The following article was a 20-year labor of love by Raymond Benjamin Yarbrough, a charter Director of YNGHA who served until shortly before his death. It was given to me in 1993, along with his permission to use it as I saw fit to help researchers. Anyone may copy it and use it with their family records, but PLEASE HONOR AND LIST RAYMOND'S COPYRIGHT when using his article. Karen Mazock

Origins of the Name Yarbrough

by Raymond Benjamin Yarbrough
© Raymond Benjamin Yarbrough 1993. All rights reserved.

The Yarbrough family name originated in Lincolnshire, England. In the northern Lincoln Wolds is the remains of an ancient Roman earthwork fortification known as Yarborough Camp. It is about six miles south of Barton on Humber in the parish of Croxton, atop a gentle hill about a mile west of the village of Croxton and a quarter mile north of the village of Melton Ross. The camp is east of the farm buildings on a farm owned by the Wood family in 1973. The earthworks stand four to six feet higher than the flattened hilltop and enclose an area of about 200 feet by 200 feet.

That the site had some importance in the time of the Danelaw is shown by the name of the wapentake of Yarborough, in which the camp is located. Wapentake is an old Norse name for the English division of a Shire, more commonly called a Hundred. A Hundred is a judicial region within a shire, having its own court. Yarborough wapentake has an area of 205 square miles, and is in the north-east corner of Lincolnshire bordering the Humber River and almost reaching Grimsby. Yarborough Camp is 8 miles north-east of the town formerly called Glanford Bridge, now Brigg, and is indicated on the One-Inch Ordinance Survey Map (No. 104: Gainsborough) as being where the Woods' Farm House actually is. On a large scale map the location is approximately due south of Hull-on-Humber and west by north-west of Grimsby.

A hamlet of Yarborough, including Yarborough Camp, is within the Parish of Croxton 1. A parish is a political subdivision, even in some instances today identical to the Church of England parishes.

The original meaning2 may be from the Old English Eorpburg, which means an earthwork fortification, or from the Old Norse jardborg which means the same as the Old English except that it includes a river nearby. The Roman equivalent of the name of the same meaning has been corrupted to Arbury in other places. The old Norse origin is given some support by evidence that a navigable river once flowed past the camp and into the river Humber. However, whether Old English, Old Norse, or Roman in origin its meaning is still the description of the earthwork fortification called Yarborough Camp

The Wolds thereabout are gently rolling hills which lent themselves to habitation in ancient times when much of Lincolnshire was undrained marshland. In Roman times Yarborough Camp apparently protected a major route through the Lincoln Wolds, a valley where Melton Ross is situated. A thriving commercial settlement must have grown up around the fort, of which the villages of Croxton and Melton Ross may be remnants. For centuries Roman coins have been unearthed during plowing of the fields surrounding the fortification. The fortification was probably also used for military purposes by the Danes, centuries after the Romans had departed.

The silting up of the river and the draining of the marshes may have been responsible for the disappearance of the river in Medieval times. Without the river to guard or access to the river Humber the military need of the fort and the commercial prospects of the village vanished and the site was abandoned to farming. As part of a massive reforestation program at the end of the 19th century, the Earl of Yarborough planted the hilltop area, so that today it is a small forest (copse).

At the end of the Roman era, around the 5th century A.D., Jutes from Jutland (the continental part of Denmark plus Germany's Schleswig) were hired by the Romanized Britons to protect the south-east from the Saxons and Frisians, related tribes of the Jutes. The Jutes were allowed to settle in what is now Kent and on the Isle of Wight, pushing the native Britons north and westward. Shortly, the Saxons and Frisians also established colonies along the south coast: Essex (East Saxon) and Sussex (South Saxon) survive as Shires today. About the same time another related tribe, the Angles, settled in the more northern areas including today's East Anglia, so that the Celtic natives were pushed westward to Cornwall and Wales and northward into Scotland. These Dano-German settlers took over most of what is now the English (Anglish) part of Britain. They are commonly called the Anglo-Saxons, although they included the Jutes and Frisians as well.

