The First Brittons


The surname Britton first appeared among the followers of  “William the Conqueror,… the adventurer so called [being perhaps]…one of those who attended Alan Fargant, Earl of Bretagne, at the Battle of Hastings, where he then commanded the rear of William’s army.” (Catherine Lucy Wilhelmina Powlett Cleveland,  Battle Abbey Roll With some account of the Norman Lineages, pp. 111-112) 


Alexander Balloch Grossart, citing Morant’s Essex,  observes that  “Bretons are found in Leicestershire and Warwickshire, Wilts and elsewhere in England, but their chief seat was in Essex.” (The Works in Verse and Prose of Nicholas Breton, p. ix)   Although records show that the “name is of  great antiquity in th[at] county”,  the earliest examples suggest a more widespread pattern, for “no less than nine of this name appear in Domesday Book : all of them probaby Breton knights that had followed the fortunes of Alain-le-Roux or his kinsmen.  Alured Brito held of the King a barony of twenty-two lordships in Devonshire: Gozelin another in Bucks, Gloucester, and Bedfordshire; Oger one in Leicester and Lincoln; Rainald one in Sussex; Tihel one in Essex and Norfolk; Waldeve one in Lincoln and Cheshire; and Maigno or Manno Brito one in Bucks and Leicestershire.  Two others, Roger and William, were mesne-lords in Somerset and Huntingdon.”   One final name--that of Ansger Brito aka Ansgerus de Montachute, who at Domesday  held  manors in Somerset,  Dorset, and Devonshire from the Count of Mortain--must be added to this list, making a total of ten men sometimes known as Brito or Breton in 1086.  (Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature, and Art: Report and transactions, Volume 38, p. 348)


Of course, only a few of these men and the several thousand other Breton adventurers who followed the Conqueror to England would become  progenitors of Britton families:  some left no male descendants at all,  while many  may have “assumed the name of their manors. Such was the case with Richard Brito's descendants in Nottinghamshire.”  Richard, who held the manor of Annesley under  Ralph FitzHerbert,  was “probably… father or ancestor of Ralph called Brito, who, together with his son Reginald de Anesleia, gave the church of Felley to the Priory of St. Cuthbert de Radford, near Worksop, in the year 1158."—Thorotoris Notts.  From him descended Francis Annesley, first Viscount Valentia, temp   James  I, and the Earls of Anglesey,  Mountmorris, and Annesley.”  (Battle Abbey Roll ,pp. 111-112)   Likewise, Maigno Brito,  a Baron in Buckinghamshire, became the “ancestor of the Wolvertons of StokeHamond (one of his manors mentioned in Domesday), where they continued for a considerable time.—Lysons”   (Ibid.)  Yet another example involves  William de Albini Brito who married Cecily, granddaughter of Robert de Toni of Belvoir, and whose younger son Ralph was ancestor of  the Daubeneys of South Petherton, Somerset. [Sir Anthony Richard Wagner, English Genealogy (1972), p. 72; Battle Abbey Roll, vol. 1, pp. 178-82)


The Britton name, when it did persist, may also have taken somewhat different, though closely-related forms.  Spelling remained erratic until modern times, and Britt and Brett, which derive from the nominative case of the word, seem to have been used at times as alternatives to the accusative forms Breton or Bretun.   Thus, in the south of England,   the Bretts of  Sanford Brett and  Mapleton Brett are deemed to be branches of the Britos of Odcombe, Somerset,  while the Brutons (aka Breton) of Havitree and Alwington, in Devonshire,  are in fact Brittons (Charles Worthy, Devonshire Wills, p. 357ff.), not Brutons, the latter being a surname in its own right, said to be derived from Briwetone in Somerset (1086). 


Examples like these should make researchers aware of the need to pay attention not only to same-surname matches but to close, high-resolution matches to other surnames, which could help identify clusters of families with different names who shared common ancestry during the period when surnames were being adopted.


Not all people named Britton, moreover, are of Breton descent.   Surnames fall into several different categories--ethnic, occupational, patronymic, matronymic, descriptive, and  topographical.   Since the latter are among the most common, we may assume that some Britton families may have taken the name because they lived near one of several places in England called Bretton--eg  Monk Bretton and West Bretton in the West Riding of Yorkshire;  Bretton in Derbyshire; the River Brett or Bretton in Suffolk, or Layer Breton in Essex.  


As a general rule, those who are not of Breton descent may be distinguished from Bretons by their Haplogroup, since most Bretons will have been of Celtic origin (R1b) while the others are more likely to belong to Haplogroup I1, R1a, etc.   Even so,  there are important caveats--no population then or now was ever composed exclusively of men from a single Haplogroup, and at least some intermingling of R1b and I1 in particular must have occurred among the 11th century inhabitants of Normandy and Brittany.  Finally,  DNA studies have shown that more British men belong to Haplogroup R1b than to any other; thus, only a minority of them will be of Breton descent; the rest descend from distant cousins of the Bretons who may well have been living in the British Isles ever since the end of the  last Ice Age.


Most of the information which follows on early Britton families comes either from published copies of these original records or from secondary sources derived from them.  References and other citations are included in the text.  The object of the summary which follows has not been to collect as many Britton records as possible, however,  but to concentrate on identifying  early Britton lineages.   Although many of these male lines will have been extinguished over the intervening centuries, some are likely to have survived and those which look as if they could have male line representatives living today may be found on the Patriarchs’ Page.


                                        Mediaeval Sources


English records for the mediaeval period are  better than most researchers realise.  While little information is available before 1066,  and only a handful of families--Berkeley, Arden, Swinton, etc.--may claim a pre-conquest pedigree,  the situation changes dramatically under the Normans who recognised that  good record-keeping was only one of many strategies  which could be used to tighten their grip on the newly-conquered land.    Beginning in 1086 with Domesday, and continuing through a series of Pipe Rolls and Pleas,  Red and Black Books of the Exchequer, manorial and hundred rolls, monastic charters, etc.,  the stories of  many land-owning families unfold in sufficient detail,  if not in every iteration, to make them potentially useful to genealogists seeking to bridge the gap between the beginning of Parish records in the sixteenth century and the adoption of surnames in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.


                                  The Visitation Pedigrees


Other potentially important sources of information are the Visitation Pedigrees which were compiled by Heralds at the College of Arms in London  during the  sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  In  1530 Henry VIII delegated to the College  the exclusive right not only to grant new arms to “any persons spiritual… or temporal [for] service done to us” and with sufficient  “possessions and riches able to maintain the same" but also the right to "reform all false armory and arms devised without authority, marks unlawfully set or made in escutcheons, squares or lozenges, which escutcheons, squares or lozenges be tokens of nobleness; and them to deface and take away wheresoever they be set, whether it be in stone, windows plate or any other matter of ways set, and all such as set upon churches or other places, banners, standards, pennons, or coats or arms not having authority so to do.” (See also Felicity Heal and Clive Holmes, The Gentry in England  and Wales 1500-1700, p. 28).


Rules governing the use of arms were enforced during the Tudor and Stuart periods  by the Court of Chivalry, which was restored in 1623 and again in 1660, after the Interregnum, to try cases involving  disputed arms,  and by the series of inspections known as the Visitations which were conducted by  Heralds who visited each English county about every forty years.    In 1530, the amount of money sufficient to  support the status of armiger was deemed to be L10 annual income and L300 in net worth.  A one-time fee of L5 or L6 pounds was assessed for registration. 


 An Index of Pedigrees and Arms Contained in the Heralds Visitations and Other Genealogical MSS in the British Museum by R. Sims (London, 1849) shows the following pedigrees for Brittons or Bretons, some of which may be found in the Visitations while others were published in county histories or genealogies:


East Anglia:

Essex--Breton of Layer Breton

Norfolk--Britton of Felmingham

Central England:

Northamptonshire--Breton or Bretton of Teken

Staffordshire--Bretton; Brittayne of Serescott & Tamworth

Leicestershire--Breton of Barwell from London [Family appears to have been from Essex]

North of England:


Derbyshire--Breton or Bretton of Walton; Brytane

South of England:

Wiltshire--Bretton or Breton of Monkton Farley from Essex [Family is from East Anglia]


Southwest England:

Somerset--William Bretton of Kelston disclaimed

Devonshire--Bruton or Breton of Havitree


Early Breton pedigrees from other sources are also included on this page.


These pedigrees are arranged by region, reflecting the system used by the Oxford Genetic Atlas Project.   If you believe that you descend from one of these families or from another early Britton family not listed on this page and would like to participate in the Britton project, please contact the Administrator.




                                                    East Anglia


East Anglia is an imprecise term used  to refer to certain counties  eastern England.  While  Norfolk and Suffolk are considered to constitute East Anglia proper, more general usage often includes the adjacent counties of  Essex and Cambridgeshire.   Results for East Anglia as reported by the Oxford Genetic Atlas Project cover all or most of the territory within  these four counties.


                                The First Bretons in Essex              


In 1881,  51% of Brittons (all variants included) in England and Wales spelled their name Britton.  Most of these Brittons lived in Bristol, Glo. (#1) or Colchester, Essex (#2).


Colchester claims to be the oldest town in Britain.  It was known to the Romans as Camuldonum (Pliny, Historia Naturalis) and was capital of the Trinovantes, a Celtic tribe of southeast Britain until Cunobelinus  (Shakespeare’s Cymbeline),  King of the Catuvellauni , seized  power and began to mint coins there, styling himself Rex--King.    He seems to have  remained on good terms with the Romans throughout his life and was already dead  when the Emperor Claudius decided to invade the island in AD 43.


Two of his sons,  Togodumnus and Caratacus,  led  the initial resistance, but their forces  were crushed first at the Medway, then at the Thames and shortly thereafter eleven tribes of southeast England surrendered to Roman authority.  When

Caratacus escaped to continue resistance in the west (his brother Togodomnus having died after the battle of the Thames), Claudius returned home to celebrate his Triumph and the first Roman governor of Britain,  Aulus Plautius,  established his new capital at Camuldonum.


After the Romans withdrew from Britain in the early fifth century, Colchester fell under the controul of the East Saxons who established the Kindgom of Essex  and the town then became known as  Colne Coaster.  The tower at Trinity Church dates to this period.  By the end of the 9th century Vikings from East Anglia had  replaced Saxon rulers and in 920AD Essex  was incorporated into the Kingdom of England.                           


The name Britton arrived in Essex  with the Norman Conquest, and occurs frequently in records of Essex and neighboring counties during the early Mediaeval period:


 From 1164-69, Geoffrey Le Bretun or Le Britton was found in both Essex and York from 1164-69. (Reaney, Dictionary, p. 48).


In 1183, Ralph  Brito held lands at Ickelton (a parish in Cambridge on the Essex border) of the Honour of Boulogne ; he died by 1194 and was succeeded by Thomas Brito (tenent in 1218), whose daughter married Robert Hovel.  William Brito (heir of Thomas?) gave a carucate of land at Ickleton to Hovel in 1222 (A.P.M. Wright et al., editors, A  History of Cambridge & Isle of Eley, vol. 6, pp. 230-46)


In the mid 12th century this or another Ralph le Bretun held the manor of Shottisbrooke in Berkshire, but by 1182 it was farmed by the Crown and c 1186 was granted to Hugh de Shottisbrooke who paid 100 marks in 1189 for  land which Ralph le Breton held.   Hugh died in 1121; in 1243 his son Robert was party to a fine with William le Breton by which William quitclaimed to Robert a moiety of the manor consequent upon a claim  by William to the same, whereby Robert granted to William the advowson of the Church, land to the value of 40s, and services of certain tenants appurtenant to his moiety.  (History of Berkshire, vol. 3, pp. 164-171)


Robert Brito (d by 1199) , who may have been a kinsman of the aforementioned Ralph Brito, had an estate at Ickleton which his son and heir William Brito held of the King in 1230 and 1242.  By 1279 this land had passed to John le Bray “possibly a descendant of William Brito whose name was …written le Breton or le Bret.” (Ibid.)


In 1242 a fine occurred between William le Breton plt. and Mathew de Layham and his wife Nesta, tenants of Bellamont in Essex, which was held for life by Rohesia de Cockfield (mother of Nesta)  with remainder to William le Breton after her death. (Francis Morgan Nichols, The Hall of Lawford Hall: Records of an Essex House and its Proprietors, p. 48; Alexander Balloch Grosart, editor of The Works in Verse and Prose of Nicholas Breton, p.ixff)


William and John Le Bruton  in Essex in 1248 (Liber Feodorum, 3 vols, London 1920-21;  Reaney, Dictionary, p. 46); and J. Bratone, 1275 (C. L’Estrange Ewen, A History of Surnames in the British Isles, 1931, p. 152)


One of the Robert Bretons, evidently of early 12th century date,  had a daughter Johanna who married Henricus Enfield miles; their great granddaughter, Catherine, coheiress of Thomas Battall m Johannus Joscelin 10 Henry III (p 227, Metcalfe, Visitations of Essex 1552, ff.)


Burke’s General Armory lists several Britton coats of arms which vary on a common theme and may represent different branches of the same family:


Breton, Essex--azure two chevrons or


Breton, Essex--Azure two chevrons or with a mullet for difference

Crest: on a lion’s gamb azure a chevron charged with a mullet sable

[A mullet (ie star) is the cadency mark of the  third son.]


Breton of Haxted, Essex--azure two chevrons or with in chief as many mullets of the second. (Francis Morgan Nichols, The Hall of Lawford Hall: Records of an Essex House and its Proprietors, p. 12 citing Symond’s Essex Memoranda, MS, College of Arms, v. 2, p. 197)


Metcalfe’s Visitation of Essex describes  other coats of arms in which the colours remain the same but the chevron is replaced by its diminutive form, the chevronnel.


p. 584 Azure two chevronels between three mullets or-- [quartered in the arms of Huberd]


p. 622-- Rafe Whittle m Ann d/o Thomas Breton of Essex, Arms azure two chevronels or in a chief as many mullets of the second


[Note: Breton of Jersey also bore azure two chevronels or, Crest a rose gules, slipped and leaved vert  [Henry Fitz Gilbert Waters, NEHGS Register, p. 415]

The family of Margaret Breton, daughter of Thomas Breton, who married Humfrey Barrington of Barrington Hall in Braddocks, Essex [1400’s] bore azure a chevron or,  but the origin of this family remains unknown. [Essex Arch, Soc. V. 2.(NS), pp. 3-4].

                                     Breton of Lawford, Essex


Lawford is a village located in the northern part of the county near the Suffolk border, about 10 miles  northeast of Colchester.  It has been important since Saxon times because of its “command of the first point at which the [River] Stour could be forded.” (Francis Morgan Nichols, The Hall of Lawford Hall: Records of an Essex House and its Proprietors,p. 2) During the reign of Edward the Confessor it belonged to Earl Harold (who succeeded Edward and was defeated  at Hastings in 1066 by the Normans under William) and was a Royal manor Essex before the Conquest. (Ibid.)


The hall at Lawford House measures 25 feet by 40 feet, its frieze adorned by shields designed to trace the “heraldic heritage” of the property. (Nichols, p. 6)  Three shields above the fireplace represent “the feudal superiors under whom the manor and lands were formerly held” while the series of shields “which commences over the door opposite the entrance, and continues around the four sides of the hall to the northwest  corner, where  the frieze is terminated by the staircase” (p.11) commemorates “the immediate lords of the place from the 12th century to the present time.” (p.10)


The first two shields ( azure two chevrons or ) have long been associated with the “ancient family of Breton” (p.12) although no proof remains that these arms were ever actually borne by the Bretons of Lawford; however, a variation of these arms (see list above) was displayed in stained glass at the old church of Layer Breton before it was demolished in 1915.


The pedigree of Breton of Lawford begins with Radulfus Brito, an itinerant Justice under Henry II.   Radulfus had a niece who married Roger fitz Reinfred, indicating that he was a brother of Lewis Brito of Layer Breton (below).  In 1155, he was a grantee at Shotley, Suffolk; in 1164 he held ½ Kt’s fee by grant from Roger de Clare, Earl of Hereford; he obtained the grant of Chigwell Manor in Essez from Richard de Luci, and was named, along with Robertus Brito, as one of the knights under William de Albini Brito.  Radulfus held the manor or Lawford at the time of his death in 1189. (pp.12-14)


Robert Brito (son of Radulfus) married Philippa, daughter of William Gulafred and thereby obtained a large inheritance in Suffolk within the Honour of Eye, in addition to his lands in Essex.  He died in prison toward the end of the reign of Richard I, after incurring the displeasure of the king, and in 1199 his widow Philippa paid John 100L to have seisin of her husband’s property. (pp. 14-15)


Robert was succeeded by his son William whose wardship was purchased by John Grey, Bishop of Norwich.  William later married Eve de Grey, niece of the Bishop and  daughter of Sir John Grey of Rotherfield.   His lands were seized after he rebelled against John, but were restored to him in October, 1216, the first year of Henry III’s reign.  When William died in 1235, his widow Eve held a freehold in Lawford and under the name Eva la Brette had lands in Chigwell and in the early years of Henry III paid scutage for lands held in Essex and Hertford of the Barony of Valois (p. 16)


William’s son William, a minor in 1235,  was taken into the custody of his maternal uncle, Walter de Gray, Archbishop of York, who probably purchased the wardship either from the King or the Honour of Eye.  This William  later married Margery, daughter of John de Chaux and coheir of the Barony of Bolam in Northumberland, and was living in 1246 when he was described as Willelmus  Brito de Lalaforde.  He died the same year, leaving as his heirs three daughters, all of whom were minors at that time (pp.16-19).


