I first became aware of the Bulstrode surname in the early 1970s, when my father (a Boustred) met Canon Martin Bulstrode of Framlingham, Suffolk. Canon Martin told my father that he thought they were possibly related, and put him in touch with a professional researcher who had done a great deal of work on the history of the Bulstrode family, particularly in connection with Hounslow Manor. My father corresponded with the researcher for several years, and she sent him some fascinating information about the Bulstrode and Boustred families. They had planned to meet, but tragically she died suddenly at a very young age, and the meeting never took place. My father put all the correspondence away in a cupboard, and when I discovered it a few years later, a life-long obsession was born!
Much of the information contained in the letters had originally been researched from 1936 onwards by Henry Wilton Bulstrode. His work was meticulous, very carefully documented and stunning in terms of what he discovered from original sources long before the modern luxuries of the Internet and CD-ROMs came on the scene. Because of the quality and scope of Henry Wilton Bulstrode’s work, I have always considered it rather impertinent of me to try to go back over the same ground. I have therefore concentrated more on collecting the information which would not have been available to him, such as the Victorian census records.
I am currently undertaking a DNA project sampling direct line male Bulstrode and Boustred descendants and others with similar surnames to try to establish whether or not the families share a common ancestor. If you would be interested in taking part in this, do please contact me.
I mainly concentrate on the Bulstrode name in its usual form, but in earlier records many variants such as Bolstrode, Bullstrode, Boulstrode, Bulstred etc occur – many overlapping with the variants which possibly led to the Boustred family. Few of these variants are in use as surnames today, unless, of course, you know otherwise!
There is a fascinating story about the origin of the name which goes like this:
After William the Conqueror came to England in 1066, he started taking land away from those who had lived here before. One such man, by the name of Mr. Shobbington decided he wasn't going to let William take over his land, so when the Conqueror’s henchmen paid him a visit, he jumped on to the back of a bull and charged at them, sending them running! William was so impressed by Mr. Shobbington's courage that he allowed him to keep his land. The legend goes that William said words to the effect of 'Keep your land, and I shall rename you BULLSTRODE because you strode a bull to chase away my men'! So, Mr. Shobbington became Mr. Bulstrode.
It's a lovely story, but very unlikely to be true. Henry Wilton Bulstrode believed that the only possible shred of truth to the legend was a doubtful story that Agnes Bulstrode married John Choppinden who took the name of Bulstrode. His research showed that Burh-, Bure-, Burg- etc were common roots of Saxon names. The name Bur-red, the large land owner in the time of Edward the Confessor (1050 – 1066) is spelt various ways, such as Burgret, Borret and Borred. He and his sons had much land in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Some members of this family appear to have settled in Northamptonshire and called their area Bur-cote, and when families began to take fixed surnames, they took the name of the place as their family name. These Burs and Burcotes had many interests in Buckinghamshire, and Henry Wilton Bulstrode suggested that one of them bought or leased land in Buckinghamshire from the large manor of Burnham, called it Burs’s Meadow (or marsh) - Bur’s –strode or strod and that the family took their name from the estate.
It seems that the first Bulstrodes were Ralph, Richard, John and Hugo, whose relationship was unknown – they could have been cousins or brothers. Geoffrey (no surname given) of Northants was born about 1066 or earlier and he was probably the ancestor of the Burcotes and Burstrodes. He is known only by the reference to his son Ralph who appears in the Pipe Rolls for Northants in 1135. Several generations pass, and the earliest mention of the embryonic form of the name is the house “Villa de Burstroda” in 1185. Ralph de Burescote witnessed a charter in 1190, and by 1193 he was referred to as Radulphus de Burestrode in the Pipe Roll. By 1194/5, he is called Radulfus de Bolestrode and by 1199, Ralph de Bulstrode. This seems to have been the very first instance of the name as we now know it.
Some of the Bulstrodes held positions at court, so a great deal of information is known about them. Some of the most famous are:
Sir Richard Bulstrode (died 1503)
Keeper of the Great Wardrobe to the Queen of Henry VI, and he had 16 children!
