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How the Bagnall and Associated Surnames Developed

Development of Surnames from the Place-name

It could be argued that the placename Bagnall is itself a derivation from the original Bacgaholt (as defined by the etymologist Duigan) or Badecahalh (....Eckwall) - (see "Origins of the Place-name" page on this site.

But here are some published references relating to the origin of the surname:

Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames. P H Reaney. (Oxford University Press (ISBN 0-19-860092-5) states:

   "Bagnall, Bagnell, Bagnold, Bagenal: William de Bagenholt 1299  AssSt; John Bagenelle 1379 LLB H; Ralph Bagnall, Bagnold, Bagenal alias Bagnald 1561 Pat From Bagnall (Staffs)." (see Google Books)

A Dictionary of Surnames. Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges (Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-211592-8) states:

   "Bagnall English: habitiation name from a place in Staffs., so called from the Old English personal name Badeca, Baduca (from a short form of the various cpd names with the first element beaudu battle) + Old English halh nook, recess or holt wood. Variants: Bagnell, Bagenal, Bagnold.

A Dictionary of British Surnames. P H Reaney (Routledge & Kegan Paul ISBN 0-7100-8106-5) states:

   "Bagnall, Bagnell, Bagnold, Bagenal: William de Bagenholt 1299 AssSt; John Bagenelle 1379LLB H; Ralph Bagnall, Bagnold, Bagenall   alias Bagnald 1561 Pat, From Bagnall (Staffs)."

Surname Variations

As a personal surname Bagnall is by far the most common name to come down from the original place-name in the past eight hundred years (such names deriving from a place are called "toponymic").

As can be seen above in times long past the correct spelling of a name or place was a matter of interpretation, often a guess, and has only become standardised as literacy has improved over the ages.

As a far-flung and worldwide extended family (one estimate gives a total of in excess of 132,000 Bagnalls alone) we are fortunate to possess a unique variant of a surname which is traceable to back to one place, a tiny and relatively unspoiled village nestling on the edge of the Staffordshire Moorlands.

The adoption of the second name or surnames in Europe took place from the 11th century onwards.

When compared with families who can only relate their name to a physical characteristics of an ancestor (Little, Small, Broad), or the name of a predecessor's father (McDonnell (son of Donnell), Stephenson, Williamson), or an ancestor's occupation (Thatcher, Fletcher, Cooper, Farmer) we are lucky to be able to link our surnames to a place which we know was settled permanently about 800 years ago.

So, we're not a "clan" in the popular Scottish or Celtic tradition. In the 12th to mid-14th Century, John or Thomas or any other person who had lived in the village and moved away, probably only a short distance, would have become known as "John de Bagenhalh (or similar), i.e., John of Bagnall.

Similarly - Thomas would have become "Thomas de Baginholt" (or similar) i.e. Thomas of Bagnall. Anyone who lived in, or moved away from the settlement could equally have become known as, say, John the Cooper (if he were a barrel maker) or Thomas Broad (if he was perhaps of stocky build).

There are probably lots of names I've missed, but here is a list of family names, with the earliest date of reference I have been able to unearth:
12th Century Bagenold
1204 de Baggenhall/Bagenhall
1271 Baginholt
1271 Badegenhall
1281 Bagenholt
1299 Baggenholt
1327 de Baggenholt
1379 Bagenelle
14th Century Baknold
1510? Bagenal
1595 Bagnald

let us know if you can unearth any more, with earliest recorded date where possible via the Contact Form