Joan, probably the eldest, married Sir Robert de Hilton before 12 September 1255 and received as her portion the manors of Lawford in Essex and Waldringfield in Suffolk.   Nicholaa or Scholastica married 1st Sir Robert de Amundevill, 2nd Sir Roger de Huntingfeld , and received  lands at ‘Hugehel’, Thorney, Stowmarket, Gillingham, and Becles in Suffolk.  Anne or Aclina married 1st Sir William de Goldingham, 2nd Walter de Anavere, and received tenements in London and probably the manor of Chigwell in Essex.   Part of the Breton inheritance assigned to Sir Robert de Hilton included land in Cambridgeshire (pp. 20-22).


The manor of Lawford was known as Laleford Bretun as late as 1275 (p.21).



                          Ranulph Breton of Essex and Northampton


Perhaps the best known, and certainly one of the  most traceable of the armigerous Breton families was Breton of Layer Breton  which bore quarterly or and gules, a bordure azure.  Layer Breton is located within a stone’s throw of Colchester which lies in the northern part of Essex near the Suffolk border;  accordingly Burke’s General Armory identifies the family as Breton of Essex and Suffolk.


One branch of the Bretons of Layer Breton descends from Ranulph Brito or Breton, who was  Chaplain of Hugh de Burgh in 1221 and Canon of St. Paul’s before 1239.     He  also served as Treasurer under Henry III, but was accused of misuse of money when de Burgh fell from favour in 1232.  (Leslie Stephen & Sidney Lee,  Dictionary of National Biography, v. 6, p. 358) 


In 11 Hen. III   Ranulph  held lands in Blatherwick, Northampton; in 12 Henry III he held certain lands and privileges in Kingscrabbe and Stoeholt, Northants from the Prior of Longa Villa  and  in 15 Henry III he held the manor of Oxethorpe. (Dormant and Extinct Baronage of England, p. 158


Ranulph  died in 1246 of an apoplexy  while watching a game of dice. (Dictionary of National Biography, v. 6, p. 358)  He had at least two sons--William Breton and Sir Ralph Breton-- and a daughter Gilliam who married Robert de Horseley and died before 1261.


Ranulph’s son William held two Knight’s fees in Lehere, Essex  in  John & Henry III (Alexander Balloch Gross, Works in Verse and Prose of Nicholas Breton, p. ix, ff.)  In 15 Hen. III he held lands in Dudinton, Northampton  and in 16 Hen. III had a license for dogs to hunt fox.  (Dormant & Extinct Baronages of England, p. 158) 


In 1224 William was Demesne tenant in Nayland Manor, holding ½ Kts. Fee which he granted to his sister Gillian and her husband Robert de Horseley.  After Horseley’s death, Gilliam prevailed in a dispute  with her stepson  William de Horseley regarding ownership of the manor which reverted to her brother William at the time of her death.  This manor, later known as Rivers Hall, lay northwest of Colchester in Lexdon Hundred. (Victoria History of Essex, v. 10)


William became Dominus de Sporle when his brother Sir Ralph le Breton enfeofffed him of the manor of Sporle in the the Hundred of South Greenhoe near Swarfham in Norfolk. ( John Chambers, A General History of Norfolk, v. 2. P. 666: Thomas Christopher Banks, Baronia Angelica Concentrata, (1841),  p. 52ff.; Dormant & Extinct Baronage of England, p 157ff.)


William died  Hen III  (1261) seized of manors at Boxted and Stanway in Essex, Dodinton, Blatherwyk in Northants.  and Crandon in Cambridge.   (Dormant & Extinct Baronages of England, p. 158), and was succeeded by his son Sir John Breton, Dominus de Sporle, to whose charge London was committed in 17 Edward I (Dormant and Extinct Baronages, p. 157ff)  In 29 Edward I,  Sir John Breton affixed his seal to the King’s letter to the Pope using as his arms quarterly or and gules a bordure azure. (Some Feudal Coats of Arms, which cites Dering Roll D and the Parliamentary Roll for Sir John Breton of Essex; also St George‘s Roll E 100)


John’s son John died during his father’s lifetime in 34 Edward I, seized of Demesnes in Boxted, Essex and Dodyington, Blatherwyk and Leyton or Laxton, Northants (Metcalfe, Visitation of Essex, p. 584), leaving a daughter Maud as her grandfather’s sole heir--John the younger’s  son  John had  died and without issue in 4 Edw. II.   Maud married Sir Richard de la Ryvere of Rivers of Angar in Essex from whom the manor at Nayland later derived its name. 


 Although this branch failed in the male line with the death of Maud’s brother John,  the arms quarterly or and gules a bordure azure continued to be borne by Bretons in Essex,  indicating that one or more direct male lines  survived in collateral branches of the family.  Thomas Breton, fl. 1387, who held the wardship of land of Peter Cornwall and his wife Agnes in addition to lands in Boxted, Essex and Laxton, Northants. and  bore esquartele d or et de gules a le bordure azure (Armorial Urfe #

322)  represented one such branch while  Breton of Monkton Farley in Co. Wiltshire (see below) represented another.



                                    Breton of Layer Breton


Perhaps the best known, and certainly one of the  most traceable of the armigerous Breton families was Breton of Layer Breton (near Colchester) , who were the  ancestors of Elizabethan poet Nicholas Breton, the Bretons of Monkton Farley, Wiltshire, and Breton of Barwell, Leicestershire.


The following pedigree for  Breton of Monkton Farley, Wiltshire comes from Metcalfe’s Visitation of Wiltshire 1565, p. 8:


Arms: Quarterly or and gules a bordure sable


William Breton of Layer Breton, Co Essex m ______ d/o Haines of Essex, Gent. & Had:

1. William son and heir

2. Grace m Ratcliff of Essex


William 2

Breton of Layer m Ann d/o ______ Denham of the North  & had:

1. Henry son & heir

2. John d young

3. Francis 3rd son

4. Thomas died young

5. William 5th son


Henry 3

Breton of Monkton Farley, Wiltshire m Ann d/o George Coulte of Cavendish, Suffolk & had:

1. George son & heir

2. William 2nd son

3. Margaret m _____Hammond of Neyland, Suffolk, Gent.

4. Elizabeth unmarried


Research by Alexander Balloch Grosart, editor of The Works in Verse and Prose of Nicholas Breton, revealed that the first William Breton on this chart died testate in Essex in 1499, that his wife’s Christian name was Isabella, and that he was buried in the monastery of St. John’s in Colchester near the pillar where  his father was buried.  He was a man of considerable property who left bequests to the Parish Church of St. Giles [Cripplegate, London] where he had “lately been a parishioner”, to the “master of Higham Ferrers” in Northamptonshire, and to the churches of Great Birch and Lower de la Haye (not far from Layer Breton) in Essex.  His lands in Wyvenhoe called Marthill were to be feoffed and the profits given to the Church of St. Giles for the yearly anniversary of his grandfather Nicholas Breton, his father John Breton, his mother Joane, his aunt Alice Bodford,  for David Mortymer, and annually on the day of his decease for himself and his wife.


William Breton left two children, Grace and William, both under 21  when his will was written on 14 August 1499, and was survived by a brother John Breton.   The will was proved at Lambeth by his relict Isabell Breton on 27 November 1499 (39, Horne)  His brother John Breton was probably John Breton Gent. of St James, Colchester, Essex, who died testate the following year.


William Breton, youngest brother of Henry Breton of Monkton Farley, seems to have made his fortune in London and at the time of his death possessed a capital mansion house in Redcrosse Street (the road leading north from St. Giles), and among his other holdings were the Bell in Eastcheap, the George in Aldersgate Street without the gate,  property in Walthamstowe, Dyse Quay, Burgh on the Marsh (a small market town in Lincolnshire), Huttoft (a parish 4 ½ miles from Alford in Lincolnshire where he may have purchased half of an advowson),  Salcott (a parish in Essex), etc.


William’s will was written in 23 February 1548 and proved in 24 March 1559.  Legatees included wife Ann, daughter of John Bacon, sons Richard and Nicholas [the Elizabethan poet],  three daughters Tamar, Anne who later married John Smyth of Cavendish, Haverhill & Boxted and died 1578 ( William Hervey, Visitation of Suffolk, 1561, p. 104), and Mary, brothers Henry Breton and  poor brother Francis, and Henry’s daughters Margaret and Elizabeth.


Facts gleaned  from William’s 1558 will dovetail nicely with the pedigree for Monkton Farley and a second Visitation pedigree from  Barwell, Leicestershire, which continues the line of descent from William’s elder son Richard:


From: William Camden, Visitation of Leicestershire 1619, p. 161


Arms: Azure on a bend between six stars pierced or, in dexter chief a mullet for difference

Crest: A lion’s gamb erased erect azure, charged with a chevron or, between six billets argent


William Breton de London--Elizabeth Dacon [ie Bacon]


1. Richard de London m Katherine fil Edwardi Guest de Worcester [she married 2nd Richard Wright of Sutton, Leicester]

2. Nicholas Breton de London [poet]--2nd son


Richard Breton and wife Katherine


1. Maria m Edw Newton de Leicester

2. Robert de Barwell, Leicester m Alicia d/o Richard Wright de Sutton iuxta Broughton in Leicester

3. Elizabeth m Franciscus Ducket de Broughton


Robert Breton and Alicia


1. Robert aged 8 years

2. Katherine 14 years

3. Richard son & heir--20 in 1619

4. Daniel age 19

5. Francis age 12

6. William --3rd son age 16--Schollasticus in Academin Cantab’

7. John age 6

8. Thomas age 5


The 1499 will  of William Breton the Elder provides important information regarding  earlier generations of the family.   Since William’s two children were under the age of 21 in 1499,  we can estimate that  William himself William must have been born c 1458 or before, his father John Breton c 1427 or before, and his grandfather Nicholas c 1406 or before.


From this point on, however, the pedigree becomes sketchy.  We know that an earlier Nicholas Breton presented to the church of St. Mary’s at Layer Breton in 1495 and 1497 and that his wife Alice (who died before 6 May 1492) was buried at St Mary’s and  her epitaph was still visible (though perhaps not fully legible) in Morant’s day; but the old church was demolished in 1915 and no trace of Breton graves remains today.


A 1325 fine suggests  that this Nicholas Breton was a lineal descendant of William Bretoun who brought suit against John Breton Parson and Robert, son of Hamon de Bryche, for deforcement of the manor and church of Layer Breton, with the result that both were settled on William Bretoun for life and afterwards on his son Nicholas and his wife Alice and their heirs. (Grosart, p. ix ff.)


Although  William Bretoun’s  immediate antecedents are unknown, the Breton name goes back at least to the 12th century in the area around Colchester.  In 1166, Lewis Brito granted his messuage in Herchestade (Suffolk) to the church of St. John’s at Colchester.  His son Ralph confirmed the same, adding two parts of the tithes at Layer Breton, and Ralph’s widow Adeliza made further grants.  Their son Robert Breton, who held lands around Ardley, a parish near Colchester, was also a benefactor of St. John’s, which had passed to the Priors of St. Botolph’s by the late 12th century.  Robert gave the monks at St. Botolph’s eleven acres in Legra (Leyer) for the souls of his parents who were buried in the Abbey.  (Grosart, p ixff, citing Morant’s History of Essex).


Lewis Brito was the brother of Radulfus Brito, ancestor of Breton of Lawford (above).  He and his wife Mabel  had a  daughter Alice who married Roger fitz Reinfred (dc 1199, a Justice for Henry II: Remains Historical and Literary, v 3, v, 57, p. 976, Chetham Society; Cartularum S. Johannis Baptostae Coleccestria, pp. 186-189


The last Breton at Layer Breton was Richard de Breton who owned ½ kt’s fee in Layer Breton in 1402. (Morant’s History of Essex,  v 1. p. 410 as cited by Samuel Tymms, The East Anglian, v 3., p. 85).



                                 The Arms of Layer Breton


It seems curious, to say the least, that the Bretons of Layer Breton appear to have used more than one coat of arms, since the general rule is that arms are assumed or awarded to an individual and his male-line posterity forever.  Although the arms of Monkton Farley were identical to those borne by Breton of Essex and Northampton save for the sable border,   Breton of Barwell from Redcross Street London was using a variation of the arms of Breton of Tamworth, Warwickshire,  which had branches in Staffordshire ( Staffordshire Visitations 1664-1700, p. 34)and Worcestershire (Burke’s General Armory).   Grosart includes the pedigree for  Leicestershire in Appendix A (p. lxxv) but does not include the arms and makes no mention of any disparity.


A further complication arises from the fact that yet another Breton coat of arms-azure two chevrons or with in chief as many mullets of the second-- was displayed in stained glass at Layer Breton Church.  (Francis Morgan Nichols, The Hall of Lawford Hall: Records of an Essex House and its Proprietors, p. 12 citing Symond’s Essex Memoranda, MS, College of Arms, v. 2, p. 197) Burke’s General Armory identifies these arms as Breton of Haxted, Essex.


One final note:  according to  Middlesex: biographical and pictorial   the Bretons of Bitton, Gloucester, descend from the Bretons of Layer Breton through Nicholas Breton who lived at Layer Breton in the early 15th century:


The earliest mention of the family at Bitton is met with in the
Subsidy Rolls of the 14th and 15th years of Henry VIII., where the
names of Thomas Breton and John Breton occur as paying the subsidy
in the tithing or hamlet of Oldland in the Parish above mentioned.
From that date the name of Breton, in that form and its derivative of
Britton, regularly occurs. Thomas and John Breton were descended
through a'family of that name in Essex from Nicholas Breton, of
Layer°Breton, in that County, who was living there in the early part of
the fifteenth century.


If this claim is right--and I have yet to find any evidence to support it--then William Breton’s grandfather Nicholas born c 1406 or before  may be the same Nicholas Breton indicated here.



                           Breton Manor, Barton Hall, or Bartons


Nicholas Breton’s editor, Alexander Grosart, citing Philip Morant,  mentions a “maner of Bretton or Bartons Hall in Essex” which “took its name from ‘Hugo Brito, that held a fourth part of a Knight’s fee of the House of Henry of Essex of his Honour of Rayley.’”  (Grosart, p. x,; Morant, History and Antiquities of the County of Essex, v. 1., p. 319: Note 3: Liber Ruber).  Since Henry of Essex died c 1170, Hugh Brito would have been a contemporary of Radulfus Brito of Lawford and his brother Lewis Brito, although perhaps somewhat older.  


The Honour of Rayleigh lay in the southeastern portion of Essex in an area now known as the Rochford District which included the ancient towns of Hadleigh (Essex) and Stambridge.  The  information that follows  comes from the website of  Stambridge Parish Council and  is based on a history compiled in the 19th century by Philip Benton  and continued more recently from his notes by Mrs. Jerram-Burrows:


“Barton Hall” or “Bartons”, once a mediaeval mansion, now long since demolished, stood at the extreme eastern end of Great Stambridge parish overlooking the water on an arm of Bartonhall Creek. Little is known of its early occupants, save one, Sir Richard Le Breton, who gave the house its earlier name of “Bretons” or Breton” and has been remembered as either “Bartons” or “Barton Hall” ever since. William the Conqueror gave this Manor to Sir Auvrai Le Breton who had come over from Normandy with the King and fought valiantly at his side at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, together with the manor of Sanford in Somerset (the village being sometimes called “Sanford Bret” after this family). Simon Le Breton lived there with his two sons, Richard and Edmund, both boys becoming joint heirs to the two estates. At their fathers decease they inherited both Sanford and Great Stambridge. They were courtiers and well liked and spent much of their time at the court of Henry II. At this time, Sir Richard Le Breton was the close friend and confidant of Prince William, the King’s brother. Stambridge, being nearer to the Court. Richard chose to live there in preference to the family seat in Somerset.


The Bretons mentioned above all have links with southwestern England:

Auvrai le Breton aka Alured or Alfred held a large  barony as tenant in capite in Devonshire at the time of Domesday.  Breton of Langley and Borough and Bruton of Havitree and Alwington are believed to descend from him. (Worthy, Devonshire Wills, p. 363 ff-- See section below on Bretons of the Southwest).


Simon le Breton or Simon Bret held Sanford (later known as Sanford-Bret) of the Honour of Dunster for ½ Kts fee in Henry I. His son Richard (called Brito) is believed to have been one of the murderers of Thomas a Beckett; Sanford took its name from Richard’s brother Edmund.  The Brets continued at Sanford-Bret until 1360. (The Battle abbey roll: With some account of the Norman lineages, vol. 1

by Catherine Lucy Wilhelmina Powlett Cleveland, p. 160)        



                                  Bretons in Suffolk


The Breton name appeared in Suffolk  shortly after the Conquest,  although many of the early records are too  fragmentary to form a connected line.


From: The Manors of Suffolk: Notes on their History and Devolution


Lidgate Manor--2 manors existed here from Saxon times--the second manor was held by Rainald the Breton at Domesday (1086) and claimed by him in alms of the King


Hawkedon Manor--1364--William Breton and two others released right to the manor to Sir William Clopton


Oulton Manor--2 October 1631--Anthony Hobart (son of Henry, grandson of James), who married Anne, daughter of George Breton of Layer Breton in Essex conveyed the manor to Sir Edmund Reeve of Stratton, Norfolk


From the County of Suffolk: its history as disclosed by existing records and other documents, being materials for the history of Suffolk, gleaned from various sources - mainly from MSS., charters, and rolls in the British Museum and other public and private depositories, and from the state papers and publications of the record commissioners, the deputy keeper of the public records, and of the master of the rolls


Ipswich: Henry Breton---no date


Hintlesham:  Geoffrey le Bretun’s release  in frank almoin to Priory of St. Mary's Wikes, for his share of rent they were accustomed to pay him--no date


C. L’estrange Ewen, A History of Surnames in the British Isles (1931),

 p. 152: Roger le Breton , Suffolk (John, Fines)

 Andrew Breton, Suffolk no date

Alice le Bretun, Suffolk, 1291-92


For Ancestry subscribers: British Chancery records 1386-1558 (Suffolk) and Suffolk Sibton Abbey Estates 1325-1509,  contain references to Brittons


From  Calendar of the Feet of Fines for Suffolk by  Walter Rye:

p. 49 Philip de Welnetham, Robert de Breton & Mabilia his wife, John de Haley, Reginald son of Robert & Amicia his wife, Adam de Hocwald & Maria his wife v Thomas de Gerbodesham & Maria his wife in Whepsted (31-33 Henry III)


p. 72 William le Bygod v Thomas le Bygod of Magna Bradley & advowson of Church (Roger le Bigod Earl of Norfolk) Thomas son of Thomas de Bigot & Albreda his wife, William son of William le Breton & High le Bygod appon clam) 53-55 Henry III


p. 138: William de la Cressonere of Ikelyngham & Petronella his wife v ____de Geddynge & John le Breton of Somerton in Ikelyngham (10 Edward II)


p. 303 John Skulford, Thomas Breton clerk & Thomas Love Chaplain v Adam Babyngton & Rose his wife in Langham 26-29 Henry VI



                       Breton of Harkstead Manor, Sulfolk


Harkstead was a manor in the southern part of  Suffolk near the Essex border.  The Manors of Suffolk : notes on their history and devolution, (pp. 43-45)  gives the following history:


This was the estate of Edith the Fair in the days of the Confessor, and of Adeliza, Countess of Albermarle, sister of the Conqueror, at the time of the Great Survey….

