Bartletts In England

Bartlett is the current standard name, although the past reveals a number of variants (Barttelot, Bertalot, Bartlet, Bartleet, and Barlett). These names are of Norman origin and came to England originally with the Norman Conquest. Their derivation in Normandy is uncertain. Possibly the name is a dimunitive of Bartholomew; or of Bertha; and there have been other suggestions as well. As an implant, its spread in England was limited. The name is even now only really to be found in the south of England and concentrated in certain localities there.

Bartlett Roots

The line is said to have begun with an Adam Barttelot who arrived in England with William the Conqueror. Early records show the name associated with the Stopham estates in Sussex near Petworth. The family became more established when, in 1395, John Bartelot married Joanne, the co-heir of these estates. Bartlett records can be traced at the Stopham church from that time. Today, this church contains a fine collection of floor brasses of the Bartelot family over the centuries. 

Another gentry of Bartletts was established in Somerset in the West Country in the 1500s in and around Ilchester. Their seat was Corton Denham, just north of Yeovil. There may have been some link with the Sussex Bartletts as they did share a similar coat of arms.

Sussex to the east and Somerset to the west appeared to mark the outer limits to where Bartletts were to be found in England. It is difficult to find an early breakdown of where Bartletts actually lived. But the following analysis of local newspaper records of the early 1800s may be indicative.

Bartlett Mentions
in Local Newspapers: 1800-1830
(percent mentions by county)

Somerset 3
Dorset 42
Wiltshire 24
Hampshire 18
Sussex 6
Elsewhere 7

This data suggests that more Bartletts then were to be found in Dorset. Today, there are some 35,000 Bartletts in England, with more now in Gloucestershire than in Dorset.

The Bartletts in Dorset

A branch of the Sussex Bartletts settled in Dorset. A Robert Bartelot is recorded as mayor of Dorchester in 1450. The family leased Muston Manor in Puddletown, four miles northeast of Dorchester. From these roots came Robert and Richard Bartlett, brothers who sailed for America on different ships in 1623 and 1632.

These Bartletts were augmented in Dorset by a wave of Norman immigration. In 1525, according to a tax-payer census undertaken, Weymouth's population was one third immigrant, Dorchester's one fifth. Some were seafarers who stayed in or close to the ports through which they entered. Others settled in the dairy farming country which lay immediately behind the coastal hills, on a line roughly from Wareham in the east to Bridport in the west. The table below shows the growing Bartlett presence in Dorset in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, according to parish records.

Bartlett Families Recorded in Dorset
(family numbers in parish records)
  1500s 1600s 1700s
Tarrant Hinton 3   3
Winterborne 2 1 6
Puddletown 5 2 2
Dorchester   1 4
Litton Cheney   3 3
Powerstock 1 1 1
Longburton 2    
Sherborne area   7 8
Elsewhere 2 17 55
Total 15 32 82

Legend has it that these Bartletts may have gotten a little Spanish blood in them, possibly that of Basque sailors. As Captain Bob Bartlett explained in his book:

In 1588 the Spanish Armada cruised north to make all England Spanish. A great storm arose and the proud fleet was dashed to pieces on the rock-ribbed coast of England and Scotland, from Lands End to John O Groats. From these ships hundreds of Spanish soldiers and sailors were washed ashore, dead and alive. Many were so well treated by the coast folk that they stayed. Thus came to the Nordic Bartletts a strain of somber Spanish blood, accounting not only for their complexion and their hair but for the independence and the airs still found among them.

The second influx of Normans produced a number of farmers and farm laborers. Few, however, owned their own farms. In the eighteenth century, as land ownership grew more concentrated (as elsewhere in the country), many smallholders lost their tenancies. An impoverished rural class emerged. The Sherborne workhouse opened in 1735 and most large villages had their own poor houses.

By the early nineteenth century, conditions had gotten if anything worse. Farm laborers of Tolpuddle, under the leadership of George Loveless (into whose family an Ann Bartlett had married), sought to establish a union but were ruthlessly suppressed. The five leaders, now known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, were convicted and transported.

Bartletts Elsewhere

Wiltshire.  Undoubtedly, there was some spillover from Dorset into neighboring counties. In Wiltshire, clusters of Bartletts can be found in and around Warminster, in small villages such as Heytesbury, Norton Bavant, and Chalford. James Bartlett's brewery was a familiar sight on the High Street in Warminster from the 1830's.

Hampshire.  There was a Bartlett presence recorded in the village of Fordingbridge (the Rev. Henry Bartlett) in the late 1600's.  James Bartlett's roots there go back to the late 1700's.  He started Bartlett's Steam Fair in the 1890's.  This fair, with its collection of steam engines, roundabouts, and swingboats, was held annually on Church Street and it regularly toured the south of England.  The attraction continued with his son Alf until the 1940's.

Devon.  A Bartlett family can be traced to the Devon village of Marldon from the early 1600's.  This family later settled along the coast at Teignmouth.  Other Bartletts could be found nearby, in Paignton and Brixham.  Many, like their Dorset namesakes, were seafarers.   From a humble family of Brixham trawlermen came Captain and later Commodore Charles Bartlett  He rose through the ranks to be the captain of the great sea liners of his day.   He might have captained the Titanic on its tragic maiden voyage in 1912.  He did captain the Britannic when it was sunk by a mine in the Aegean Sea in 1916. 

Gloucestershire. Some Bartletts may have moved north from Somerset into Gloucestershire. A John Bartlett from these roots was a Bristol merchant and mayor of the city in 1742. The Bartlett name can also be found in Minchinhampton and Bisley, villages near Stroud (possibly from Huguenot immigrants who had taken up the wool trade there). However, generally, few Bartletts were recorded in Gloucestershire parish records during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The influx must have come later.

London. Bartletts in London can be traced to the 1500's. Thomas Barthelet, French by origin, was the King's Printer from 1530 to 1547. Bartletts are shown in the Bishopsgate, Holborn, and Newgate parish records later in the century. A William Bartlett appeared as an Aldgate upholsterer in the 1638 property rolls. The Bartlett numbers were swelled in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as the city attracted incomers of all types.