The bartons of Bruton

I’ve known several people with the name Barton, but I never really wondered where it came from or what it’s origin was. In fact no-one seems to know for certain what it originally meant except that this old name ending, -ton, whether of a place or a person, seems to refers to a settlement or enclosure, and maybe the ‘bar’ in this instance is something to do with barley.

Today we went on a little trip out to a town in Somerset I’d only ever passed through before, and never stopped to visit. Bruton is on the River Brue  and the town name is associated with the river. The ‘Brue’ originated as a description of a river, one with bright fast flowing water – ideal for a settlement! In the  Domesday Book, the town is referred to as ‘Briwetone’; there were up to six mills on this river once, but now no more. There is a mill but it is an activity centre, not a milling place. Over the years the river has flooded disastrously; an upstream dam has prevented any recent inundations. Today when we visited the river was rather low. Bruton is a fascinating town of just over 3,000 inhabitants. it’s quite hilly and the old buildings  are attractive and it’s almost impossible not to take pictures of them!

One of the feature of the town are ‘the bartons’; I saw these mentioned and wondered what they were, thinking back to people I knew – as I mentioned above. Bartons, as we discovered, were originally alleys which led down from the main street to holding pens for livestock. Bruton was an important market town, with sales of sheep and livestock held regularly. Now the bartons are just little alleys leading down to the Brue which was pottering along quietly today, no risk of any floods. I wonder if the surname Barton originated for some families from the bartons of Bruton?

You can find out much more about Bruton here:


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