In the 9th century other Dano-German tribes facing overpopulation in Scandinavia took to raiding and colonizing coastal regions of Europe. Danish Vikings settled coastal Ireland, and displaced their Anglo-Saxons cousins from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire to establish the Danelaw. The Normans, who conquered England in 1066 A.D., were descended from Danish and Norwegian Vikings who had jointly taken over western Gaul (Normandy). Thus the victory of the Normans over the Anglo-Saxons, was a family matter. Thus Lincolnshire is predominantly Viking, with remnants of the Angles and Celts. However, the English as a whole are descended from the same set of Germanic tribes. In Anglo-Saxon german means cousin.


Yarburgh is a parish, with a village, in the Hundred of Louth-Eske, 4-1/2 miles north by north-east of the town of Louth (rhymes with south). It has a population of 148 in 1972 down from 279 a hundred years ago before the mechanization of farming3. The village burned in 1730, so that the only mediaeval building remaining is the parish church, St. John the Baptist, which is from the 15th century and was restored in 1855. It has records going back to 1540, two years after Henry VIII's Thomas Cromwell made them mandatory.

It is a pleasant little Norman church, set back from the road, and reached by a tree-lined path. It has an interesting tall tower with a square-headed doorway with the Lamb and Passion emblems graven on its spandrels, and a scene with Adam and eve together with the Serpent at the Fall. The tree of knowledge has various small animals peering from among its roots.

Within the church is a list of vicars and patrons which include a number of Yarboroughs. The rector in 1335 was one Richard of Yarborough, the only clergyman in the lot, but at least of the first listed. Among the patrons, with their dates of patronage are: Sir Thomas Yarburgh, 1670–1701; Charles Yarburgh, 1722 – after 1739; Henrietta Maria Yarburg, 1761–1813; Major Nicholas Edmund Yarburgh of Heslington, 1813–1863; George John Yarburgh of Heslington, 1863 –1905; and S. N. de Yarburgh-Bateson, 1939-1966. As St. John the Baptist is no longer a parish, the records were kept at the parish in Alvingham in 1973, but now are at Lincoln Cathedral.

ROBERT ARMSTRONG YERBURGH: St. Adelwold's Church in Alvingham, a few miles from Yarburgh, was closed for 100 years because of redundancy. It was restored in 1933 in memory of Robert Armstrong Yerburgh, Member of Parliament, who died in 1916. In a church chest were found documents showing the Yerburghs were associated with Alvington for 800 years.

In an old record4, the priory of Alvingham was given the grant of the church in Grainthorpe in the will of Brian of Yarborough in 1251, which was disputed by his sons3.

In Certifying Proceedings for recusants in Lincolnshire in 1586, names of persons having Catholic sympathies (v. Henry VIII's nationalization of the church) included Charles Yarborough of Yarborough, George Yarborough and Anne Yarborough5

In early records the names of the camp and the village are recorded as being the same: Gereburg in the Domesday Book, 1085, Ierburc in the Lincolnshire Survey Circa 1115 (published 1884); Jerdeburc in the 12 Danelaw Charte; and Jardbury in the 1209 Episcopal Register.

On a 1610 Lincolnshire map reproduction presently available, the Wapentake is Yarbrough and the village Yarborow. On maps from 1695 and 18406, the name Yarborough is applied to both the wapentake and the village. Because of continuing postal problems while they both had the same name, the earl of Yarbrough requested that the village name be changed to Yarburgh, and his request was granted. Thus today the village is Yarburgh, and the Wapentake is Yarborough.

YARBOROUGH, SOMERSET: There is also a small hamlet in the parish of Banwell, located 4-1/2 miles north by north-west of the town of Axbridge (One-Inch Ordinance Survey Map No. 165: Weston Super-Mare).

[1] Lincolnshire: Notes and queries, a quarterly journal edited by E. Mansel Simpson (in 1913) Delorain Court, Lincoln Horncastle: W. K. Morton & Sons Ltd.

[2] Oxford Dictionary of Place Names.

[3] Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of England, Vol. 4, 3d ed. 1855, London: S. Lewis & Co. 87 Aldergate Stre

[4] The Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, Vol. VI, v 1866, John Marius Wilson. A. Fullerton & Co., Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Dublin & New York.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Yarborough Family Magazine, Vol 4, No 7, p 50, April 1981, Charles David Yarborough.