In 1275 the lordship was held by William le Breton [1],  and in 1286 by Nicholas le Breton, who claimed view of frankpledge and assize of bread and beer here. [2] From Nicholas the manor passed in 1295 to his son and heir, Nicholas Bretun, a minor, and we find the King presenting in 1295 Henry de Langeton to the living of Harkstead church in consequence of the custody of the land and heir of Nicholas le Bretun being in his hands. 6 1 Dom. ii. 2866. [3]T. de N. 285. 2 Dom. ii. 4306. 5 H.R. ii. 189; Q.W. 723. 3 Dom. ii. 4206. 6 Pat. Rolls, 23 Edw. I. 2. 44 THE MANORS OF SUFFOLK. Davy states that in 1316 William de Bretun or Bretton [4] had the manor, and that in 1327 William Hemcsted [see note #3 below-- Hemcsted is probably an error for  William de Ernestede] held a seventh part of a fee here " formerly Bretton' s," rather implying that the latter held the manor, but the Breton family were holding lands in Harkstead till a much later date, for we find from the Originalia Rolls in 1369  that at this time Laurence Breton held part of a fee here.' Further, we meet with a fine of the manor levied in 1358 [5], which certainly goes to show that it had not passed from the family at that date. It was levied by John, son of Nicholas Breton (probably the above-mentioned minor of 1295) and Lora his wife against Thomas Bonde  and John Denbeney.'  [6] In 1380 we meet with another fine of the manor and advowson  by Ralph de Tendryng and Katharine his wife against Nicholas Breton, of Leyre- Breton [7] and another in 1410 of both manor and advowson levied by Wm. Tendryng against John Constantyn and Katherine his wife.


Arms of BRETON : Quarterly, Or and Gu. a bordure Az.




1. William le Brittone was owner of the Lordship at Harkstead in 9 Edward I c 1281 [J. Kirby, A Supplement to the Suffolk Traveller the , p. 19; Testa de Nevill, 285]

2.View of frankpledge in, the hands of Nicholas le Bretun. H.R.

3. Note copied from The Manors of Suffolk:  HARKSTEAD CHURCH. Notes on. E.A. viii. 115. Monuments in. Add. 19104, 19105, E.A. vii. 310. Plate. S.I. ix. ii. 217. , Presentation of Henry de Langeton to, in King's gift by reason of custody of land and heir of Nicholas le Bretun. Pat. Rolls, 23 Edw. I. 2. ; see also Suffolk Fines,

4. In 5 Edward III (c 1332) William Breton or his heir was party to a fine against William de Ernestede in Harkstede  [Walter Rye, Calendar of Feet of Fines for Suffolk, p.172]

5. O., 42 Edw. III.

6.Nicholas Breton married Lora Bonde and died before 1368, when Lora and her brother Thomas Bonde granted to Prior Roger and the cannons of Dodnash Priory a “parcel of a messuage in the parish of St. Nicholas, Ipswich,” on Friday 3 November 1668. [Carta Thome Bonde et Lore sororisque facta nobis super….Charter sealed with arms bearing a shield with a fess and scrollwork border, the rest indecipherable; Christopher Harper-Hill, Suffolk Records Society,  Dodnash Priory Charters, pp.112-13]

7. Ralph de Tendering & Katherine his wife v Nicholas Breton of Leyrebreton of the manor of Herkystede & advowson of the church, 4 Richard II--Suffolk Fines, p. 253).  The Bretons of Layer Breton used the same Christian names--William, Nicholas, and John--at approximately the same time and in similar sequence, raising questions regarding the likelihood that and extent to which the two lines overlapped during the 14th century.  Cf.  Breton of Layer Breton above.


                             A Brief History of  Hadleigh


Hadleigh (from Norse Heathlega=heath-covered place) is an ancient town which lies on the bank of the River Breton (or Brett). Roman remains may be found to the east of town, remnants of Saxon occupation along present-day George Street. Viking influence has always been strong here.  The Danish King Guthrum, who was defeated by King Alfred of England in 878, is said to be buried on the grounds of St. Mary’s Church (890).   In the 10th century,  another Danish king gave the town to the Prior of Canterbury and for the next nine centuries it was an ecclesiastical peculiar under the direct controul of the Archbishop of Canterbury.


The Domesday survey of 1086 indicates that Suffolk was already heavily populated  and  one of the richest counties in England, but  Hadleigh’s future prosperity was further secured in 1252 when Henry III granted weekly Monday markets and annual fairs to the Lord of Topperfield.   By 1287 Hadleigh could boast  one of the earliest fulling mills in the district and would eventually become a leader in the manufacture of heavy, felted wool broadcloth.  The center of this trade was the triangle formed by Hadleigh, Sudbury, and St. Edmunds.  To the east of this triangle, the Suffolk towns of Eye, Debenham, and Woolbridge  prospered in the manufacture of kersey.  These two products--kersey and broadcloth--were known as Old Draperies.


The cloth trade in Hadleigh was run by rich merchants who purchased wool from local and foreign growers and distributed it to cottagers responsible for the various stages of cloth production.  The finished cloth was then sold by the same merchants who reaped  the greatest portion of the profit.   In 1438 a descendant of the Lord of Toperfield granted his right to hold weekly markets and an annual fair to  24 of the town’s leading citizens who were to  act as trustees and would henceforth be known as the Hadleigh Market Feoffment.   Hadleigh’s  impressive 52 foot Deanery Tower,  St. Mary’s Church (among the largest in Suffolk), and its timber-frame Guildhall bear witness to its illustrious past.


In December, 1618,  in exchange for the handsome fee of L200, Hadleigh received a charter permitting the establishment of  a Corporation which consisted of a Mayor, seven Aldermen, and thirty Burgesses.  While  this change formalized the position of the leading men, it did not prove beneficial for all, and the charter was surrendered by the Corporation in 1686 when a group of citizens complaining of “great repression”  petitioned the Privy Council to revoke it.


By the 17th century, however,  Hadleigh’s prosperity was  already waning because the heavy broadcloth on which its wealth had been built was being supplanted by lighter, more fashionable New Drapery manufactured in  Colchester, Norwich and other large East Anglian towns where Dutch and Flemish  immigrants skilled in clothmaking had settled during the previous century.



                               John Breton of Hadleigh


Descendants of the Britton family of Henrico may recognise the name Hadleigh as the home of John Britton, who occupies the second rung on the old family chart.   This John Britton was a Clothier engaged in Hadleigh’s  wool trade and manufacture and one of the town’s most  prominent citizens, serving as Chief Collector of the Market in 1583, 1593, 1601, 1605, and 1615;  Churchwarden in 1589 and 1599; Mayor in 1621; and Alderman at the time of his death in 1636.  In 1619, when the town received its charter from James I, John Britton helped draw up the town’s “Orders, Constitutions, Decrees, Laws, & Ordinances”, and  his signature appeared along with those of other town fathers  at the foot of the document.   (Hugh Pigot, Hadleigh: the town, the church, etc. a paper, p. 152ff; copy of a  letter dated 28 October 1992 from Mr. C. Cook, the Hon Archivist, Hadleigh to Mrs. Joyce Worrell in Forth Worth, Texas)


Although the name Britton appears in various forms in the records of Hadleigh,  John Britton seems to have preferred Britton, as indicated by the letter cited above which mentions several original signatures.  He was probably born sometime  in the 1550’s and was living in Hadleigh when he married Elizabeth Stutt on 16 February 1580.   They had ten children, all christened at Hadleigh, with the possible exception of Sarah:


1. Elizabeth ch 28 June 1582

2. Thomas ch 1 March 1583 (PCC Will 16 June 1621, 47 Dale) m Sybele Cauthon 30 Jan 1611 (she married 2nd John Alabaster)

3. Robert ch 27 Dec 1585

4. Lawrence ch 21 April 1588 (PCC Will 13 August 1657)

5. Ann ch 29 Nov 1590

6. William ch 6 May 1593 (PCC Will 20 Feb 1643)

7. Margaret ch 8 July 1595 m George Gooday, Grocer of London (for Gooday, see Visitation of London 1633, 1634, 1635 , pt. 1, p.322)

8. Mary ch 13 Sept 1597

9. Ales ch 24 Dfeb 159

10. Sarah no date (there was a Sarah Breton ch 28 Oct 1571--either an error, perhaps  for  1591, or an earlier Sarah Britton) -Sarah the Younger married Forth Gooday, brother of George Gooday


Elizabeth Strutt Britton died in in 1622 and was buried at Hadleigh on 22 February 1621/2: “Elizabeth Breiten wife of Mr. John Br.”  After her death, John Britton married another Elizabeth, whose maiden name is unknown but who was living when he wrote his will on 17 July 1636.  He died shortly thereafter and was buried at Hadleigh on 6 November 1636.   The Liber Actorum  shows that his son Lawrence Britton appeared in the Dean’s Court and stated that his father was possessed of property valued at more than L5, making probate in that court beyond its jurisdiction.  (Pigot, p. 152ff).  His will was probated in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in February 1637, and the will of Elizabeth Bretton, widow of Hadleigh, was proved on the 13th of the following month.  Other Britton wills from Hadleigh,  appear to be for John Britton’s sons, as indicated above.


At least two of these sons entered Queen’s College, Cambridge--Lawrence on 22 May 1600 and his older brother Robert on the 23rd of the following September.  While nothing further is known of Robert who seems to have died young and was not mentioned in his father‘s will,  Lawrence received his B.A.  in 1604, “almost equaling in his early attainment of  that degree the celebrated Cardinal Wolsey, who became known as ‘e Boy Bacheller’  … of Oxford University.” (Pigot, p. 152ff)


A distinguished career followed this auspicious beginning: Lawrence was elected Fellow of his College on 15 March 1607/8 and began work on his MA the same year; he served as Senior Praelector in 1610-11; Examinator in 1611-12, Praelector Graecus in 1612-13; Decanus Sacelli in 1614-15; Censor Philosophicus in 1615-16 after attaining his B.D; Senior Bursar and Censor Theologicus in 1616-17  and Junior Bursar in 1617-18.  In 1630, he earned a D.D degree,  after which he was preferred, “perhaps through the favour of the King”  to the Rectory of Hitcham where he displayed “great worth and learning.” (Pigot, pp 152fff)


A staunch Anglican,  Lawrence remained at Hitcham until 1643 when he was driven from the living and “plundered of his landed estates” by adherents of Cromwell .  He returned to Hadleigh where he  “managed to live in some comfort on money he had put out” and  “became known for his liberal almsgiving and his daily use of the [Anglican] service which he read to all who chose to attend.” (Augustus Jessopp, For Conscience Sake, p. 201)


Lawrence Britton died in 1657 and was buried in the church at Hadleigh, with “no memorial to mark his grave [and] only this entry [which understated his achievements] relating to him in the Register of Burials”; “July 25, Lawrence Britten, B.D.” (Pigot, p 157)


                         Ancestry of Bretton of Hadleigh


With the possible exception of Sarah who was christened at Hadleigh in 1671, I have found no indication that any other Britton family lived at Hadleigh c 1575-1667.    The first reference thus far to Brittons in the town, other than Sarah’s birth,  dates to 1577 when mention is made in the“Churchwarden’s & Collector’s Book“, p. 117 of ‘Bretton of Lanham” or Lavenham (pronounced Lanham in Suffolk)  which was  the greatest of all the Suffolk  market towns engaged at this time in the manufacture of  woolen broadcloth.  Lying within the triangle described above, it is situated on a branch of the River Breton about nine miles northwest of  Hadleigh.


Hadleigh Parish Registers begin in 1558, making it improbable that the birth of John Britton would have been recorded even if he had been born in the parish, although his appointment as Collector of the Markets in 1583 suggests that he had at least been resident long enough to establish his reputation.   The unidentified  Sarah Bretton  christened at  Hadleigh on 28 Oct 1571 could have been  a younger sister.  We know from John Britton’s  will that he had a sister who married at least twice and was the mother of Thomas Welham, (“my sister’s son…said Sister Driver”)  perhaps the last of four children of John Welham  (ch 10 Jan 1559) whose births were recorded at Hadleigh.  Although the mother of these children is not identified, odds are good that the only daughter was named for her, just as John Britton’s eldest daughter Elizabeth appears to have been named for her mother.


This interpretation, while tenuous, would also place John Bretton’s mother at Hadleigh , where we know that  she was living at the time of her death: “Mother Frost, mother of John Breton, ye Clothier” was buried at Hadleigh in 1605 (Pigot, p. 152).   I have not yet been able to find any record of  a Britton-Frost marriage.


Those involved in organizing the early generations of the chart for  Britton of Henrico appear to have assumed that John Britton’s father was Thomas Britton, an assumption, based in all likelihood on the common practice of naming the eldest son after his father and the eldest daughter after her mother. Of course, this practice is only useful when one can identify the eldest children in a family, which is scarcely the case with John Britton, although if he did have a sister born in 1571 and his mother was still living in 1605, he would certainly have been one of the older children in the family, if not the first son.


Parish records for Lavenham  began in 1558, too, but the only Britton births recorded there were for Roger Bretton, ch 21 Sept 1564, who was the son of William, and Roger’s children: Anne ch 18 Aug 1588; Susan ch 7 Jan 1592; Marie ch 2 March 1595, and Roger ch 21 Jan 1597.  Unless there were other births not recorded, Roger’s family violates the above-mentioned naming pattern and serves to remind of the risks involved in making any assumption which cannot be logically inferred from a fact already in hand.


Nothing is known as yet of  Roger’s father William except that he was  probably born c 1543, which makes it unlikely that he was a brother of Sarah Britton born at Hadleigh in 1571, unless  his father had  children by more than one wife.   Both William and John, however, could have been grandsons of one of three Britton men from Lavenham  whose wills were  proved in the Archdeacon’s Court at Sudbury: John Bretunne 1527; Roger Breton 1531, and William Brytton 1533. (M. E. Grimstead, et al., Probate records of the Archdeacon of Sudbury 1354-1700, v. 1)


Two Britton wills of an even earlier date were recorded for East Bergholt, which  lies within the jurisdiction of the Archdeaconry Court of Suffolk, but is located only six miles southeast of Hadleigh: Adam Breton 1512 and William Breton 1517, followed at mid-century by John Bretton the Elder, Baker, 1544; Thomas Brytten the Elder, 1557; and then of special interest because of his occupation, Nicholas Bretton Clothier, 1601. (Grimstead, Probate Records of the Archdeacon of Suffolk, v. 1)



        Could John Britton Have Living Male-Line Descendants?


Hadleigh Parish records indicate that John Britton had four sons.   Oldest son Thomas died in 1622, leaving at least one son John who inherited Debenham Hall from his grandfather in 1636.   Second son Robert, not mentioned in his father’s will, was probably dead without issue by this time.  Youngest son William who  inherited all his father’s “stock and adventure in the company of merchants trading for Virginia and the Bermudas” may have been the  William Britton, Gent of Hadleigh who died in 1643.  Failure of the male line may therefore be inferred from the ownership of Debenham Hall which Lawrence Britton seems to have inherited from his nephew John Britton and  in 1657 devised to his nephew Forth Goodday, son of his youngest sister Sarah.


There is one contrary indicato, however: the Alabaster chart mentions a Thomas Britton  (Joseph James Muskett, Robert Charles Winthrop, Evidences of the Winthrops of Groton, co. Suffolk, England, and of families , etc.,p.55) who died in 1643, naming Alabaster half-siblings in his will.   While an unusual coincidence cannot be ruled out,  two Britton deaths from the same family in the same year are rather a stretch, raising the possibility that the half brother was William rather than Thomas.  Alternative explanations are that either the date or the entire reference in the Alabaster chart is incorrect, although the wording suggests that whoever drew the chart had access to or knowledge of the will in question.


If John’s son William  was alive or had a son living in 1657,  it is odd that Lawrence Britton did not devise Debenham Hall to a Britton nephew rather than a Goodday nephew, unless of course, his brother William  really did settle in one of the American colonies.  There is record of a William Britton who arrived in Maryland in 1637 with wife Mary, daughter of Thomas Nabbs,  son William aged 4, and two servants, but his English origin is unknown, although there is some reason to think he may have been from a Catholic family in West Yorkshire.  (Maryland was a Catholic colony.).


If Britton of Hadleigh or their ancestors do have male-line descendants living today, we want to find and test representatives of the line. Their roots are likely to go deep  in Suffolk or East Anglia,  and they could well be lineal descendants of  Layer Breton or one of the other ancient Britton families in this area.  Despite an intriguing reference to Virginia and the colonies in John Britton‘s will, I regret to say there is no evidence linking Hadleigh with Britton of Henrico. 


