This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 3rd June 1996, reproduced by kind permission of the author, the late Desmond Holden.

The “What's in a Name” series was a regular feature in the Advertiser over the period 1993‑2004, taking a refreshing look at the derivation of some typically Derbyshire surnames.

Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames, and do not indicate any particular interest on Desmond's part in the genealogy, descent, or family history of individuals bearing the surnames featured.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

“In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves.”

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called BARTLETT?

Many surnames are based upon what are popularly called "Christian" Names and hence that there are more people surnamed "Bartholomew" than there are who bear it as a personal name.

As a given name it has never been a favourite among ordinary folk at any time. It does not occur in records dating from before the Norman Conquest (1066) except in religious circles when it was sometimes adopted by monks when professing their vows. Naturally they used its Latin form, "Bartholomaeus" which was all very well for scholarly priests but really too much of a mouthful for English-speaking labourers. However in France, the Normans had cut it down from five syllables to three in the guise of "Bartelmieu" which the English converted into "Bartolmy".

Even in that attenuated form it was never all that popular, and people much preferred first-names which shortened it even more such as "Bart", "Bartley", "Tolly", "Bate and "Bartle" to name only a few! And of course the number of surnames which they have permuted runs well into double figures of which "Bartlett" and "Bates" are easily picked out. In Scotland several surnames revolve around "Beattie". In Gaelic "Bartholomew" appeared as "Parthalan" and so "the son of Bartholomew" (as it were) became "Mac Pharthalain" which prevails in both Scotland and Ireland today as "McFarlane" and its variants, such as "MacParland". Examples of all the foregoing names can be found in the local Directories. As a point of interest music lovers might like to know that Bartok is a Slavonic development of the same name. ['Parthalan' and 'MacParland' are as per the original - Ed]

The name itself oringinates in the New Testament and is rather ambiguously attributed to one of the Apostles. It is a rendering of the original Aramaic title "Bar Talmi" which means "The Son of the Great Landowner." (The notion that the Disciples were all drawn from poor and insignificant members of Jewish society is no longer tenable). He gets most attention in St. John's Gospel (Ch. I Verses 45-51) where he is (confusingly) called Nathanael and engages in a conversation wherein he makes the puzzling remark as to whether any good can come from Nazareth. Nothing more is reported but there is a tradition that he took the message to India and ended up being flayed alive. On that account he is the patron saint of Tanners and his Commemoration Day is 24th August.

The name seems to have come into prominence during the reign of Henry I (1100-1135) with the settingup of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. Its founder was called Rahere of whom little is known. It seems that he contracted malaria while travelling abroad and obtained a miraculous cure through the intercession of St. Bartholomew. As a thank-offering he established the hospital (1123) for "ye recreacion of poure men." With the very best of intentions the King granted a Royal Charter authorising the Annual Fair which became notorious as "Bartholomew Fair". The worthy object was for the raising of funds to run the hospital, but instead the people of London turned it into an excuse for sheer rowdiness. Whereas the hospital has passed into our affections as "Barts", sadly the fair increased in notoriety and was eventually suppressed in 1855. This probably had a great deal to do with the decline in the use of the full name. After all, nobody would have wanted to call their kid something which was the medieval equivalent of "lager lout"! No doubt, too, the infamous massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve (1572) accelerated its unpopularity.

Otherwise it persisted in surnames in the case of "Barlett" the suffix signifies descent. In full it means "The child of the man called Bartle". Sometimes it is written with only one "-t-" but this is not significant.

Although the earliest references to this name occurs in the Records for Norfolk (Holme) in 1926 [date sic, but seems likely to be a typo - Ed!], it seems to have been fairly evenly distributed across the country. There is slender evidence that the name had some associations in the South-West (Bideford, Devon) and in Bradford (West Riding). The East Anglian connection, indicated above, is notable since it lends support to the suggestion that the early settlers in America from this region, took the name with them. It is certainly well-represented over there.

The State of Massachusetts, where the earliest settlements were established and the placename Boston reveal positive connections. The wellknown "Dictionary of Familiar Quotations" was compiled by a Boston publisher called John Bartlett (1820-1905). It was issued in 1855 and is still referred to. In the same State the Rev. Enoch Bartlett imported that variety of pear known over here as the "Williams Pear" but there called the "Bartlett."

Older readers will also recollect the perceptive political commentaries of Vernon Bartlett (1894-1983), and the name is well-known to us here in Bakewell on account of our own Dr. Bartlett at the Medical Centre.

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 3rd June 1996.

This is a Genealogy Website
URL of this page:
Logo by courtesy of the Open Clip Art Library