Sir William Bulstrode (died 1526) (nephew of Sir Richard, above)
M.P. for Wallingford (1491 – 1492), Commissioner of Peace under Henry VII (1500 – 1508), Keeper of Brandon Forest, Wiltshire (1504) and an Esquire of the Body at the funeral of Henry VII (1509). He appears in the Pardon Roll of Henry VIII (offence not stated!) (1510), was Sheriff of Buckinghamshire and Gentleman Usher at the Field of the Cloth of Gold (1513), and was knighted in 1526.
Sir Richard Bulstrode (1610 – 1711)
A Soldier, diplomat and author. He served in the Prince of Wales’s Regiment, rising to Quartermaster-General. He was appointed Agent at the court of Brussels (1673) and was knighted in 1675. He is said to have lived to be over 100 years old.
Sir Bulstrode Whitelocke (1605 – 1675)
He was given the name Bulstrode as a forename because it was the maiden name of his mother, Elizabeth. Sir Bulstrode was an English Lawyer and Parliamentarian, Commissioner of the Great Seal, M. P. for Marlow during The Long Parliament and Ambassador to Sweden. It is said that he urged Oliver Cromwell to accept the crown of England! Portraits of him are in the collections at the National Portrait Gallery and there is a long entry for him in the Dictionary of National Biography.
Whitelocke Bulstrode (1650 – 1724)
A conversationalist and mythical writer. He bought the Manor of Hounslow in 1705.
Roll of Honour
George Frank Robert Oliver Bulstrode
George, born in 1886, was the son of Alfred George Bulstrode and Annie Emily Jane (nee Bartlett). He was a Sergeant in “C” Company, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, service number 7683, and he was killed in action on 19th December 1914.
The following were probably all named after the family:
There are brasses commemorating the Bulstrode family in various churches including:
The Bulstrode name has also crept into fiction:
The frequency of the name in the UK can be discovered from a 2002 database from the Office of National Statistics. It shows that in 2002 there were 50 Bulstrode name-bearers and that Bulstrode was the 50,807th most common name in the UK.
In the early days of the name, the vast majority of the Bulstrodes were in Bedfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, with a few moving to London.
By the time of the 1851 census, there are 38 Bulstrodes. 22 of those listed are in Hampshire, but actually they are all in Newchurch on the Isle of Wight.
In the 1881 census,there are 57 individuals, 25 in Hampshire (almost all of them on the Isle of Wight), with the next biggest occurrences of the name being 12 in Berkshire, 9 in London and 6 in Cambridgeshire.
In 1901, there are 63 individuals listed, 40 in Hampshire (some in Portsmouth, but mostly still in the Isle of Wight), 13 in London, and two children away at boarding school, one in Hertfordshire and one in Dorset.
From these figures, it would be easy to assume that the name Bulstrode comes from the Isle of Wight, but this is entirely untrue. All the Bulstrodes on the Isle of Wight were descended from a single common ancestor, Antrim or Antram Bulstrode (1763 – 1819) who with two wives produced ten children, 22 grandchildren, and over 50 great grandchildren, not all Bulstrodes, of course, but those are just the ones I have discovered so far – there could be more! Antrim was a Mariner, and was living in the Isle of Wight from at least 1789.
I have collected a large quantity of data concerning the Bulstrode name such as:
For searchable birth, marriage and death records for England and Wales, see my Guild Archive pages.
I have now set up a DNA project to try to discover whether or not the Bulstrodes, Boustreds and Bousteads share a common ancestor. We have four samples in the database already - a Boustred one and three Bulstrode ones. If you would be interested in taking part in a DNA project, please do contact me. Because the DNA test uses the male Y chromosome, only direct male line Bulstrodes and Boustreds can take part. Sadly, being female, that counts me out!
Further details of the project can be found at:
I am also interested in the following families:
I am not undertaking a One-Name Study on these names, although there are other Guild members who are researching some of them as their registered name.
For further information, contact:
Mrs Anni Berman
This page last updated 15 April 2012.
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Profiles of other one-name studies registered with the Guild may be found here.