I think the most we can say at this point is that DNA results for Britton of Henrico indicate that John Britton’s ancestors may have come from eastern or northern England where Viking settlement was most common.  As  results of DNA studies like the Yorkshire project now in progress at the University of Leicester are published and settlement patterns for Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, and Normans are more clearly defined, we may be able to narrow our search for all of our  Britton families in Haplogroup I1.






The counties of Norfolk and Suffolk form the heart of East Anglia.  The name for this region comes from Ost Angelnen--eastern settlement of the Angles, one of several Germanic tribes which invaded England after the Romans withdrew in the early fifth century.  Northumberland (Nord Angelnen) and Mercia (Mittlere Angelnen) were also settled by Angles.  Cambridge and Essex (the latter settled by Saxons--Est Seaxna) are sometimes considered to be part of greater East Anglia and were included in that region by the Oxford Genetic Atlas Project.  Bryan Sykes of Oxford University estimates the percentage of Y-DNA in Haplogroup I (which he nicknamed Woden for the Norse god) at around 31.2%. Although controversy remains concerning the extent to which Viking invaders  replaced native Celts, it seems reasonable to assume that Germanic influence may have been even stronger in this area at certain times in the past than it is today.


A second wave of Germanic invaders from Denmark followed in the eighth and ninth centuries when most of eastern and northern England  including the Kingdoms of Northumberland (ie the counties of Yorkshire, Durham , Northumberland, and Lancashire) , East Anglia, and the Five Boroughs of Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Stamford and Lincoln fell under the Danelaw.  Cultural evidence of Viking influence may still be found in these regions today in local dialects as well as in  place names ending in by, thorpe, ton, ham, thwaite, etc. Scandinavian  influence on place names is stronger in Norfolk than in  Suffolk.



                            Breton of Witchingham & Felmingham   


The ancestors of an armigerous  Breton family may be traced at Witchingham Magna in central Norfolk from the late 13th or early 14th century.  One branch of this family was later established at Felmingham, a parish eleven miles northeast of Witchingham.


The following pedigree is taken from Walter Rye, ed., The Visitation of Norfolk  1563, 1589, & 1613, pp. 54-55, but see also Francis Bloomfield & Charles Perkins, An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk, p. 302ff.


Arms: Quarterly of six: 1 & 6 (Breton): Quarterly per fess indented argent & gules, in 1st Quarter a mullet sable 2nd: argent, a chevron between three birds’ feet erased sable 3rd Gules two lions passant-guardant ermine ducally crowned or 4th Ermine on a chief gules five lozenges conjoined in fess or 5th Sable a fess between two chevrons or

Crest: A demi-Talbot rampant gules erased or collared & lined of the last, the end tied in a knot


1. Edmund le Breton of Witchingham Magna married Ermentruden, daughter of _____ in Norfolk & had:


a. William Breton of Witchingham m Daughter & heir of Yermouth

b. Nicholas Breton

2a. William Breton of Witchingham m Daughter & heir of Yermouth, father of:

3. William Breton of Witchingham married Isabell daughter of Kerdeston & had:

4. John Breton of Witchingham temp Richard II (ie 1377-99) m Mary, daughter & heir of Hamond Felton of Lycham [Litchan] in Norfolk

5. John Breton of Witchingham m Margery daughter and sole heir of Robert Gerbridge, & had:


a. Edmund Breton of Witchingham married Margery daughter of Symon Blyan--ob. sp

b. Robert Breton of Witchingham Magna married Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Brampton of Norfolk & had:

7b. Robert Breton of Witchingham Magna married Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Brampton of Norfolk & had:


a. Thomas Breton married Margerie daughter of Thomas Jermye of Metfield, Suffolk

b. John Breton, Esq. Presented to the Church in 1501 (Mostyn John Armstrong, History & Antiquities of the County of Norfolk, p. 48)

8a. Thomas Breton married Margerie daughter of Thomas Jermye of Metfield, Suffolk


a. Thomas Breton of Felmingham in Norfolk marrued Eleanor daughter of Wynborrow of Whynborrow [Whinburgh in Norfolk]

b. Robert

c. John

d. William

e. Edward

f. John

g. Olyve ux. Edw. Thirland in Gamston, Notts.

h. Jane ux Henry Dagayne

8a. Thomas Breton of Felmingham in Norfolk marrued Eleanor daughter of Wynborrow of My borrow [Whinburgh in Norfolk] & had:


a. Henry Breton of Felmingham married Martha daughter of Rafe Symonds of Clay, Norfolk

b. Humfrey

C John ob.s.p.

d. Margery ux John Blakney

9a. Henry Breton of Felmingham married Matha daughter of Rafe Symonds of Clay, Norfolk & had:


a. Thomas

b. Erasmus

c. William

d. Edward

e. Arthur

f. Elizabeth ux. Ric. Crofts

g. Jane ux John Stydolfe of Surrey

h. Mary

i. Elizabeth ux Wm, Whitwood

j. Margaret ux Wm Russell

k. Olyve m 1st Thomas Hearne of London 2nd Sir John Herne ob. Sp

l. Thomas married twice, ob. sp

m. Eleanor ux Souch: fil: naturalis



               The Manors of Sparham and Breton’s in Norfolk


Breton families may also be traced for several generations at Sparham in Necton Parish, South Greenhoe Hundred and Breton’s (aka Pakenham’s Manor) in Shropham Hundred:


Sparham: From: An essay towards a topographical history of the county of Norfolk ...pp 46-47, by Francis Blomefield, Charles Parkin


“Sparham-hall lordship was a part granted from the capital manor of Necton, by Roger de Tony, father of Ralph, to Roger De Clifford, who gave it to Henry de Burnhill or Burwell, and after the death of the said Henry, it returned to Roger aforesaid, who sold it to John Le Bretun, who held it in the 3d of Edward I. ; and in the last year of that King a fine was levied between Simon le Breton, querent, and the said John, who settled the same on Simon in tail, remainder to Edmund, brother of Simon, after to Nicholas, remainder to the right heir of John; and in the 9th of Edward II. the aforesaid Edmund was lord.


In the 20th  of Edward III. Thomas Breton held Sparham  by the 40th part of a knight's fee, of the heirs of Roger de Clifford, and Roger, of Guy de Beauchamp, and Guy, of the King.


In the 5th of Richard II.* a fine was levied between Ralph Churchman of Neketon and Margaret his wife, and Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Thomas Breton, of Essex, Esq. who conveyed this manor, with Ids. Id. rent in Shingham, Bodney, Holm Hale, &c. to Ralph;”



Breton’s or Pakenham’s: From: Francis Blomfield, An Essay Toward a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk, vol. 1 (1805


 “Breton's or Pakenham's Manor belonged at the Confessor's survey to Anaut, and to Earl Hugh at the Conqueror's, of whom Richard de Vernun then held it;…the whole of Shropham was then above two miles long and one broad….In 1308, John Le Veyle of Barningham, granted it to Peter Le Breton of Shropham; it extended then into Sneterton, Wileby, Harkham, Lerling, Bretenham, Illington, Rokeland, and StowBydon; afterwards, Stephen Bryttoun had it; after this it divided, and in 1345, Richard de Cauz held half a fee of it, of John Gernoun, and the same Richard, Richard Herberd, Walter Goodhale, Henry atte Green, and Robert of Bokenham, held the other half fee of Robert de Morley, and he of the King, which Peter of Shropham, Roger Cauz, and others, formerly held. In 1367, Henry de Breton was lord, who this year left it to his two sisters, his heiresses; Lettice and Agnes, whose son and heir, Henry de Pakenham, inherited her moiety; it was then held as parcel of Tateshall barony: Lettice married John Heryng of Thompson, whose son and heir, John Heryng, was lord of his part in 1393, and in 1394, Henry Heryng, clerk, brother and heir of John, held his part by the two hundredth part of Tateshall barony; Henry Pakenham, Esq. at his death, left his part to Henry, his son and heir, who lived at Shropham in his manor-house, called Pakenham Hall. About 1408, he became heir to Henry Hering of Thompson, clerk, and so the whole of this part was joined in him; the other parts of the half fee which was divided in 1345, were held in 1442, by the heirs of Henry Breton, Roger Caus, Richard Caus, and the heirs of Richard Herberd, Walter Goodale, Robert de Bokenham, and Henry atte Green.”



                          Other Early Records for Norfolk


From A Short Calendar of the Feet of Fines for Norfolk, part 1 by Walter Rye


p. 171 35 Edward I--Simon le Breton v John le Breton of the manor of Sparham

p. 70 28 Henry III   William prior of Walsingham by brother Alan del Otrhyerd his canon v Thorald le Breton & Avelina huis wife in Holkam & Parva Walsingham


p. 144 21/22 Edward I Philip le Breton & Cassandara his wife v John de Scotia of the manor of Westfield

p. 93 41 Henry III--Alce widow of Richard de Doure v William le Breton

p. 114 3 Edward I--John Le Breton v Roger de Clyfford Senior of the manor of Sparham


p. 139 17/18 Edward I John le Bretun v John de Dunham of the manor of Parva Dunham and advowson of same

p. 96 43 Henry III John fil’ Roger v William le Bretun & wife Isabella in Hemesby


p. 119 6&7 Edward I--William Spriggy by Reyner de Acre v Symon de Suddale & wife Alice, by John le Bretun in Brunham Ulp

Same by same v John de Poring Lund & Alice his wife by John le Bretun in Bradefeud


p. 96 43 Henry III William fils Godfrey v William le Bretun & Isabella his wife in hemmesby

p. 97 Richard le Fevre of Hemesby v Wiliam le Bretun  & Isabella his wife in Hemesby

P 52 18 Henry III agbes Prioress of Harhowe by Robert =de Stanford v John le Bretun of Hethill in Meutun


p. 130 17/18 Edward I John le Bretun v John de Dunha, of manor of Parva Dunham & advowson of same

John le Dunham v John le Bretun & Mathilda his wife in Parva Dunham & Advowson of same


p. 160 32/32 Edward I Roger de Soterle by Nicholas de Oulton v John Breton et al.


Francis Bloomfield &  Charles Perkin, An Essay Toward the Topographical History of the County of Norfolk…, vol. ?,


p. 302ff. Thorald le Breton lived at Witchingham [or Walsingham--see Fines above] and married Aveline daughter of Ralph le Vilechen of Holkam


William le Breton paid the Sheriff of Norfolk & Suffolk to excuse him from Knight’s duty--1267


 p.  475 Robert BretonVicar of Islington 1517


p. 144--Will of Robert Rymes Esq 1508 mentions brothers Oliver and John Rymes, sister Jane Grave, and cousin Thomas Breton


Mostyn John Armistrong, History and Antiquities of the County of Norfolk:


p. 93 Prior of Norwich had a pension made by Wm de Raleigh Bishop of Norwich in lieu of 2 parts of the great tithes of the desmenes formerly of Wiganus Brito

p. 95--Part of Threxton came to Wiganus Brito who settled 2 parts of his tithes on Threxton Church and one third on the Prior of Norwich--but c 1246 there was a perpetual composition made [as above] between the Prior and the Rector…


p.22 10 Richard I--Wm de Huntingfield and William de Breton conveyed to Wm Battail by fien lands in Alder ford & Swannington


 p 49--Arms of Gerbridge and also of Breton of Withcingham & Hetherset a displayed in the east window of  Chancel


p. 43 Brian’s Manor--1321--Sir Ralph de Skeyton released to Alice Breton and her heirs and to Robert Brian of Felmingham and his heirs all claim in homages, services, etc, which they held of him


From Lincolnshire pedigrees, Vol. 2. p. 483--Olive daughter of Thomas or Edward Bretton of Felmingham Norfolk, 2nd wife and widow of Thomas Hearne, died 3 Feb 1631 at age 96--buried in St. Martin’s in Field


Bigod Earls of Norfolk in the 13th Century by Marc Morris, p. 217” Roger Bigod,  Earl of Norfolk to Walter Suffield, Bishop of Norwich, land & tenement which John le Bretun held of him in Hethel & Nayland--no date but c 1250-52 [A year and a day after John le Bretun abjured the realm, the land was restored to Earl Roger]





Cambridge is an inland county which borders Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk; it is often considered part of East Anglia and was included in that region  by the Oxford Genetic Atlas Project.  Burke’s General Armory lists Argent two bars sable, a label of three points gules as the arms of  Breton of Cambridge, but nothing further is known of this family.


The earliest reference I have found to Bretons in Cambridge dates to the late 12th century: in 1183, Ralph  Brito held lands at Ickelton (a parish on the Cambridge/Essex border) of the Honour of Boulogne ; he died by 1194 and was succeeded by Thomas Brito (tenant in 1218), whose daughter married Robert Hovel.  William Brito (heir of Thomas?) gave a carucate of land at Ickleton to Hovel in 1222 (A.P.M. Wright et al., editors, A  History of Cambridge & Isle of Eley, vol. 6, pp. 230-46)


Robert Brito (d by 1199) , who may have been a kinsman of the aforementioned Ralph Brito, had an estate at Ickleton which his son and heir William Brito held of the King in 1230 and 1242.  By 1279 this land had passed to John le Bray “possibly a descendant of William Brito whose name was …written le Breton or le Bret.” (Ibid.)



                           Bretton of Burrough & Dullingham


Burrough Green lies in the northeastern part of  the county  about 11 miles east of the town of Cambridge; the parish of Dullingham is about 2 miles northwest of Burrough.


One or more Breton families owned land in these two parishes from an early period.


Fines involving a John le Breton, who purchased land  in  Burrough (Burgo) from William de Warewyk and his wife Alicia and shortly thereafter sold it to Edmund le Breton, are recorded c 1307: 


John le Breton v. William de Warewyk and Alicia his wife in Burgo & Dullingham (33-34 Edward I)


Edmund le Breton v. John le Breton in Burgh, Westle, Wilingham, Brinkele, and Dullingham (33-34 Edward I) (Pedes Finium : Fines Relating to the County of Cambridge)


Although this Edmund Breton cannot be identified,  John Breton appears* to have been the son of William Breton who in 1231 was granted  “8 a. in Burrough by Alice de Burgh.”   ('Parishes: Burrough Green', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 6 (1978), pp. 141-147)  William died in 1261  (45 Henry III) “seized of divers lands and manors…[including] Cranden in Cambridgeshire; and at Westleye, Burgh, Dollingham, and elsewhere on this side of the Trent, holden of the King in Capite.” (Thomas Christopher Banks, Baronica Angelica Concentrata, v. 2, p. 53;  Westley is a parish  about 2.5 miles from Dullingham.)  His estate included “ 120 a. [in Borough held] of the manor and 20 a. of Randal de Burgh.”  (Borough Green: A History of Cambridge, vol. 6. pp. 141-47) For more on this family, please see Breton of Essex and Northampton.


In 1353 Edward Breton’s land in Burrough was held by Thomas le Breton, (Burrough Green: A History of Cambridge, v. 6. pp. 141-47), but the  Breton name  persisted at Burrough  for many years after this period;  in 1389 there  was a tenement called BRETTONS;  in the late 16th century, the chantry land was known as  Brettons manor or BATEMANS CHANTRY; in the 17th century, the  manor  was called Burrough cum Brettons.  (Parishes: Burrough Green', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 6 (1978), pp. 141-147)  


* Edward  Foss, The  Judges of England with Sketches of their Lives, etc. , vol. 2, p. 260)  says this William Breton was the son of Robert Breton and grandson of Ranulph Breton or Brito; however,  The Hall of Lawford Hall (by Francis Morgan Nichols) , which appears to be the more reliable source on this point, shows that Ranulph’s (or Ralph’s)  grandson William died in 1235 leaving a minor son William who died in 1246, with three daughters as his sole heirs, one of whom, Joan and her husband Sir Robert de Hilton, inherited her father’s land in Cambridge (p. 21).  This Breton family was related to the family of William Breton (Dominus de Sporle) who died in 1261, through William’s father Lewis Brito, who was the brother of Ranulph  Brito of  the Lawford branch.



                                William Breton of Dullingham


By the late 15th century, Breton was among the “more prosperous yeoman families” in Dullingham, “ whose  head owned over 100 a.  c. 1500.”   ('Parishes: Dullingham', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 6 (1978), pp. 157-170.  The reference here is  to William Bretton of Dullingham who “ bequeathed over 60 sheep in 1495” and whose will was proved in the PCC on 20 January 1495.  (Ibid.: Prob. 11/10 (P.C.C. 22 Vox, will of Wm. Breton).


This William Breton had  a son William who served as master of St. Katherine’s College by the Tower and later as Vicar at Dullingham from 1488-1543, before resigning in favour of a kinsman. (A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 6 (1978), pp. 157-170)


Parish records for Dullingham began in 1558. Entries submitted to the IGI, but probably extracted from parish records, suggest the possibility of tracing a Britton line which began with  John Breton, estimated to have been born c  1537 or before, who may have been a descendant of William Breton d 1495 and was  father of Richardus (Richard) Breton, ch 17 Jan 1558.


Richard Breton  married Maria Brewster 25 July 1588 and was the father of:

John  ch 10 April 1589

Anna ch 22 Sept 1591

Elena ch 13 Jan 1593

Johanna ch 17 June 1596 m Giles Tyler 11 Nov 1624


John Breton married Margaret Appleyard on 24 April 1611 and had:


Maria, daughter of John and Margaret is recorded for 9 Feb 1612

Alicia ch on 1 Feb 1623,

Johannes [or John] ch 1 Oct 1626


John married Alice (maiden name unknown) and was the father of nine children whose births are recorded at Dullingham:


Joshua ch 16 Jan 1650

Anne ch 26 May 1653 m Wm Fuller 16 Jan 1673

John ch 21 Nov 1654

Mary ch 26 March 1658

Susan ch 6 Sept 1660

John ch 29 Jan 1662

Hines ch 19 July 1665 d 2 Nov 1667

Alice ch 5 Aug 1668

William ch Oct 1672


In 1683 one of the John Bretons had a copyhold in Dullingham , including  “a  windmill, which belonged to the manor in 1279 (fn. 281) and was “ perhaps the same] standing on an artificial mound c. 600 yd. south of the village, which had given its name to Mill field by 1552.” (A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 6 (1978), pp. 157-170 )


Bretons of Dullingham in the 16th and 17th centuries are likely to be direct or collateral descendants of William Breton who died in 1495; more important for our purposes, we may have a reasonably good chance of finding male-line descendants living today either in the UK or one of its former colonies.



