton. The resultant portrait, also in the National Army Museum, is the most stunning and also the most accurate representation of Probyn.  Indeed, he was described by his contemporaries as ‘one of the handsomest men in London’ and ‘the most dashing cavalry officer in the army.’

Sir Leslie Probyn and the Bo School.  The Bo School was the brainchild of the Governor of Sierra Leone, Sir Leslie Probyn, with the encouragement of the Secretary of State for the colonies.  The school was inaugurated on the pattern of an English public school and was established in Bo in the southeastern province of Sierra Leone.

At the opening ceremony, in March 1906, there were many prominent people, including Paramount Chief Madam Yoko of Moyamba, Baimba Hotagua of Bo, Sandy of Tikonko representing the Menda land and Ibrahim Sanda representing Temne land.  On the opening day, thirty-two pupils had already enrolled.

An Old Bo Boys Association (OBBA) was formed in 1929 and has branches around the world.

Dave Probyn and the Newbridge Brass Band (in 1995).  The Celynen Collieries band was reformed in 1952 under the musical directorship of Rhys Tilley.  A learner’s class was also formed under the control of Ernie Hayward to produce players to fill any gaps.  Cyril Shipp was appointed the band sergeant.

The band then embarked on a nomadic existence.  They started at the central hall in Abercarn, followed by the Community Hall Chapel of Ease, the Red Lion in Newbridge, the Pentwynmawr Club, the Newbridge Con Club, and finally to its current base at the Institute in Newbridge.

During the years the band has won countless awards in many competitions. One of the most noteworthy was third in the London National Finals in 1964.  After a few successful years with the band, Rhys Tilley left the band to form the TA Band based in Newport.

We were fortunate to have in the band at this time Mr. Dave Probyn, a well-experienced bandsman. He welcomed the opportunity of taking on the conductorship of the band, the position he has now held for many years.

Probyn Names

  • Sir Edmund Probyn was a whig lawyer, a Judge of the King’s Bench, and Chief Baron of the Exchequer in the 1720’s and 1730’s.   
  • John Probin of London and Birmingham was gunmaker to the Prince of Wales, later George IV.   
  • Sir Dighton Probyn was the dashing captain in the English army when the Indian mutiny erupted in 1857. His gallantry in the fighting won him a VC. He advanced to the rank of general and subsequently became a court figure (handling the delicate affairs of the Prince of Wales).   
  • Sir Leslie Probyn was British Governor of Sierra Leone in West Africa in the early 1900’s.  A guardsman at his official residence named his son, who later became President of the country, Siaka Probyn Stevens
  • Jeff Probyn was a tight end prop in the English rugby team in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Probyn Numbers Today

  • 500 in the UK (most numerous in Gloucestershire)

Click here for return to front page

Written by Colin Shelley

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *