Origin, Meaning & Etymology
The surname Bacon is an English and French metonymic occupational name for a person who earned a living preparing and selling cured pork, from the Old French and Middle English word bacon or bacon, meaning “bacon”. In his 1956 book, Dictionary of American Family Names, Elsdon Coles Smith states the name could also refer to “dweller at the sign of the pig, at a time when bacon meant the live pig”.
Another theory is that the name derives from the Germanic personal (first) name Bacco or Bahho, from the root word bag, meaning “to fight”, a name common among the Normans in the form Cabus or Bacon or from the German word bach, meaning little stream or creek.
Another author, William Arthur, states that it derives from the Anglo-Saxon word bacan, meaning to bake or dry by hear, or it derives from the Saxon word baccen or buccen, a beech tree.
Mark Anthony Lower, in his 1860 book Patronymica Britannica, states that Bacon was “a seigniory in Normandy”. A seigniory was a feudal lordship.
Another author, Lower, believes that in some instances, the surname Bacon may be a corruption of the surname Beacon, “and that, from their connection with Bayeux, the Bacons were sometimes Latinised De Bajocis”.
In his book Ludus Patronymicus, Richard Charnock states “I consider the name a French diminutive of Bach, from Gaelic bach, a brook, rivulet.”
History & Early Bearers
It is thought that the surname was brought into England by the Norman French after the Conquest of 1066 AD. Some of the earliest known bearers were Nicholas Bacon who was documented in 1150 AD and Nicholas Bachun who was documented in Staffordshire in 1226 AD. John le Bacon (Norfolk), Wymer Bacon (Surrey), and Simon Bacon (Oxfordshire) are listed in the Hundred Rolls in 1373 AD. Walterus Bacon was recorded in the Poll Tax of Yorkshire in 1379 AD.
The book The Norman People (1874), states the following: “We find that name Bacon or Bacco 11th cent. in Maine, but this family was Northman”. A man named Anchetl Bacon lived before the Conquest and made grants at his lordship of Molay to St. Barbe en Auge. William Bacon, Lord of Molay, in 1082 AD, founded Holy Trinity, Caen. Roger Bacon held estates in Wiltshire around the year 1154 AD. In 1165 Robert, William, and Alexander B. held four knights’ fees of ancient enfeoffment in Essex from the Barony of Montfichet.
Henry Brougham Guppy writes the following in his 1890 book titled Homes of Family Names in Great Britain: “Knightly families of Bacon or Bacune held manors in the 13th and 14th centuries in the parishes of Dengie and Mountnessing, manors which seem to have taken in each case the name of Bacon from their early lords”.
According to family lore, a man named Grimbald, who was a relative of the Norman chieftain William de Warren, arrived in England during the Conquest and settled at Letheringsete near Holt, where he was granted lands. It is said his great-grandson assumed the name Bacon. He had three sons, Rudolf (Lord of Letheringsete), Ranulf, and Edmund.
Roger Bacon (c. 1219-1292) was a medieval English philosopher and Franciscan friar born in Somerset to a well off family in terms of finances.
Bacons in America
One of the first bearers of this surname to arrive in colonial America was Thomas Bacon, who arrived in Virginia in 1622. Michael and John Bacon arrived in Dedham, Massachusetts in 1640. A mason named George Bacon came to Virginia in 1635 aboard the Encrease of London, along with his three children. Daniell Bacon, age 30, was transported to Virginia aboard the David in the same year.
Numerous members of this family served in the American Revolution, including Sergeant Isaac Bacon of Pennsylvania (2nd Battalion), Sergeant Henry Bacon of Connecticut (2nd Regiment), Lieutenant Oliver Bacon of New Hampshire, and Corporal Jotham Bacon of Massachusetts. Several received land grants for their service, such as William Bacon, a New York Bombarider who received 600 acres in 1790, Burwell Bacon, a Virginia Corporal who received 200 acres in 1783, and Ludwell Bacon, a Virginia Private who received 100 acres in 1784.
Bacon of Redgrave
Sir Nicholas Bacon was born circa 1540 in Suffolk, England, the son of Sir Nicholas, and Jane Fernley. His father was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He was educated at Trinity College, a constituent college within the University Cambridge, where he studied law. He later went on to serve as a Member of the English Parliament for both Beverly in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and Suffolk.
In terms of religion, Sir Nicholas was a great supporter of the puritan cause. Although not known for his military achievements, he successfully led a contingent of 500 soldiers to the camp at Tilbury during the Spanish Armada Crisis, where Queen Elizabeth was also present, which helped to defend Protestant England from the threat of Catholic Spain.
His chaplain, Robert Allen, wrote a dedicatory epistle testifying to the willingness of Sir Nicholas and his wife Anne to quote “further God’s holy religion and worship by every good and Christian means in the sight of men”.
He was created a baronet by King James I on May 22nd 1611, the first person to receive the title in all of England. Sir Nicholas owned numerous manors in England, including Culford, Redgrave, and Gillingham.
He married Anne, the granddaughter of Sir Edmund Butts, who served as physician to King Henry VIII. Together, they had one daughter and seven sons. Sir Nicolas died in 1624, whereupon he was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward, the 2nd Baronet of Redgrave.
Bacon of Mildenhall
The Bacon Baronetcy, of Mildenhall in the County of Suffolk, was created in the Baronetage of England on 29 July 1627 for Butts Bacon, son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, 1st Baronet of Redgrave. He was a Parliamentarian in the English Civil War, and he served as captain of a military company in 1644-45. He married Dorothy, daughter of Sir Henry Warner of Parham, and had a son with her named Henry, who succeeded him in the baronetcy.
Bacon of Gillingham
Sir Nicholas Bacon, 1st Baronet of Gillingham (1623-1666) was an English landowner admitted to Gray’ Inn in 1639. He was the grandson of Sir Nicholas Bacon, 1st Baronet of Redgrave and Margaret D’Arcy. He married Elizabeth Freeston.
Viscount of St. Alban
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St. Alban (1561-1626) also known as Lord Verulam, was a philosopher, statesman, and Lord Chancellor of England who is credited for developing the scientific method which gave rise to the scientific revolution. He was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon (1510-1579), Lord Keeper of the Seal, and a brother of Sir Nicholas Bacon of Redgrave. He was elevated to the Peerage of England as Viscount St. Alban on 27 January 1621. When he was 45 years old, he married Alice Barnham, the 14-year old daughter of a well-connected London alderman.