The name Durnford derives from the Anglo-Saxon word "dierne ford" for "hidden ford" possibly due to the concealed crossing place over the nearby river Avon (Avon is Celtic for "river"). Early documents usually spelled the name Derneford. Other variants were Darnford, Dornford, Durnsford, and Dunford.

The villages of Great Durnford and Little Durnford lie on the river Avon, where it meanders between tree-lined banks in Wiltshire, England. Apparently there is a way to ford the river at Great Durnford. They are also the closest villages to historic Stonehenge. The main road to the north (the A303) is one of the seven great highways that survived into the middle ages from Roman times.

The Surnames of the United Kingdom; a Concise Etymological Dictionary (Henry Harrison, Eaton Press) lists the Durnford surname as (English) Dweller at the Secret or Private Ford [Old English dierne + ford].




There has been speculations that the name came over with the Norman invaders in 1066 because of Roger and his father William de Derneford who were Normans. However, it was the practice for the Norman overlords to suffix their possessions to their own name with "de", Hence, there is no specific proof that the name Durnford came from Normandy or it was the local name adopted by the Norman conquerors. (for more information on the "de" in French names go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_name) Also,since the village name is Old English it is highly unlikely that the family roots started in Normandy.

In Britain, hereditary surnames were adopted in the 13th & 14th centuries, initially by the aristocracy but eventually by everyone. By 1400, most English had acquired surnames. Henry VIII (1491–1547) ordered that marital births be recorded under the surname of the father.*

A Dictionary of English surnames (Reaney, Percy Hide & Wilson, Richard Middlewood) shows Durnford/Dornford: Roger de Derneford 1190 P (W); William de Durneford 1255 RH (W). From Durnford (Wilts). cf. DANFORD.

Liber niger scaccarii** mentions Roger de Derneford who held the fifth part of a knight's fee in Wiltshire in 1165.  He was born in 1135, his father in 1090, and his grandfather in 1040 in Normandy.  The full names of the latter two are not given, so we cannot tell when the family took on the property in Durnford or when they received a last name.

Lands that were obtained for loyal service were in Cornwall (Southwest England) and included the section called Ramshead, thus the Ramshead in the families coat of arms, also Mount Edgecombe's and part of Stonehouse, Plymouth. This land passed into the Edgecombe family during the time of Henry VIII when daughter Jane, sole heir of Stephen Durnford married Sir. Peter Edgecombe. During the English Revolution, the junior branch espoused the Royal Cause and was at that time scattered to various sections of England. Some branches were in Wiltshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire.

* Doll, Cynthia Blevins (1992). "Harmonizing Filial and Parental Rights in Names: Progress, Pitfalls, and Constitutional Problems". Howard Law Journal (Howard University School of Law) 35: pp. 227. ISSN 0018-6813. Note: content available by subscription only. First page of content available via Google Scholar.

** Probably compiled in the 13th century by Alexander de Swereford, Archdeacon of Salop and clerk of the Exchequer; it includes treaties of Henry II and Henry III with court of Flanders, an agreement between Henry I and William I of Scotland, and four bulls of Pope Alexander III.


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