Redgrave Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Redgrave Surname Meaning
The surname Redgrave comes from the place name of Redgrave, which lies northwest of Eye in Suffolk close to the border with Norfolk. The root of the name appears to be the Old English hreod,
meaning “reed,” and graef, meaning “ditch.”  
The early spelling of the place was Redgrafesthorpe, suggesting possibly an early Danish settlement. Redgrave manor was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. The manor passed from the King to the illustrious Bacon family in 1542.  The village population numbered about forty in the early Middle Ages. Because this number is not very large, there is some reason to believe that all Redgraves might have come from a single ancestor.

Redgrave Surname Resources on

Redgrave Surname Ancestry

EnglandThe surname Redgrave would designate that you came from Redgrave in Suffolk, not that you were living there. Thus an early Redgrave might well be living somewhere else. Early examples of the name were in fact in Norfolk – Robert de Redgrave of Norwich in 1344 and Adam de Redgrave in Norfolk in 1477.

The name was mainly to be found in London and in East Anglia. Of the 750 Redgraves recorded in the 1891 census:

  • 36% lived in London
  • 15% in Norfolk 
  • 14% in Suffolk
  • and 5% in Essex.

Samuel Redgrave and his wife Elizabeth, who were living at Seething in Norfolk in the 1750’s, are believed to have been the forebears of the Olympic rower Steve Redgrave. From William Redgrave, a wire worker and fence manufacturer of limited means in Pimlico, came two cultured brothers of early Victorian London – Samuel, a civil servant and writer on art, and Richard, an artist and
teacher of art.

Some Redgraves came from outside of this area of eastern England. One family of Redgraves was to be found at Earls Barton in Northamptonshire in the late 16th century. Later Redgraves included the famous acting family of Redgrave:

  • George Redgrave (1851-1881), the inventor of the board game Bagatelle
  • Roy Redgrave (1873-1922), the stage and silent film actor (who left his family for Australia)
  • Sir Michael Redgrave (1908-1985), the well-known stage and film actor
  • and his daughters Vanessa and Corin and grand-daughters Natasha and Joely, who all made their marks as actresses.

Tim Adler’s 2011 book The House of Redgrave: The Lives of a Theatrical Dynasty described this family.

A Redgrave family in Warwickshire traces itself back to John Redgrave who was born around 1733 in the village of Bishops Itchington.


Redgrave Names
  • Sir Michael Redgrave was a well-known stage and film actor and the sire of famous Redgrave actresses Vanessa and Natasha.
  • Sir Steve Redgrave was the Olympic rower who won five consecutive gold medals, from 1984 to 2000.
Redgrave Numbers Today
  • 1,200 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 200 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Redgrave and Like Surnames

Many surnames have come from East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk) and surrounding areas in eastern England.  These are some of the noteworthy surnames that you can check out.





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