                      Miscellaneous Records for Cambridge



Reaney, Dictionary, p. 48) John le Bretayne 1327, Subsidy Rolls, Cambridge

C. L’estrange Ewen, A History of Surnames in the British Isles (1931), p. 152 Simon le Breton, Cambridge

The Name and Family of Brittain: Hugo le Breton, Cambridge.


Michael A. Hicks, Revolution and consumption in late medieval England:

John Breton supplier of fuel --4 contracts at 2500--King’s Hall Cambridge 1450-1500


Pedes Finium : Fines Relating to the County of Cambridge:


6 Alice fir Geoffrey v. Robert le Breton and Elena his wife in Cantebrig (19-24 Henry III)


33 Ralph de Heydon v. William le Breton in Herdlestou 24 Henry III


4 Lawrence de Brok i>. Richard le Breton and Sibill' his wife in Trumpinton (44 Henry III)


Richard le Breton and Johanna his wife v. John de Gerunde in parva Abyton (13 Edward III)

12 Thomas de Bray v. John le Breton in Qleaton (? Gleatton) juxta Stepel Morton (15-19 Edward I)


104 Richard de Treton clerk v. John de Breton and Alicia his wife and others, of Meldeburn manor (47-49 Edward III)


82 John Bassyngburn and Isabella his wife v. John Bretton and Alice his wife in Bassyngburn (8-12 Richard II)


Henry de Bretton v. John de Mucegras in Arington (42 Henry III)      



                                      Northern England       


Six counties make up the area defined as Northern England by the Oxford Genetic Atlas Project: Yorkshire, the largest of all English counties; Lincolnshire, another large county which like Yorkshire is divided into three parts; Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Cheshire, and Lancashire.  Of these, only Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Derbyshire appear to have been home to Breton families during the Mediaeval period, but approximately 5% of all Britton families lived in Lancashire in 1841 and 1891, although the Surname Profiler shows no concentration for 1881.





Lincolnshire was formed by the merger of Lindsey, one of the Kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy,  and the Danelaw borough of Stamford.   It was originally called Lindsey and is recorded as such in Domesday, but was later divided into three parts, one of which is still known as Lindsey today.


Britos or Bretons held land in the county in the years immediately following the Conquest:


Oger  aka Ogerus Brito and Waldin aka Waldeve Brito were tenants in capite in Lincolnshire; Waldin Brito also held land in Devonshire.


From  W. Marrat, The History of Lincolnshire: Topographical, Historical, Descriptive, p. 147 Land of Waldin Brito--In Stigiswalde (stixwold) Uluiet had 1 carucate; p. 160 In Wilegebi (Willoughby) Uluiet had 15 oxgangs

Waldin had 2 ploughs and 8 villanes with 2 ploughs and 56A or meadow

p. 147 In Orbelinge (Horbling) 6 oxgangs --soke in Haseby--Waldin had there one bordar & 2 ½ A meadow; Wido de Creden has the soke of Horblinge in Waldin’s



Oger  “had 5 acres of meadow, 8 of coppice, half a carucate and 4 villans in Quarrington as an appurtenance of his manor of Morton;  Waldin Brito claimed 14 acres here as of his manor of Willoughby, but this claim was not allowed.” (Sleaford and the Wapentakes of Flaxwell and Aswardhurn in the County of Lincoln)


Walden Brito may have died without issue because his land escheated and was granted before 1114-16 to Robert de Hay. (Robert Edmond Chester Waters, A Roll of the Owners of lands in the parts of Lindsey in Lincolnshire in the time of Henry I, p. 9); however, in the 13th century, there was a Richard Brito at Willoughby who with “Robert de Hardress took 111 skeps of corn, worth 9 17s. Od., probably the rent in kind, from Willoughby to the Castle of Lafford.”  .” (Sleaford and the Wapentakes of Flaxwell and Aswardhurn in the County of Lincoln)


Another early Breton tenant was Hugh Brito, son of Eudo and Lord of Tattershall, who founded the Abbey of Kirkstead in 1139.  (He is said to have been the ancestor of the Bretons of Warwickshire.) In 1187 Hugh’s son Robert gave additional space on his lands  to the monks of Kirkstead and his successors continued to add to these benefits, the patronage of the house “remain[ing] for four or five generations in the family of Hugh Brito.” ( 'Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Kirkstead', A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2 (1906), pp. 135-138)


On 18 Nov 1247 (32 Henry III) Hugh le Breton and Warner Engayne were parties to a fine concerning 4 messuages in St. Botulph, 1 mess and 25A in Bennington and 1 carucate in Toflz and Fenne and 60 A in Cybeceye (CW Foster, Final Concords of the County of Lincoln, p. 45)


Hugh  married Joan, widow of Ralph Rochford of the manor of Fenne in Boston, Lincs.. (Arthur S. Larkin, Lincolnshire Pedigrees, p. 629), and in 56 Henry III, Joan  le Breton was  granted 1/3 dower in Hugh le Breton’s  tenements  Toft, Buterwyk, Sibbezeye, Benighton, and the vill of St. Botulph, with reversion to the heirs of Joceus de Stepping and wife Laud.  (Simon de Edlington also mentioned.) (CW Foster, Final Concords of the County of Lincoln, p. 268, p. 268, 9 Dec 1271).


William le Breton, a contemporary of Hugh, was party to several fines in Lincoln:  Final Concords of the County of Lincoln: p. 48 on 25 June 1248;  p. 105, 20 Jan 1253 (38 Henry III) John le Rye v Wm le Breton tenant ½ bovate of land in Iwarby;p. 197 10 June 1263 (47 Henry III) Wm le Breton & Peter le Breton parties to a fine involving 10 bovates of land with appurtenances in Wytham.


The Knights of Edward I (Publications of the Harleian Society, vol. 3) appears to summarise the  career of a later William le Breton, perhaps related to the former,  who also held land at Witham:  “Sir William le Breton, Kt, De azur’ a une bende e vi molez de or, Lincs. (Pari.) Lic. For him to alienate lands in Owsthorpe, Lincs., to Kyme Priory, 1 July 1285 (P.R.). Summoned to Council at Rochester 8 Sept 1297, to serve against Scots 1297-8, and as having L40 lands in Lincs.  1300 (P.W.)  Holds 1 Kt Fee at Witham28 July 1303, and is overlord at Harpswell, Lincs, 4 June 1307.  Holds 1 Fee at Stratton and Wadingworth, late of Rob. De Tateshale, 5 Mar. 1304, and in 1307 and 1309 (C.R. and Inq. … Summoned as Kt. Of Lindsey, Lincs, to Gt. Council at Westminster 9 May 1324 (P.W.)”


Whether this William le Breton was also a “Lord of Wichingham St Mary and St Faith and of Alderfold, Norf. and Harkstead, Suffolk, 1316,” as shown in the same source,  is questionable: while the name William does occur in the Wichingham family at this period, the Norfolk Bretons bore quarterly per fess indented argent and gules, in the first quarter a mullet sable, indicating they did not share a male line of descent  with William le Breton of Lincolnshire. He may, however, have been related to Nicholas Breton who in 8 Edward I (c 1280)  held ½ Kt’s fee and a fourth part of a half fee at Ledenham and Fulbeck from the Honour of Richmond  for homage and scutage (Calendar of IPM’s and other Analogous Documents, vol. 2, p. 216).  The Warwickshire Bretons, who used the same coat of arms as the Lincolnshire William, are said to descend from the above-mentioned Hugh Breton, Lord of Tattersall, and the name Nicholas Breton is found at Long Itchington, Warwickshire in the 13th century.


Lincolnshire pedigrees, vol. 1, p. 249 : Clarke of Leadenham: Elizabeth daughter of Wm Clarke married George Brettn of Leadenham (no date)


Vol. 2: p. 420 Grant of Allingham: Robert Grant took a lease of part of the Hall place in Allingham in 18 Henry VII--his grandson Thomas Grant married the daughter of ______ Britton



                             Breton of Walton, Derbyshire


Another ancient Breton family was established at Derbyshire from the early 12th century:


"The manor of Walton [which lies within the parish of Chesterfield] was for several generations in the hands of the ancient family of Breton. Roger Briton, or Le Breton, lord of Walton, was witness to the foundation charter of Lonton Monastery, to which he gave the tithes of his manors of Walton & Calow temp. Henry I. His great great grandson Sir Roger le Breton, according to Dr. Pegge, obtained a license for a chantry in his chancel at Walton in the reign of Henry III. Walton remained in the family of Breton in direct male descent for five generations after the Sir Roger who obtained the Chantry when Isabel, sole heiress of Breton, conveyed the estate to Sir John Loudham, and their daughter in turn to Thomas Foljambe." (J. Charles Fox,  Notes on Churches of Derbyshire, vol. 4, p. 188) 


A brief article from Notes & Queries, 4th ser. ix, 299 , p. 391) fills in the names of the last four generations in this line:

Robert Breton resided at Walton & died 7 Edw. I

Roger le Breton, native of Walton Miles, d 2 Edw. II

Robert, son & Heir, died 24 Edw. III

Isabel m Sir John Loudham


The pedigree which follows was complied from sources already  cited and supplemented by Publications of Harleian Sociey, v. 3 (1929), The Knights of Edward I;  and Some Feudal Coats of Arms 1298-1418.

1. Roger le Breton, Lord of Walton--

2. Son

3. Grandson

4. Great grandson Sir Roger le Breton obtained a license for a Chantry at Walton--Henry III which remained in the hands of the Breton family for five generations from Sir Roger when Isabel Breton conveyed the manor to her husband Sir John Loudham.

5. Roger le Breton of Walton d 1250 at which time he held Walton Manor in Derby as 1 Kt. Fee (16 Oct 1250--IPM)--his son and heir Robert aged 24

6. Sir Robert le Bretton of Walton c 1226-1279--aged 24 in 1250--IPM 24 May 7 Edw I (1279)--Roger his heir aged 19 ½--Dower to widow  Mary 17 July 1279 (C.R.)

Arms: per pale gules and azure, a fesse between two chevrons argent (Knights of Edward I) (same as the arms borne by Breton of Havitree, Devon)

7. Roger le Breton c 1261/2-1322 --aged 16 in 1278--summoned from Notts. & Derby to serve against the Scots 24 June 1301 (p.W.)--Held Walton Manor as 1 Kt. Fee, Whytinton & Brymynton Manors & mess. At Roudich, Derby--Qualified for knighthood--Arms: Argent, a chevron between 3 escallops or (Source: Knights of Edward I; Some Feudal Coats of Arms 1298-1418 says that Roger Breton ( Roll)  bore argent, a chevron between 3 escallops gules, Jenyns’ Ordinary F)

IPM 6 Nov 16 Edw II (1322) --son Robert aged 32

8. Robert le Breton of Walton c 1290-1350 --Fought at Boroughbridge 1322--Summoned as Kt. From Lindsey, Lincs. To Gt. Council at Westminster 9 May 1329 (P.W.)

From Knights of Edward I: Arms: Dazur bendee dor ove vi moles dor (Boro.)

From  Some Feudal Coats of Arms: Sir Robert Breton bore at the Battle of Boroughbridge 1322 azure a bend between 6 mullets or, spur rowels in Jenyns’ Ordinary & Surrey Roll (same as the above--these arms were also borne by Breton of Tamworth, Warwick)

From Some Feudal Coats of Arms: he  bore argent & gules by Pierces & Sir William of Co Lines. F  (same as the arms borne by # 7)

9. Isabel Breton, daughter and heir m Sir John Loudham (Cambridge Visitation 1575 & 1619, p. 119)


As indicated by the chart above, there is to be some disagreement regarding the arms borne by Breton of Walton. While earlier generations may have borne per pale gules and azure a fess between two chevrons argent, (Knights of Edward I. vol. A-d, p. 141),  the escutcheons in the parish church at Chesterfield seem  conclusive regarding the arms used by later generations of the line: Argent, a chevron between three escallops, Gules  is displayed three times by itself  (#’s 11, 15, 18), a fourth time impaling Loudham,  and a fifth time flanking the allied family of Foljambe impaling Ashton--“th[e]  only son [of] Isabella Breton and Sir John Loudham] dying without offspring, Margaret, eldest daughter and co-heiress [of Loudham], brought Walton, about 1388-9, to Thomas Foljambe, son of Sir Godfrey Foljambe, of Darley.” (Cox, Churchecs of Derbyshire, vol. 4,  p. 139) 






Census data from 1841 and 1891 indicates  that Yorkshire was the most common and second most common location in England for Britton and variant forms. Surname Profiler's map for the 1881 Census shows that the name Britton was found at the second highest density in the York Postal District, which is located on the east coast in the county's North Riding. For Britain, the second most common form of the name in 1881, similar density was found at Cleveland, which lies just north of York. For Briton, Breton, and Britain, which are less common variants, high density occurred respectively at Hull, abutting York to the south, and at Huddersfield and Leeds in the West Riding. York, Hull, and Leeds were all large cities by 1881, and for this reason, perhaps, Yorkshire does not appear in Guppy's Homes of Family Names (1890)as a home of the Britton name. We have already noted that Bristol and Birmingham were probably omitted by Guppy for the same reason.


One factor these two regions seem to have in common with each other and with East Anglia, where density also reached the highest level in 1881, is the influence of Count Alan Rufus, who, in exchange for his support of William's invasion of England in 1066, received the Honour of Richmond, consisting of over 250,000 acres in Yorkshire, East Anglia, and the southwest.


The "land pertaining to the Richmond fee became thickly studded with Breton names....Judhael of Totnes possessed in 1086 a large manor in the south-west, Oger the Breton, Alfred of Lincoln, and Eudo, son of Spireviw, were established in Lincolnshire,; whilst in Essex, Tihel of Hellean gave his name in perpetuity to Hellion's Bumpstead in Essex...." (David C. Boyles, William the Conqueror, 1964, p. 268)


A recent book on the richest men in Britain since the Conquest puts the inflation-adjusted net worth of Count Alan at over $81B--or more than the wealth of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates combined. (See article below from the Sunday Times), The chief seat of his power was Richmond (from riche mont=strong hill) Castle, built in 1071 on a bluff overlooking the River Swale in North Yorkshire.


After the Romans withdrew from Britain in the early 5th century, the area around Richmond was invaded first by Anglo-Saxons and later by Danes and Norsemen. The Swale and its hinterland eventually became part of the Kingdom of Deira, which in time was joined with Bernicia to form the Kingdom of Northumberland. On the eve of the Norman Conquest, Yorkshire was a land occupied mainly by independent farmers and Scandinavian influence was strong who were reluctant to submit to Norman rule.


In 1068 Eadger the Aethling, nephew of Edward the Confessor, led a rebellion in Yorkshire which was quickly crushed by William, who took over the city of York and established a castle there; however, a second revolt broke out later that year when Sweyn, King of Denmark, sent 240 ships and 10,000 Vikings up the River Humber and many Yorkshiremen turned out to support them.


William of Normandy then decided on a punitive campaign to destroy his enemies. The killing and burning started in Lincolnshire and moved relentlessly northward--150,000 are said to have perished either from wounds received in battle or from starvation during the "Harrying" or Harrowing of the North and in 1086, when Domesday was complied, many villages were still described as "waste."


In the years following the Conquest, William worked systematically to disenfranchise the old English nobility and redistribute their land to his most loyal supports, while at the same time limiting the power of Norman and Breton nobility by spreading their holdings over several counties.  The Honour of Richmond contained land confiscated from Edwin, Earl of Mercia after 1069 and in Yorkshire consisted of the western half of the North Riding. Askham, near York, which had also belonged to Edwin, was granted first to Count Alan, but was later given to the Bryan family c 1100-1120. (Robert Liddiard, Anglo-Norman Castles, p. 91)


Modern Richmond lies in the Darlington Postal District, which adjoins the York district on the northwest. In 1881, Darlington, Cleveland, and Harrowgate which, with York and Leeds, formed a large block in the center of Yorkshire, had level three concentrations of the name Britton while Leeds and York were level two. The Brittain variant, however, was not common in Darlington.



                       Early Bretons in the North Riding


The ancient village of Colburn, in the parish of Catterick, lies about two miles from Richmond Castle and  thirteen miles northwest of Ainderby Quernhow in Pickhill Parish.  Ainderby (or Aynderby) means the “ village belonging to Eindrithi,, a Viking whose name meant 'sole-ruler’”;  Quernhow (aka  Whernhowe and Whernou) derives from the “Old Norse Kvern, a mill stone,  combined with How or howe, “an old word for a hill.” (Yorkshire Place Names)

In and before 11 Edward I  Sir John Breton, Knight of Yorkshire, held lands at Colburn and Aynderby with their members as well as the advowson of the Church of Finkhale (Calendar of IPM’s and Other Analagous Documents, vol. 2, p. 222), “late of Peter de Sabaudra, 18 March 1281 (Knights of Edward I, Publication of the Harleian Society, vol. 3)


Sir John’s son Sir Philip Breton, Kt. Held a knight’s fee at Welton & Halyngham, Lincolnshire, late of Peter de Saubaudra and he and others held one fee in the Coke of Gayton, Lincolnshire, 3 May 1280 (IPM)  On 28 October 1281, he was witness of a charter of John< Earl of Richmondand was summoned to serve against the Scots 24 June 1300 and 1301, having L40 lands in Yorkshire.


