Venables Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Venables Surname Meaning

The Venables name derived from the Latin venabulum meaning a long hunting spear.  As a surname it originated from the place-name Venables, a village near Evreux in Normandy.

The name was borne by a Norman lord who came to England with William the Conqueror. He was known as Gilbert de Venables, although sometimes Gilbert Hunter.  The surname spelling in America has tended to be Venable.

Venables Surname Resources on The Internet

Venables and Venable Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Cheshire)
  • to America and South Africa

England.  Gilbert de Venables was given Wincham Hall and held the barony of Kinderton in Cheshire after the Norman conquest of 1066.

These Venables were barons of Chester and Warrington, lords of Middlewich manor and Kinderton Lodge, and also held Antrobus Hall near Northwich. The family was a prominent force in medieval Cheshire.

One Venables line was to be found at Millington in Rostherne parish in Cheshire from the 16th century onwards. These Venables were later at Oswestry in Shropshire where the Rev. Joseph Venables was a Congregational minister in the 1750’s:

  • Lazarus Venables, born in Oswestry, was the father of Edward F. Venables, one of the British army heroes at the time of the Indian mutiny in 1857.
  • another Venables line here led to John Venables of Whittington who emigrated on the Caroline to Adelaide in South Australia in 1849.

Robert Venables from the Antrobus branch of the family fought for Oliver Cromwell in Ireland and the West Indies and acquired Wincham Hall. Venables were to remain there until the 20th century. Other Venables were recorded at various parishes in Staffordshire during the 17th century. The Venables of Kinderton became peers of the realm as Lord Vernon of Kinderton in 1762.

In more recent times a Venables family has been associated with the Quarry Bank mill at Styal in Cheshire.

America. Most American bearers of this name are descended from Abraham Venables who came to Virginia in the 1685 and settled in New Kent county. Counted as one of the “first families of Virginia,” his descendants were to distinguish themselves as planters, patriots, statesmen, and educators.

Abraham B. Venable (the family had quickly lost its “s”) was a Virginia senator after the Revolutionary War, while his nephew Abraham W. Venable served as congressman. Nathaniel Venable and his sons were instrumental in founding Hampden-Sidney College where their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were educated. Elizabeth M. Venable’s 1925 book Venables of Virginia narrated the family genealogy.

Thomas Venable, a Quaker, came to Burlington, New Jersey sometime in the 1730’s. His family later moved onto Ohio. A fifth generation descendant in Ohio was the poet, educator, novelist and historian, William Henry Venable.  Henrietta Brown’s 1954 book The Ancestors and Descendants of William Henry Venable covered his line.

Other Venables of this family moved to SW Louisiana. The Rev. William Venable, a Methodist minister, arrived from England in 1807 and settled in St. Helena Parish in Louisiana. Louisiana today has the largest number of Venables in America.

South Africa. Daniel Venables from Staffordshire with his wife and children were among the 1820 Settlers who departed Liverpool for Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Cape.

Venables and Venable Surname Miscellany

Venables in Normandy.  Venables is a village near Evreux in Normandy said to date back some 7,000 years.  It was known in the 13th century as Venablis or Venabula.

The village is located at the top of a hill with the focal point being its church. The hill overlooks the meandering Seine river which abuts the western borders of the village. The population of the village today is about 770. It has a town hall and an elementary school where close to a hundred school children attend.

Venables gave its name to a young lord Gilbert de Venables who came with William the Conqueror in 1066 and was granted lands in Cheshire.

Venables is clearly on the map for those of the Venables name in the English-speaking world.  The village has received Venables visitors from England, America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in recent years. 

The Venables in Cheshire.  The Venables family was a powerful and influential force in Cheshire during medieval times. The Domesday Book of 1086 shows Gilbert Hunter (for Venables) holding Brereton, Davenport, Kinderton and Witton (Northwich) and Ralph Hunter holding Stapleford in Cheshire and Soughton in Wales.  Later the family became lords of the manor of Middlewich; while the family colors were to be found in the coats of arms of Congleton and Northwich.

It was Gilbert de Venables who received Wincham Hall near Northwich after the Norman invasion.  It passed in and out of the Venables’ family ownership through inheritance, marriage, or sale in the following centuries. A descendant of the Venables family, from Edward Venables Townsend, rebuilt the Hall in the 19th century. However, the house was badly damaged by bombing during the Second World War and was later demolished.

The Venables family also held Antrobus Hall in Great Budworth from the early 1400’s and lived there for many generations before acquiring Wincham Hall in the 17th century.

Robert Venables in the Caribbean and Cheshire.  Robert Venables had fought well for Cromwell in the Irish campaign of 1649 and Cromwell recommended him as commander of his land forces in a Caribbean expedition against the Spanish.