Sir Philip died before 22 Fenruary 1306, seized of a messuage at Appleby on Tees and Colburn, lands at Forseth, Caldewell, Sollerbery, Stapleton, Walmyre, Thornbou, and Thirsk and the advowson of Finegal Church in Yorkshire.


He left a son and heir John Breton, age twelve, bc 1294, and a widow Cassandra who married Thomas de Whyteworth before 21 March 1307.(Knights of Edward I, Publication of the Harleian Society, vol. 3)


There is some variation in the description of arms borne by Sir Philip Breton: argent fretty and a chief sable (Knights of Edward I, Publication of the Harleian Society, vol. 3) or sable, fretty argent, a chief or (Joseph Foster, Some Feudal coats of Arms from Heraldic Rolls 1298-1418).


Edward Earl Britton (Genealogy Britton) says that  “family tradition has it that the first American ancestor, James Britton, descended from the Yorkshire Brittons (or Britons), the first authentic records concerning which appear during the reign of Edward I,  1239-1307”.  This James Briton is said to have arrived at age 27 in 1637 on the ship Increase and settled in Woburn, Middlesex, Massachusetts; however,  Edward E. Britton presents no evidence to support the tradition that he came from Yorkshire or descended from the Bretons of Colburne and Aynderby.


The above-mentioned Richard de Bretton appears to have had a wife Dionysia and a son John who was under age in 1281: Yorkshire Record Society, vol. 78,  p. 103 , 9 Edward, the Friday after  the Octave of Ascension, John son and heir of Richard de Bretton, an infant under age, was delivered to the custody of his mother Dionysia.


                                            The West Riding


In Yorkshire's West Riding, lands confiscated from the English were divided mainly between two powerful Norman lords-Ibert de de Laci, who held most of the Honour of Pontefract  (known as Kirkeby under the Danes) and the second Earl of Warren to whom William's son Henry I granted the Honour of Wakefield which he intentionally commingled with the Honour of Pontefract. The De Lacis also had a grant in Clitheroe, Lancashire.


The village of Bretton (Breton or Brettone in Domesday) lay within the Honour of Pontefract in Silkstone Parish, which in turn was part of Staincross Wapentake (the equivalent of Hundred, which was used in the south of England).   Joseph Smith Fletcher in A Picturesque History of Yorkshire,( p. 268) refers to its sister village West Bretton as "an old Celtic settlement.”  Although the name may have been a contraction of Brettatum, meaning a settlement of Brettons (Hanks & Hodge, Oxford Dictionary of Surnames, p. 74), it is more likely to be derived  from brec (broken or newly-cultivated) and tun (enclosure or settlement, p. 74).   In fact, "occasional spellings with ct suggest that [Breton] is not OE Bretta-tum 'the Britons' tun, but OE Brec-tun.” (Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names, p. 63


The village of Bretton was divided c 1300 into the  hamlets of Bretton and West Bretton, The latter, situated in the parish of Sandal Magna, Agbrigg Wapentake, within the Honour of Wakefield, was the larger of the two, and the village has since been known by that name ( West Yorkshire: an Archaeological Survey to A.D. 1500, p. 556, as cited by Stan Bretton at


Monk Bretton, which is now a village within the metropolitan borough of Barnsley, probably took its name from Adam Fitz Swain de Bretton who founded a priory there in 1154.


The best online source I have found for kinsmen and possible descendants of Adam fitz Swain is  Stan Bretton's website   Mr. Bretton manages a private DNA project at Family Tree for his line which is listed as Family Group 3 in the Britton Project.


This page which lists Brettons to 1600 gives a good overview of early Brittons in West Yorkshire.   Another online source for early Brettons in the West Riding are the Court Rolls of Wakefield Manor1274-75 which mention Richard de Bretton and his son Michael,  Peter de Bretton, Luvecok de Bretton, John de Bretton, and/or John son of Swayn de Bretton for  Courts Held at Wakefield on Friday in the feast of S. Luke the Evangelist Oct. 18th the said year 1274,  on Friday in Whit week, 3 Edward I [1275],  Friday in the eve of S. Margaret theVirgin [July 13th] Edward I 1275, and Friday the eve of S. Laurence [August10th] in the said year 1275.



                         Other Early Brittons from the North



PH Reaney, Dictionary of British Surnames, pp. 46 & 48

Elias & Richardus Britton of Yorkshire c 1379

Osbert de Breton Pipe Rolls York

Geoffrey le Bretun or Le Briton 1164-69, Essex, Yorkshire

Charles Best Norcliffe, Yorkshire Visitations 1563-4, p. 322

Edward Thurland grandson of Thomas of Gameston married Olyef, daughter of Thomas Breton


Yorkshire Record Society, v. 151, p. 76

10 d from a gift of Alexander de Britton 50 years (Hundred Rolls 1274-75)


p. 57 Richard de Haydon, Senechal of Earl Warrene and Elias Loveman Baliff of same,  took ½ of Roger le Breton’s oxen in the fee of Tickhill and drew them outside of that fee to Conisbrough until Roger attached himself to come there to the Earl’s court to answer one who complained of him about a wounding and they extracted from him 10 marks for making peace


p. 45 Nigel [Drury] tool a horse of Roger le Breton’s with a full sack of oats in the King’s highway next Conisbrough


v. 76--Clowebeck--18 Richard II (1294) Friday after Corpus Christi Wm de Landon to Robert de Closeby deed witnessed by Ywain Breton


Quitclaim of Richard son of Adam de Multen to Robert son of Harsculf of Closely witnessed by John le Breton Kt. (no date)


p 42--Hugh de Nevile son of Geoffrey de Nevile to Thomas de Furnvall, manor of Danby Wiske, etc. deed witnessed by Richard de Breton (nd)

p. 60 30 Sept 1297 (25 Edward I) Wm Roval to Adam de Midelton Manor of Draghton in Craven Wit: Wm le Bretton

Vol. 93, p. 11 Will of John Bretton of Thornton Beanes husbandman, 20 Oct, 1662/26 Jan 1662/3                 



                                   Central England


Central England as defined by the Oxford Genetic Atlas Project includes the territory south of an imaginary line drawn from the point where the southern boundary of Cheshire meets the coast to Wales eastward to a corner between Norfolk and Cambridgeshire and  north of a line from Bristol in the west to London in the east; then north from London and Bristol to the aforementioned points in Cambridge and Cheshire.  Within this rectangular space  lies all or most of the territory of Northampton, Huntingdon, Bedford, Hertford,  Leicester, Rutland, Warwick, Worcester, Gloucester and large parts of Staffordshire, Oxfordshire, and Buckinghamshire.


During the early Dark Ages these counties were part of the kingdom of Mercia, but Danish invasions beginning in the late 8th century eventually split Mercia along a line roughly analogous to the old Roman road known as Watling Street. 


The eastern counties of Northampton, Leicester, Rutland, Bedford, Hertford, and Huntingdon became part of the Danelaw, while Stafford, Warwick, Worcester, Gloucester,  Oxford, and Buckingham remained under English rule.


The extent to which this difference may affect DNA results for males whose ancestors lived in each of these counties is unknown since OGAP results reported for Central England make no distinction between the eastern and western midlands.  That some difference would be observed in a more detailed study seems likely, although the genealogical evidence for Breton families  in this part of England suggests considerable overlap going back to the early mediaeval period.



                           Bretons of Northamptonshire


Northamptonshire is an inland county in the eastern midlands bordered on the north by Leicestershire, Rutland, and Lincoln; on the east by Cambridge, Huntingdon, and Bedford; on the south by Buckingham and Oxford;  and on the west by Warwick.  A Belgic tribe--the Catuvellauni-- held it in the first century AD.   After the Romans left, it became part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, but was invaded by  Danes in 889 and  by Vikings  from York under the leadership of Olaf in 940.  The county seat--Northampton--was one of four fortified burhs in the southern portion of Danish Mercia.  The other three were Bedford, Huntingdon, and Cambridge.   All were fortified by large armies and were part of the larger administrative and military network of  the five boroughs of the Danelaw.  Scandinavian influence may still be seen in a “handful of Scandinavian place names” ending in by, and thorpe. (Katherine Holman, The Northern Conquest: Vikings in Britain and Ireland, “, p. 63)


Two Visitation pedigrees were  recorded for Breton families in Northampton, but the genealogical and heraldic evidence  indicates that these families do not share a common male ancestor.


                                         Breton of Teeton


A Breton family is said to have been seated at Teeton, in Ravensthorpe Parish, Northamptonshire since the late 12th century. (Whellan Francis, History Gazeteer, and Directory of Northamptonshire…, p. 328)  I have so far been unable to discover anything about the early generations of this line, but a Visitation pedigree for one branch of the family begins with John Breton of late 15th century date.  Although this  branch was extinguished in the direct male line with the death of Robert Breton, Esq. In 1714 (Francis, History Gazeteer, p. 328), other branches endured making likely that representatives of this family may yet be found to participate in the Britton project.                          


Arms: Argent, a fess dancettee gules, in chief three boars' heads couped sable


John Breton of Teken [Parish of Ravensthorpe] Gent. m Elizabeth d/o Seint Germayne of London, Gent


1. Christopher eldest son and heir

2. Henry 2dn son, priest

3. Anne m John Hill of East Haddon, Northants.


Christopher Breton Gent m 1st Christain d/o Thomas Saunders of Sibberton, Northants.

Issue by 1st wife:

1. Robert eldest son & heir b 1536 d 24 March 1596/7

2. Richard 2nd son

3. Elizabeth m Lawrence Gregg of Creaton, Northants.

4. Dorothy m Edward Holmes Sen of London

5. Frances m 1st Hymphrey Dextrer of Cranley, Northants 2nd John Wynberd of Cottesbrooke, Northants, merchant 3rd John Evans of Lodington, Northants.

6. Margaret m Wm Turner de Suton, Colfdfield in Warwick [Camden, Visitation of Leicestershire 1619, p. 95)


Christopher 2nd Ann d/o Robert Bayham, merchant-- 20 Jan 1545 (bur. 5 March 1558/9--Gen. Memoirs of the Extinct Family of Chester of Chicheley, v. 1, p. 76, by Robert Edmond Chester Waters)


Issue by 2nd wife: [Dates from Memoirs of Chester Family]

1. Alexander b 1546

2. Joseph b 4 Aug 1547

3. William b 1549

4. Mary ch 15 Nov 1553

5. Martha 21 Feb 1551


Christopher Breton was buried 18 Sept 1556 (Memoirs of Chester Family) or 5 March 1558/8 (Visitation pedigree)


Robert Breton, eldest son and heir of Christopher Breton, born 1536, died 24 March 1596/7  m Ursula Foxley 11 June 1561, daughter of Thomas Foxley, Esq. & Margaret, daughter of Thomas Lovett of Astwell, Northants. (Visitation of Northamptonshire, p. 22)


1. Bridget ch 16 June 1563

2. John ch 3 Oct 1567 d 27 April 1619

3. Mary ch 6 July 1577


Francis, History Gazeteer, p. 328: 39 Elizabeth, 1597: Robert Breton died seized of the manor of Teeton with 9 virgates of land & the rectory and all  tithes


John Breton ch 3 Oct 1567 d 27 April 1619 m Jane Bosvile



John  Breton of Teeton, Esq. living in 1618 m Jane d/o Raphe Bosvile of Bradbone, Kent


1. Robert ch 9 April 1592, oldest son &  heir m Elizabeth d/o of Francis Hervey of Cotton End iuxta Norwich, S'geant at law--his eldest daughter Mary married Wm Chester  (Waters, Genealogical Memoirs of the Extinct Family of Chester of Chicheley, v. pp. 56,69,126)

2.  Benedict ch 13 Juky 1595 d 1 June 1613

3. John ch 14 March 1601 * --no issue

4. Thomas ch 24 July 1603

5. Anthony ch 21 July 1607

6. Francis

7. Ursula ch 19 August 1593

8. Prudence ch 12 Sept 1596

9. Elizabeth


* The IGI lists a John Breton ch 8 March 1600, son of John Breton--either the same as # 3 above or an older son born the year before who died in infancy.


Sources: Wm, Hervey, Metcalf, etc. Visitation of Northamptonshire Made in 1564, & 1618-19, pp. 4, 22, 99, amplified by :Whellan Francis, History Gazeteer, pp. 328; Robert Edmond Chester Waters, Genealogical Memoirs of the Extinct Family of Chester of Chicheley, v. pp. 56,69,126; records submitted to the IGI)


                                     Breton of Norton


Breton of Norton is a branch of a Breton family which was seated at Tamworth, Staffordshire from the late 12th century.  Arms: Azure a bend between six mullets pierced.  Crest: A lion’s gamb erased azure, charged with a chevron between three billets argent  (Warwickshire Arms & lineages, Staffordshire Visitations 1664-1700, p. 34 ; Burke’s General Armory).



Johannes Breton de Tamworth [son of Nicholas] m 1st  Brigitta d/o Wm Wyrley de Hampstead, Northants. by whom he had issue:

Elizabeth m John Levenson de Wyrley, Stafford

M 2nd Elizabeth d/o John Wyrley de Medmenham, Bucks.

a. Dorothea ux Franc Duffield de Medmenham, Bucks.

b. Jana ux Franc Combeford de Linsell, Stafford; Ux Xopheri Endsor de Comberford, Stafford

c. Frances nupta Wm. Hudson de Baddesley in Wanell

d. Thomas}

e. Walt}   no issue

f. John}

g. Nicholas Breton


Capt. Nicholas Breton de Norton iuxta Daventree in Co. Northants Arm 1618  [of Norton near Daventreee in Northants.] m Anna fil Edw Legne de Rushnell in Stafford & had issue:

a. John m Ann & succeeded his father in 1624

b. Edwardus

c. Christopheris obiere celebi --never married

d. Gerardus

e. Williamus

f. Howard

g. Francesca ux Gerard Fielding de Sutton in Bennington, Co. Notts.

h. Anna s.p.


Capt. Nicholas Breton (10g. Above) died in 1624 and is buried at All Saints, Norton, Northamptonshire.  He and his father John served as officers  under Elizabeth.  Nicholas purchased Mauntalls’s Manor, Henry VIII”s College Manor & on a moiety of Cornwall Manor from Sir Seymour Knightly; from c 1624 on, these properties were known as Norton’s Manor. The manor was sold in 2800 by trustees of the late Michael Harvey Breton, Esq. (Francis Wheelan, History Gazeteer, p. 427)


Also pertaining to this family: Nicholas Breton who died in 1658 and his wife were buried at All Saints, Norton in a pink and white marble monument. (Francis Wheelan, History Gazeteer, p. 427)


Burke’s Commoners of Great Britain & Ireland, v. 11, p. 332: Sir John Werden of Leyland, Lancs. M 1st Elizaebth, d/o of Robert Breton of Norton, sister of Nicholas Breton, 9 July 1704


For more on the early  ancestry of this family, please see Breton of Tamworth, Staffordshire.


                               Other Mediaeval Records


Victoria History of Northamptonshire, vol. 4., pp. 200-04--Old Parish alias Wold: in 1235 Walter St. Leger, William of All Saints, Richard de Hastings, and Jordan le Breton held 2 fees from the Earl of Oxford--7 years later Jordan le Breton held ½ fee; in 1284 this land was held by Hugh le Breton, in 1332 it was held by John, and by 1371  had passed to the heirs of Robert Brett.


                               Northamptonshire Subsidy Lists


The following records, which appear to have been taken from subsidy lists, were  published by Edward Young Britton in Genealogy Britton and lend support to the view that there were a number of Britton families  in Northamptonshire county in the 16th and 17th centuries who descend either from Breton of Teeton orBreton of Norton and who  may have male descendants living today.


RICHARD BRITTON, Norton, 1634, 1636.
RICHARD BRITTON, Rushden, 1635.
THOMAS BRITTON, Deanshanger, 1638

RICHARD BRITTON, Brington, 1527, 1534.
ROBERT BRITTON, Moorend, 1590, 1597, 160.'.
SIMON BRETTON, Harpok-, 1527.
ANTHONY BRETAYNK, Wakerley, 1537, 1540.
THOMAS BRYTTEN (no town), 1537, 1540.
THOMAS BRETANE, Wellingborough, 1549-1557.
RICHARD BREYTON, Bracklcy, 1527, 1534.
WILLIAM BRETTEN, Wootton, 1527, 1534.
WILLIAM BRETTEN, Wootton, 1578, 1589.
WILLIAM BRETTEN, Peterborough, 1531, 1538.
WILLIAM BRETTEN, Deanthorpe, 1556, 1557.
WILLIAM BRETTEN, Harpole, 1631, 1628.
JOHN BRETTEN, Weekley, 1556.
JOHN BRYTTEN, Cottesmore, 1556, 1557.
JOHN BRYTAN, Hardingstone, 1621, 1628.
RICHARD BRITON, Yardley Gobion, 1621, 1628.
JOHN BRYTAN, Thingdon, 1621, 1628.
JOHN BRITTEN, Stoke Bruerne, 1643

JOHN BRITTEN, Stoke Bruerne, 1649.
RICHARD BRITTEN, Stoke Bruerne, 1653.
ROBERT BRITTEN, Stoke Bruerne, 1626, 1630.
CLEMENS BRETON, Braybrooke, 1510, 1520.
HENRY BRETANE, Rockingham, 1510, 1520.
HUMPHREY BRETON, Blatherwicke, 1545, 1548.

JOHN BRITTAINE, drowned 1630, from Collyweston, Northamptonshire

MARY BRITTON, Teeton, 1611.

JOHN BRITTON, Teeton, 1619.
ROBERT BRITTON, Teeton, 1590, 1597, 1602. 


                            Bretons in Huntingdonshire


Huntingdonshire is one of three central  English counties (the others being Rutland and Herefordshire) to lose its independent status and the only one whose status as at least a ceremonial county has not been restored. The first English settlers were Gyrwas who arrived from East Anglia in the 6th century AD.   Under the Danelaw the town of Huntingdon became an important military center.  Huntingdonshire had its own Sheriff at the time of Domesday, but in 1154 was combined with Cambridge under one Sheriff and for the most part has remained so ever since. In 1965 it was merged with the Soke of Petersborough to become Huntingdon and Petersborough in 1965 and in 1974  Huntingdon and Petersborough were merged into Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely.


There were 61 Brittons (all spellings) in Huntingdonshire in the 1841 census, and Surname Profiler shows the high concentration for Brittain and third highest concentration for Britton in 1881 for the Peterborough Postal District, which covers Peterborough and Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, King’s Lynn, Norfolk; and Boston and Stamford in Lincolnshire.


So far, I have found only a few  references for Britton during the Mediaeval period, the earliest of which is for Richard de Britain mentioned  in Huntingdonshire  during the reign of John.  (C. L’Estrange Ewen, p. 152); however, there was a manor of Brittens or Buckden Brittens in Huntingdonshire which seems  to have taken its name from a Le Breton family (aka de Britannia or Briton) which held land in Buckden in the 13th century, timeline as follows:


1218--homage of Geoffrey le Bretun in Buckden granted to Ralph de Bray by William Dacus

1248--fine between Hugh and Wiliam le Breton for 2 carucates of land in Buckden, 2 virgates in Grafham & Beachampstead

1252--Hugh le Breton conveyed lands n Buckden to  Thomas le Beeton

1260--Hugh le Breton involved in a dispute with John Russell over pastureland in Buckden

1272--fine between Stephen de Graveshende and Thomas le Breton involving   a messuage,  4 virgates of land and 13s. 10d. rent in Buckden and  ½ virgate in Grafham.

Source:  'Parishes: Buckden', A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 2 (1932), pp. 260-269.




                           Breton of Barwell, Leicestershire


Leicestershire lies to the northeast of Northampton and has long been known as the place where fox hunting originated.   During the 9th and 10th centuries,  the county town of Leicester was one of the five principal Boroughs of the Danelaw along with Derby, Lincoln, Nottingham, and Stamford.  The boundaries of Leicestershire are little changed since Domesday, save for the incorporation of Rutland in 1974.  In 1997, however, Rutland was restored as a ceremonial county, although the two counties still share the same Constabulary.


William Camden, Visitation of Leicestershire 1619, p. 161 records a pedigree for a Breton family which descends from William Breton of London and his wife Elizabeth [B]acon.   Genealogical evidence from the pedigree of Breton of Monkton Farley, Wiltshire indicates that the Barwell family originally came from Colchester and Layer Breton in Essex, but the arms of the two families differ, Barwell displaying the same arms as  Bretons in Staffordshire and Warwick (below) and Monkton Farley displaying the  arms nearly identical to those borne by Sir John Breton, Dominus de Sporle, who held land in Essex, Norfolk, Cambridge, and Northampton in the 13th and early 14th century.   Since the right to bear arms applies to all male descendants of the original grantee or bearer, the assumption of different arms by these two Breton families suggests  either that they did not share a common male ancestor or that one of them was mistaken about its ancestry.


Arm of Breton of Barwell: Azure on a bend between six stars pierced or, in dexter chief a mullet for difference

Crest: A lion’s gamb erased erect azure, charged with a chevron or, between six billets argent


William Breton de London--Elizabeth Dacon [ie Bacon]


1. Richard de London m Katherine fil Edwardi Guest de Worcester [she married 2nd Richard Wright of Sutton, Leicester]

2. Nicholas Breton de London [poet]--2nd son


Richard Breton and wife Katherine


1. Maria m Edw Newton de Leicester

2. Robert de Barwell, Leicester m Alicia d/o Richard Wright de Sutton iuxta Broughton in Leicester

3. Elizabeth m Franciscus Ducket de Broughton


Robert Breton and Alicia


1. Robert aged 8 years

2. Katherine 14 years

3. Richard son & heir--20 in 1619

4. Daniel age 19

5. Francis age 12

6. William --3rd son age 16--Schollasticus in Academin Cantab’

7. John age 6

8. Thomas age 5             



                                 Breton of Oxfordshire                       


From Burke’s General Armory: Bretton (Oxon.): Argent two hounds pale ways gules                        



         Bretons of Staffordshire, Warwickshire, & Worcestershire


Census returns  for the period 1841-1891 show that a large number of Britton families lived in the Birmingham area, near the border of Staffordshire and Warwickshire.  At least some of these Bretons are likely to descend in the male line from a Breton family which was established at Bascote  in the 12th century, with branches in the neighboring counties of Staffordshire, Worcestershire, and Northamptonshire.


Bretons of Tamworth, Staffordshire;  Long Itchington, Warwickshire; Norton, Northamptonshire; and Worcestershire, all bore  Azure a bend between six mullets pierced, indicating descent from a common male ancestor. The family crest  of the Warwickshire branch was A lion’s gamb erased azure, charged with a chevron between three billets argent . (Warwickshire Arms & lineages, Staffordshire Visitations 1664-1700, p. 34 ; Burke’s General Armory).  For the crest of Breton of Worcester, please see the appropriate section below.


For Sir William Breton who bore the same arms and held lands in Lincolnshire, please see Lincolnshire under Early Bretons in the North of England.


                                    Breton of Warwickshire


Warwickshire Arms & Lineages provides a rudimentary pedigree for one branch of this family: “Captain John Breton, Member for Tamworth 1585, was son of Richard Breton of Sirescote and Tamworth, and fourth in descent from Richard Breton, of Tamworth (temp. Hen. VII.), and eighth in descent from John Breton, of Tamworth (temp. Edw. III.), which John was son of Guy, and grandson of William de Breton, of Long Itchington, (temp. Edw. L) This William mar. Agneta, daug. of William de Chetwode, and was son of Nicholas Breton, of Long Itchington, and third in descent from Robert de Breton, of Bascote (temp. Rich. I.), and sixth in descent from Hugh Breton, Lord of Favershall, who founded the Abbey of Kirkstead in Lincolnshire, A.D. 1139. Descendant : C. D. Breton, Esq., Fillongley, Co. Warw. Pr. Rep.”


The following chart is taken from this source:


Hugh Breton, Lord of Favershall, founder of the Abbey of Kirkstead in Lincolnshire in 1139

His son

His grandson

Robert de Breton of Bascote (temp. Richard I)

His son

Nicholas Breton of Long Itchington

William Breton of Long Itching ton m Agneta de Chetwode (temp. Edward I)

Guy Breton

John Breton of Tamworth--temp. Edward III

His son

His grandson

His great grandson

Richard Breton temp. Henry VII

His son

His grandson

Richard Breton of Sirescote & Tamworth

Capt. Nicholas Breton, Member of Parliament for Tamworth, 1585


Kirkstead was a hamlet called Kirkby on Bain at the time of the Norman Conquest.  William gave it to Eudo, one of his Knights, and Eudo’s son Hugh Brito or Hugh Breton founded a Cistercian Abbey there in 1138, which was  dedicated to St. Mary.  A small chapel was later built by Robert de Tattershall, grandson of Hugh the Breton.


Hugh le Breton married Joan, widow of Ralph Rochford of the Manor of Fenne in Boston, Lincolnshire (Arthur S. Larkin, Lincolnshire Pedigrees, p. 629) For more on Hugh Breton, please see the section on Lincolnshire.


More Records for Breton of Bascote & Long Itchington, Warwickshire


Source: Victoria History of Warwick, v. 6, pp 125-132


1195 Robert Brito & wife Maud with Nicholas and Juliana paid 5 marks for recognition of lands in Sale & Bascote

During John‘s reign--Nicholas confirmed in possession of 8 yard lands in Bascote & Long Itchington by David de Lindesey

1235-6 Nicholas held ½ kts. Fee

1313 Guy Breton granted lands in Bascote (including a mill), Long Itching ton & elsewhere & reversion of lands held in dower bt Simon de Mancetter & wife Mary to Perger de Lymesey & wife Alice

1314 Gyb Breton settled other lands on himself and wife Joan & on Maud widow of Thomas de Gray

1352-3 Thomas, son of Guy Breton, settled estates including those in Bascote & Long Itchington

c 1360 Shortly before hs death Guy made over his estates to William Breton in trust to hi sson to prevcent the later from becoming ward of the King


Volume 3, 193-96 :”By 1361 William son of Guy de Breton was dealing with the manor and he is presumably the Sir William Bruton who was Lord of Wolverston in 1371.…He was probably succeeded by John Broughton whose daughter Joan wife of John Boteler of Eton held the manor with her husband in 1401.”


Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, p. 103--Grant by Thomas Breton son & heir of Guy Breton of Merston to Sir Ralph Basset, etc., all lands at Merston, Wolston, Itchington, Bascote & elsewhere in Warwick--26 Edward III (c 1353)


p. 99 Grant by John Odingsels, Kt. To Robert Wolifes of Sowe & Richard Wolifes clerk, of the custordy o& marriage of Guy Breton, son and heir of John Breton, and if he should die under age, of the custody and marriage of Agnes his sister, 41 Edward III (Heraldic seal attached)

p. 102 Three ancient deeds relating to the land a6 Long Itchington mention Guy de Breton of Wolrichestone & John his wife--11, 12, & 16 Edward II


p. 88 Grant by Joah relict of William Bretoun Kt to William of Folkeshall chaplain to William clerk of Offchurch pf all land she had jointly with her late husband of the feoffment of Nicholas of Somerland & Nicholas Salomon Chaplain of the hamlets of Hay & Gorcete in the parish of Studley --6 Richard II (c 1383)


Genealogy Britton :Guy de Breton married Joan d/o heir of Thomas Gray, sonof Robert Gray of Rotherfield, Kt. Buried c 1393, at Thane Church


Peter R. Cross, Origins of the English Gentry, p. 195--Men just below the knightly level included Guy le Breton: “Guy le Breton was distrained for knighthood in 8 Edward III and may have succumbed to it. He was an arrayed in 1336.”

p. 160--Guy le Breton was included among the valetti

p. 196--a discussion of men who were “clearly of sub-knightly rank” included “Guy le Breton [who] was head of a family who had held the manor of Bascote in Ling Itchington since the 12th century.”



                            Breton of Staffordshire


A more detailed chart for another branch of the same family, bearing the same arms, is included in the Visitation of Staffordshire, although it is not itself a visitation pedigree and certainly errs in the first four generations who bore quarterly or and gules  a bordure azure and held land in Essex, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Northamptonshire.  The second John Breton in this line died  c 1306 leaving a minor son John who died without issue in the same year  (1311) as his grandfather, Sir John Breton,  Dominus de Sporle. (For more on this family, please see Breton of Essex, Norfolk,  and Northampton.) 


Generation 5 in the chart is Elias Breton of uncertain date who held lands in Apethorpe,, Co. Northants. “de annis incertis”; he has also been omitted.


Therefore, the  lineage which follows begins with generation 6 of thechart shown in the Visitation of Staffordshire:


1. William Breton m Johanna, fil Hug. Bysschop de Tamworth

2. Johannis Breton 15 Edw II  [c 1321-22]

3. Adam Breton de Tamworth 31 Edw III  [c 1358] & Johanna ux eius [his wife] 21 Richard II [c1397-98]

4. Johannes Breton 12 Hen IV [c1410-11]

5. Johannis Breton 12 fil. Johis Breton nuper de Coventree Co Warwick 31 Hen VI [John Breton son of John recently of Convetry, Warwick]

6. Johannis Breton de Tamworth ut apparent p petitionem type Hen VII [John Breton of Tamworth as appears from a petition Hen VII, his issue:

1st son Richardus s. pr. [no issue]

2nd son Johannis de London mercator [John of London merchant]

3rd son Humfridus had sons Richard, Humphrey & Johannis

7. Johannis de London mercator m Elizabeth dau & heir of Boughton de London, renupta Rado Verney Juniori mil. Postea ux Johis Drew de Bristow Ar. [he died in 1533; she remarried Rado Verney Jr soldier, afterwards wife of John Drew of Bristow, Armiger]


a. Nicholas Breton de Syrescotes in Co. Stafford--2 fil & h 2.3 Ph.M [c1555-56--two sons & heirs]

b. Ewenus Breton d. sp. 1555/6--[no issue]

8a. Nicholas Breton de Syrescotes in Co. Stafford--2 fil & h 2.3 Ph.M [c1555-56--two sons & heirs], his son:

9. Johannes de Tamworth [son of Nicholas] m 1st  Brigitta d/o Wm Wyrley de Hampstead, Northants. by whom he had issue:

Elizabeth m John Levenson de Wyrley, Stafford

M 2nd Elizabeth d/o John Wyrley de Medmenham, Bucks.

a. Dorothea ux Franc Duffield de Medmenham, Bucks.

b. Jana ux Franc Combeford de Linsell, Stafford; Ux Xopheri Endsor de Comberford, Stafford

c. Frances nupta Wm. Hudson de Baddesley in Wanell

d. Thomas}

e. Walt}   no issue

f. John}

g. Nicholas Breton--the line continues through Nicholas as follows:

10g. Nicholas Breton de Norton iuxta Daventree in Co. Northants Arm 1618  [of Norton near Daventreee in Northants.] m Anna fil Edw Legne de Rushnell in Stafford & had issue:

a. John m Ann

b. Edwardus

c. Christopheris obiere celebi --never married

d. Gerardus

e. Williamus

f. Howard

g. Francesca ux Gerard Fielding de Sutton in Bennington, Co. Notts.

h. Anna s.p.


            More Records for Breton of Tamworth, Staffordshire


From : Sampson Erdewicke, William Salt, Thomas Harwood, A Survey of Staffordshire, p. 445, footnote mentions Adam de Breton of Tamworth, merchant: : “omnibus ad quos, Adam de Breton de Tamworth, mercator” (Ann. Edw. III 41, c 1368); and “Sciant et futuri, quod ego Adam de Tamworth mercator” (Ann. Edw III. 43, Wyrley)


Staffordshire deeds/grants: John Taylour et al to Richard Kybbewe, messuage in Tamworth in Chirchstrete in Staffordshire, 18 June 1391, Adam Breton was one of the witnesses


Charles Ferrars Raymond Palmer, History of the Town and Castle of Tamworth, p. xxxix--Churchwardens included Richard Breton 1505, 1507, 1511

p. ii--High Baliffs--Adam Breton for Warwickshire 1368, 1377, 1381

p.iv--John Breton Baliff for Staffordshire 1462

p. ix--Members of Parliament- John Breton Esq. 26 Eliz./1584

p. 176--Ad’e  Breton de Tamworth mentioned in records of Court Leet for Warwick, 28 Nov 1304

p. 105--John Breton of Lichfield admitted to the linerty of the town and sworn before the Steward

p.229--prebend of Syerscote solld to John Breton, 10 May 1583

p. 454--one head of arable land bought of Nicholas Breton by John Wightwick before 7 April 1620

p. 185--Deed dated 25 May 1639 which mentions Johanne Breton

p. 299--tomb which appears to be that of John Breton, son of John Breton, Esq. At St. Edith’s Church, Tamworth

p. 300-- Epitaph on tomb: “Orate pro anima Joh’is…


Obiit xj die Maii, anno d’ni Mo

Do vii…”

Pray for the soul of John…who…died on the 11th  day of May in the year of Our Lord 1507...”



                                  Breton of Worcestershire


Burke’s General Armory records arms for a Breton Family of Worcestershire which bore Azure a bend between six mullets pierced orand therefore appears to share common ancestry with  Bretons in Warwickshire and Staffordshire, although the crest differs from that attributed by Burke to Breton of Warwickshire:  A  wolf passsant proper  Motto: Cassis Tutissima virtus.    



                   The First Brittons in Southwestern England


Although trying to determine the origin and meaning of surnames without tracing back to the first men who used them can be difficult, it seems safe to say that in most cases the name Britton (and its variants) meant Breton, and was assumed either by those who came from Brittany or whose immediate ancestors were Bretons.  Of course, few propositions are quite so simple, and historians agree that the Breton influence was pervasive throughout the land; however, those parts of Britain where the Breton influence was greatest--ie "the lands of the Earl of Richmond, a cadet of the Breton ducal house" (Sir Anthony Richard Wagner, English Genealogy, p 56), who received "more than four hundred manors in eleven shires with estates concentrated in Yorkshire, Lincoln, East Anglia, and the south-west" are more or less the same areas where we find the majority of Brittons living in 1841, 1871, and 1891.


One of the earliest, if not the earliest form of the name was Brito. Charles Worthy (Devonshire Wills) says that there were "only six Britos, positively so styled, who were tenants in chief when Domesday was complied in 1086--viz. Oger, Waldin, Mannus or Morinus, Alured, Ansger, and Goscelmus or Jocelyn and all save the first, were then Devonshire landowners, and their common name is still intimately associated with this and adjacent counties." (pp. 352-53)


The following is a summary of Worthy's comments about the six Brito tenants in chief:

1. Alured Brito aka Pincerna aka de Montachute--chief butler (pincerna) to Robert Earl of Mortain

Held the manors of Bacetesberie (ie Borough) and Lege (ie Langley) in 1086

Langley was situated in the parish of High Beckington, Borough in the parish of Morthoe on the coast of Devonshire

Alured's son Robert Pincerna was the probable ancestor of the Devonshire branch of this family

Alured's descendants held Langley for many centuries under the name Britton until a daughter and heir of Britton of Langley brought the property to her husband Roger Pollard in the mid 15th century.

Thomas le Breton held 1/8 knight's fee in Borough in Henry III and Edward I (Testa de Nevil)

Bruton of Havitree--p. 368--Family descends from William, the third son of Thomas Bruton al Breton of Borough--William married Elizabeth daughter of William Ryder; she died in 1610/11 and is buried in Exeter Cathedral.