When the fleet reached Barbados in January 1655 Venables chose to attack the Spanish island of Hispaniola.  However, it soon became clear that the expedition was inadequately supplied and the attack soon went badly wrong.  Although Venables successfully directed the capture of the less desirable island of Jamaica as a means of saving face, the expedition was regarded as a failure.

Seriously weakened by dysentery, Venables returned to England and was briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London for abandoning his post. He was eventually released, demoted, and never served Cromwell again.

With the Restoration Venables was briefly appointed governor of Chester. He did not stay long there and he retired to Wincham Hall where he lived quietly with his second wife in a loveless marriage. In 1662 he published a successful book on angling, The Experienced Angler.  He died at Wincham in 1687.

Venables from Whitchurch at Quarry Bank.  There were apparently many Venables in the Shropshire town of Whitchurch in the 18th and 19th centuries. John Venables started a grocery business at Bargates in 1829.  Another Venables family were bakers on the High Street for many generations in the 19th century.

Robert Venables and his brother George from Whitchurch went to work at the Quarry Bank mill in Shropshire in 1790, soon after it had been started by Samuel Greg.  This Venables family was to have a long association with this mill.

George Venables was its mill mechanic in the second half of the 19th century. He lived in the Apprentice House in Styal until his death in 1901 when he caught pneumonia in the parade which commemorated Queen Victoria’s death.  Thomas Venables was working at the mill at the onset of the First World War.

Abraham Venables of New Kent County, Virginia.  Abraham Venables was the forebear of a large number of the Venables in America.  Family tradition has him coming from the Kinderton line in Cheshire.  There is no proof of this.  Some sources having him coming from Devon.  But there are no records of Venables in Devon at that time. He may have simply departed for America via say Plymouth in Devon.

“He was a surgeon in the first regiment of troops sent out from England under the command of Sir John Harvie in 1685.  He was so pleased with the American colony that he resigned his commission and, receiving from the King a grant of land at Manakin town on the James river, he settled there.”

Abraham married twice in America.  He had one or possibly two sons by his first wife Sara and one son, Abraham born in 1701, by his second wife Elizabeth.  From this Abraham came one of the “first families of Virginia” of colonial times.

The Rev. William Venable and His Descendants.  The Rev. William Venable arrived from Liverpool, England in 1807, aged 20, with the itinerant preacher Lorenzo Dow.  He settled on Baker’s Creek in Mississippi where Dow helped him establish a church.

He later moved to Liverpool, St. Helena parish in Louisiana.  He married Sarah Watson and they raised four children there – William, John, Louis and Mary.  The Rev. William died in 1868 and was buried with his wife in the Venable family cemetery in St. Helena.

His descendants remained generally in St. Helena parish where they attended the Days United Methodist church.

A Bible with Venable family records was discovered in a house built in 1891 in St. Helena parish. The Bible had belonged to Clarence Venable who had moved into the house with his parents when it was new and he was a baby.  He died there in 1972. The house was and still is surrounded by cedar trees.  Some details on the Venable family can be gleaned from J.P. Morris’s 1966 book Thru the Years.

The Venables of Cincinnati, Ohio.  From New Jersey Quaker stock came Friend William Venable, a surveyor, teacher and farmer, and a Quaker and abolitionist as well. He and his wife Hannah moved to Venable Station near Springboro, Ohio where their four children – including their son William H. Venable – grew up.

William settled in Cincinnati and taught at the Chickering Institute there for more than a quarter of a century and in 1881 becoming its principal and proprietor. Over his lifetime he authored 22 textbooks of poetry, fiction, philosophy, essays, as well as annotations of English literature.  He also wrote A School History of the United States which became a standard textbook in Ohio.

His son Emerson also taught English in Cincinnati.  His granddaughter Evelyn Venable went on to become a noted Hollywood actress in the 1930’s.

Venables Names

  • Robert Venables was a soldier for Cromwell in Ireland and the West Indies. Later in life he wrote a treatise on fishing.
  • Charles S. Venable was a mathematics professor in Virginia who became Robert E. Lee’s aide-de-camp during the Civil War.
  • Terry Venables was the English football manager who led the national team in Euro 1996.

Venables Numbers Today

  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous in Wiltshire)
  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in Louisiana)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Venables and Like Surnames

The Norman Conquest brought new rulers to England and they brought their names and language, a form of French, with them.  Over time their names became less French and more English in character.  Thus Hamo became Hammond, Reinold Reynolds and Thierry Terry and so forth.  The names Allen, Brett, Everett, and Harvey were probably Breton in origin as Bretons also arrived, sometimes as mercenaries.

The new Norman lords often adopted new last names, sometimes from the lands they had acquired and sometimes from places back in Normandy.  Over time the name here also became more English.  Thus Saint Maur into Seymour, Saint Clair into Sinclair, Mohun into Moon, and Warenne into Warren.

Here are some of these Norman and Breton originating names that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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