Arms per pale gules and azure, a fess between two chevrons argent, crest demi-wolf, ducally crowned, holding a mullet ppr--entered in 1622, but records only the descendants of William

Bruton of Alwington--p. 368--descends from Thomas Bruton al Breton, first son of Thomas Breton of Borough and eldest brother of William Bruton al Breton of Havitree

Thomas had three sons: Thomas, William, and George bapt 25 Jan 1596/7

Widefulle (Walreddon) manor was held by Alured in 1086, but later became the property of the Britts of Stottiscombe. (See # 3 below.)

2. Ansger Brito--aka Ansgerus de Montachute or de Senarpont held grants in Somerset, Devon, and Dorset, which became the Barony of Walter Brito in the 12th century.

Odcombe Manor in Somerset was his chief seat--in 1158 it was leased to the King, but restored in 1161 to Roger Brito who was probably Walter's son. He was succeeded by another Walter who died in 1199, when the manor passed to Walter's nephews Walter Croc and Richard de Hesecumbe or Hattecumbe. In 1200-1202, Walter and Richard surrendered the manor of Odcombe to William Brewer for his son Richard, but William died without issue in 1211, was succeeded by his younger brother also named William who died without issue in 1232, after which his widow Joanna held it until her death in 1265. The heirs of Walter Brito tried to recover Odcombe in 1276 (Inq. post mortem) and papers for the case show that Stephen de Bret was a descendant and heir of Alice, daughter of Walter Brito, who was the mother of Richard de Hesecumbe, thus indicating that Richard de Hesecumbe's descendants either assumed the name Bret or intermarried with Brets. (T. Bond, "The Honour of Odcombe & Barony of Brito" p 28, Presentations by Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society; Worthy, Devonshire Wills, p. 356; Thomas Gerard, Description of the County of Somerset, p. 105)

Brittsworthy, which had been held first by Alured, then by Ansger, later became the property of the Stottiscombe family. (See # 3 below.)

Sidling, Dorset: p. 356 William Briton, 3rd brother of Walter of Odcombe inherited the property in Dorset known as Sidling. In 1166, William Brito appears to have inherited it as son and heir of the former William.

Worthy, p. 360--Brito of Odcombe bore quarterly per fess indented argent & sable in 1st Q a mullet of the last, apparently derived from De Vere

3. Goscelmus or Jocelyn Brito--held 27 manors in Devonshire; also held manors from the Crown in Gloucester, Bedford, and Buckingham.

Halwell and Stottiscombe:

Jocelyn's chief seat was Halwell in the parish of Brixton in Devonshire. His son Richard styled himself Richard of Halwell; his grandson Richard was a "considerable" landowner there under Henry II (1154-89).

One of the four murderers of Thomas a Becket was Richard Le Breton or Brito; Worthy believes that he was Sir Richard Brito of the Halwell family which "repudiated the name [Brito] for several generations and adopted coat armour, as already blazoned of a very suggestive character, and perfectly different from the bearings of other branches of the family... .( p. 353) the escallops in the arms of the Britts of Halwell, Stottiscombe, and Stoke Damarel...point conclusively, I think, to Sir Richard's crime, and consequent pilgrimage, undertaken by papal orders...." (p. 355)

Richard's brother (Edmund?) probably continued the male line, although the family used the name Halwell rather than Brito for several generations. Not long after, Martin de Halwell held Stottiscombe ( which had been held by Morinus Brito in 1086). Worthy construed this as evidence "point[ing] to a relationship between Morinus and Jocelyn or a subsequent matrimonial alliance between Halwell and Stottiscombe. After several descents the Halwells of Stottiscombe reassumed the name Brito or Britt, and became owners of Widefelle or Walreddon and Brucheswrde or Britsworthy in the parish of Whitechurch near Tavistock which had been held by Alured and Ansger Brito respectively so that certain land which had been owned by all four [Britos] ultimately became centered in the family of Brit or Britun of Stottiscombe, six of whom were successively called Guy de Britt and bore arms sable, a fess argent between three escallops, or." (p. 355)

4. Waldin Brito--p. 353--tenant in chief in Lincoln, but held Devonshire manors of Cary & Medland under Judhael, Baron de Totnes [See below.]

5. Magno, Mannus, or Morinus Brito--tenant in capite of Linor/Lyneham in Yealmpton, of Stottiscombe, and Culbeer & Wilmington in the parish of Offwell near Honiton (p. 353)

6. Oger or Ogerus--tenant in capite in Lincolnshire and the only one of the six Britos who did not hold manors in in Devonshire (p. 353)

The Brittons of Bitton Parish, Gloucester

Worthy, p. 370ff.-The manor of Bitton, which was located near Bristol, consisted of two hides of land, one of which was held by the Church in 1086 and later known as Rectoral Manor and the other with an "appanage known as Harham," which included most of the parish.

p. 371: "As to the family of Britton of Bitton, there is the same uncertainty as to the exactitude of their earlier descent as exists in the case of other members of the family."

Jocelyn Brito was tenant in capite in Gloucester in 1086; Richard le Bret held 3 parts of a Knight's fee in Weston near Tetbury, temp. Henry II; in 1384, Joan, widow of Philip Vynour claimed capital messuage in Tewkesbury by devise of Stephen de Bruton.

Although there is no evidence of Brittons at Bitton before the 16th century, they may have been "cadets of the House of Breton of Borough, several members of which settled in the parishes of Parkham and Alwington considerably before the time of Thomas Bruton, the ancestor of the Brutons of Yeo Vale." (p. 371)

Thomas & John Britton paid the subsidy in Oldland (moiety of Bitton manor) in 1523

John Breton & son Walter held land at Hanham Abbotts 1536

Thomas Brytayne paid the subsidy at Bitton & Hinsham in 1545

Lewse & Thomas Brytton Hanham Abbots 1557

John Bryttan will 1 March 1560/ Oct 1562, Bitton, Glo.

His son Thomas married Agnes Horsington and they had 6 sons & 3 daughters, of which

5th son John m JaneBurneli, Bitton, 26 June 1571; his will dated 14 Sept 1612

Eldest son Thomas ch June 1573, Bitton, his son

John purchased fee simple of the property on which another had lived and become owner of Bitton Court in 1633

Jasper, eldest son of Thomas and Agnes HOrsington Britton lived at Swinford in Bitton--will dated 12 Aug 1590; his son:

John (eldest), his son

John, his son

John m Elizabeth and had 3 sons bapt in Oldland

Jasper's second son Stephen was the great grandfather of Simon Britton of St. George, Bristol, who was ancestor of Philip William Poole Britton Britton b 1863 of Bitton House, Enfield, Middlesex & Hanham Court in Glo.

Arms of one branch of this family: Quarterly or and gules, two lions passant in chief. etc.

Source: Charles Worthy, Devonshire Wills, and Edward E. Britton and Florence E. Young, Genealogy Britton

Other Important Britos

Worthy thought that all of the Britos holding land in Devonshire in the years after the Conquest were probably related by blood or marriage; however, it is important to remember that even if they were blood relations, they may not have been descendants of the same male line.

Worthy also thought that several other men who used the name Brito could have been ancestors of the Brittons of Devonshire, including:

1. Drogo de Montachute (p. 360)

2. Robert de Todeni, Norman Lord of Belvoir, Lincoln who had a son William known as William de Albini. William is said to have assumed the name Brito in addition to Albini to distinguish himself from William de Albini Pincerna. William de Albini Brito's eldest son William Meschines alias Brito died 14 Henry III;Raplh de Albini Brito was ancestor of the Lords Daubeny of Devonshire (p. 360)

3. Telelus Brito aka Totnes de Helion--p. 361: "Another very probable ancestor of the Devonshire Britos must not be overlooked, viz Tehelus or Tehellus Britto was a tenant in capite in Essex and Norfolk, and quite possibly identical with that powerful Baron of Totnes and Barnstaple, Iuhel of Totnes whose extraction and parentage have always been open to a considerable amount of question."


Miscellaneous West Country Brittons

p. 361 Brettel was subtenant in 1086 under the Earl of Mortain in the manors of Ferenstone, Colebrook, and Charlton. The Britton name was still common at Colebrook at the time Worthy was writing.

p. 362

Oliver Breton was returned for Truro 1309

Sir Adam le Bret was returned for Somerset 1329-30

John Briton Sr or Jr was returned for Bodmin 1384-97

John Breton was returned for Lost Withiel 1386

William Breton of Canonsleigh of Devon was returned for Bossiney, Cornwall 1746

Wm. Camden, Gloucestershire Visitations 1623, p. 1: 34 Henry III--H de Breton appointed to take an assize between John de Acton & Emma La Warre concerning land in Acton Cotes, Glo.

Sir Edward Bysshe, Visitations of Somerset & Bristol 1672, p. 6--John Gay of Newton, St. Loe in Somerset, Gent. m Frances d/o William Britton of Kelveston in Somerset, Gent.

Reaney, Dictionary of Surnames, p. 48--Thomas de Brytannia 1297, Minister's Accounts of the Earl of Cornwall

R. Sims, Index of Pedigrees and Arms Contained in the Herald's Visitations and Other Genealogical Manuscripts in the British Museum (London, 1849):


There are several  west country pedigrees for Brett and Britt:

Brett of Pilton--Devon

Brett from Quainton, Somerset--Buckingham

Brett from Edmonton, Somerset--Middlesex

Britt al Brite of South Mapleton--Dorset



                                                    Southern England


Southern England is an area difficult to define by geography, culture, or history. For purposes of the  Oxford Genetic Atlas Project it includes Kent, which was settled by Jutes after the Roman withdrawal, and Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Wiltshire,  and most of Dorset, which were settled by Saxons.  By the 9th century, all of the aforementioned  counties, plus Gloucestershire, Somerset, Devonshire, and Cornwall,  were part of the West Saxon Kingdom of Wessex.


The Breton name does not appear to have been common in Southern England either during the mediaeval period or the 19tn century, while it was quite common in Gloucestershire, especially in the Bristol area, in the 19th century, and there are reasons for believing that some of the Britton families at Gloucester, Somerset, and Devonshire  could descend from early Britos who were tenants in capite at Domesday.



                          Bretons of Kent from Leicestershire


Houghton parish in Kent lies within the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the diocese of Canterbury and the Deanery of Dover and was “part of those lands which were given to Fulbert de Dover, for the defence of Dover castle,  which made up together the barony of Fulbert, or Fobert….Among these lands was included the manor of Hougham, otherwise called The Elmes….”, purchased by Robert Breton, Gent.  during the reign of Charles II. (Edward Hasted, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 9 (1800), pp. 451ff.)


The old church at Hougham is dedicated to St. Lawrence and contains a number of memorial inscriptions for leading citizens, including several members of the Breton family.


The tombstone of Robert Breton (Generation 2) who died in 1707, age 35 reveals that he descended on his father’s side from the Bretons of Barwell in Leicestershire and on his mother’s side from the Babingtons of Temple Rothly, Leicester . Edward Hasted, History and Topographical Survey of Kent, vol. 9. P 454 identifies this Robert Breton further as “ the son  of Nich. Breton, of Norton, near Daventry”; however, the inscription on the tomb of his mother Ann Babington Breton says  that Robert’s father was Richard Breton. Both Breton of Barwell and Breton of Norton bore Azure a bend between six molets, suggesting the likelihood of common ancestry.


The following pedigree is taken from Hasted‘s, History and Topographical Survey of Kent., vol. 6, pp. 14, 461; vol 9, pp 454, 455, 461, vol 10, pp. 301, 421;  the Breton graves at Houghton and Broughton Aluph, and other sources as indicated in the text.  The Breton arms-- Azure a bend between six molets--are displayed on  Breton tombstones at Houghton.


1. Richard Breton of Dover m Anne daughter of Matthew Babbington, Esq. Of Temple Rothley, Leicester in 1671 (Burke’s Genealogical & Heraldic History of the Lamded Gentry, v.1. ,p. 42; also Burke’s Commoners, v. 4. p. 518))--Anne died 16 Sept `1677 and was buried at Houghton, Kent


Robert b 1673


2. Robert Breton b 27 Aug 1673 m Mary Moyle, daughter of John Moyle of Buckwell, Kent died 27 Sept 1707 in his 35th year--resided at the Elms and was buried at Houghton--tombstone indicates descent fro Breton of Barwell on his father’s side and Bassingtons on his mother’s side [Hasted, vol. 9, p. ?, which indicates he was the son of Nicholas Breton, but that is incorrect as shown by the tombstones at Houghton)


1. Moyle

2. Richard died young

3. Robert

4. John died young

5. Thomas

6. Anne

7. Elizabeth

8. Mary


3a. Moyle Breton Esq. Of Kennington, Kent-- b 1692 d 19 May 1735 aged 4, buried at Boughton Aluph, Kent-- married Mary daughter of William Moyse of Bennedon, Kent and had:


1. Moyle

2. Richard who had two daughters

3. The Rev. Robert Breton, Vicar of Boughton Aluph m Elizabeth____

 b 1724 d 1808, without issue


4a. Moyle Breton the Younger m Martha____ & died before 22 April 1761 (date of her will); she died 1 March 1766


1. The Rev. Moyle Breton b 1744, d. 18 April 1818  at age 84 without issue; ordained Deacon in 1751, Priest in 1752 and served as Vicar of Boughton Aluph; married Elizabeth______ who died 12 Sept 1804, age 59--both are buried at Boughton Aluph

(Admissions to the College of St. John the Evangelist, v. 3, p. 553)

2. Moyse Breton d.sp.

3. Whitfield Breton bc

[Hasted, v.7. P 555--The Rev. Moyle Breton and his brother Whitfield inherited property in gavelkind]


3. Whitfield Breton bc 1752 or before (based on date of marriage)--m Lucy Elmstone at Rolvanden in 1773

Issue: (Source for children is a posting at Rootsweb)

1. Mary Martha b 1775 m William Mercer

2. Lucia 1777-1818

3. Thomas b 1785 Tenterden

4. Ann 1787-1806


If the information from Rootsweb is correct and Thomas was the only son of Whitfield Breton, then he was probably the father of:


John Whitfield Breton of Sagerland, Sussex, Gent.

bc 1811-15 (age 36 on the 1841 Census for Sussex and 40 in 1851, Sussex)

m Emma, daughter of Wm Cooper at Brighton in Dec. 1857 (Gentleman’s Magazine, p. 674)

Died August 1874--will dated 4 Nov. 1873 (Source: Chancery suit brought by representatives of three infant children, not named, against the widow who had remarried)




                               Bretons in Hampshire


From W. Harry Rylands, ed., Pedigrees from the Visitation of Hampshire, p.25

_________________Breton,, bc 1250 ? [estimate]


Issue: 1) William Breton m _________ 2) Ann m Herbert de Denmead, coussen of John Grimstead of Grimstead in Wiltshire--her great great grandson John Wallop was living Anno 4 Hen IV [c 1402-3]

William Breton (the Younger)

Daughter and sole heir m Walter Hackett & died without issue



                 Breton of Monkton Farley, Wiltshire from Essex


This pedigree for  Breton of Monkton Farley, Wiltshire comes from Metcalfe’s Visitation of Wiltshire 1565, p. 8 and appears to trace the family’s  descent from William Breton who died at Colchester in 1499. 


Arms: Quarterly or and gules a bordure sable


William Breton of Layer Breton, Co Essex m [Isabella] d/o Haines of Essex, Gent. & Had:

1. William son and heir

2. Grace m Ratcliff of Essex


William 2

Breton of Layer m Ann d/o ______ Denham of the North  & had:

1. Henry son & heir

2. John d young

3. Francis 3rd son

4. Thomas died young

5. William 5th son


Henry 3

Breton of Monkton Farley, Wiltshire m Ann d/o George Coulte of Cavendish, Suffolk & had:

1. George son & heir

2. William 2nd son

3. Margaret m _____Hammond of Neyland, Suffolk, Gent.

4. Elizabeth unmarried


Information for the family of Henry Breton’s youngest brother William (#5 above) comes from William’ Breton’s s 1458 will unless otherwise indicated.  For more on this line, please see Breton of Layer-Breton, Essex.           






These arms are associated with a particular English county, but not with a particular English family.


Essex: from Burke’s General Armory: azure two chevrons or


Azure two chevrons or with a mullet for difference

Crest: on a lion’s gamb azure a chevron charged with a mullet sable

[A mullet (ie star) is the cadency mark of the  third son.]


Haxted, Essex--azure two chevrons or with in chief as many mullets of the second. (Francis Morgan Nichols, The Hall of Lawford Hall: Records of an Essex House and its Proprietors, p. 12 citing Symond’s Essex Memoranda, MS, College of Arms, v. 2, p. 197)


From Metcalfe’s Visitation of Essex:  p. 584 Azure two chevronels between three mullets or-- [quartered in the arms of Huberd]


       p. 622-- Rafe Whittle m Ann d/o Thomas Breton of Essex, Arms azure two chevronels or in a chief as many mullets of the second


From Essex Arch. Soc. vol. 2.(NS), pp. 3-4: The family of Margaret Breton, daughter of Thomas Breton, who married Humfrey Barrington of Barrington Hall in Braddocks, Essex [1400’s] bore azure a chevron or,  but the origin of this family remains unknown.



From Burke’s General Armory:



Island of Jersey: azure two chevronels or, Crest a rose gules, slipped and leaved vert  :          

 Le Breton (Britton). In 1283, Philip Le Breton held the franc-fief of Noirmont, the fief es Guarauz, and the fief Burnouf. In 1370, William Le Breton was a judge of the Royal Court of Jersey. The family has given to that island three deans and two baillies (or chief magistrates). The chief representative of this ancient house in Jersey, is the Very Rev. William Corbet LeBreton, M.A., Dean of Jersey, and Rector of St. Helier. Arms of Le Breton : Azure, two chevronels or. Crest : A rose gules,     

slipped and leaved, vert.  SOURCE: The New England Historical and Genealogical Register By Henry Fritz-Gilbert Waters, p. 415