origins of the name Bangay

Taken from Alan Bangay’s work on Bangay Family History – Vol 1 1985

ISBN 0 9510971 0 5




Up to about the end of the 18th century, very few people could read or write while, before about 1600, even many of the gentry were illiterate and names were recognised by their general pronunciation. Further, scribes spelt phonetically and, since spelling didn‘t matter, many variations of a given surname resulted and all must therefore be noted when searching records. For example,

In the present study, the spelling of the name Bangay was found to vary in early registers for baptisms of children in the same family.


The earliest document found to date containing the family name with the spelling Bangay, is the first marriage register of the parish of Holt, Norfolk where John Bangay married Cycilie Jyckell on the 11th July, 1584. Subsequently, in Holt and in other Norfolk parish registers, the following spelling variations have been noted:

Banga, Bange, Bangee, Bangey, Banghey, Bangie, Bangy and Bangye.

However, by the end of the 19th century, the commonly adopted form was Bangay with only the occasional Bange, Bangey or Bangy and, accordingly, Bangay has been used throughout the family tree charts.

Regarding pronunciation, the most usual nowadays appears to be Ban-gay, although sometimes is heard Bang-gay or Bang-ay. This is perhaps surprising since the majority of the phonetic spellings listed above suggest either Bang-ee or Ban-gee (the latter with a hard ‘g’).

Prior to 1584, a few more examples of the spelling, Bange, have been found along with some phonetically similar forms, Bangat, Bangatte and Banget (it is assumed that the ‘t’ is silent as, for example, in the French name Roget). It is of interest to mention here that none of the last three name spellings have been observed in UK records dated later than about 1550.


Referring to the pre 1550 forms of spelling, Cozens-Hardy in his book on the History of Letheringsett (ref.1) states that ‘The Lodge‘, which is the oldest dwelling house in the village, is called Bangetts in ancient writings and suggests that it is linked with John Bangot who paid taxes there in 1378 (lay subsidy rolls).

In an exchange of correspondence with Cozens—Hardy just before his death in 1976, he explained that the ancient writings to which he referred was on an old map in his possession (the present location of this map has yet to be established)., Later, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the name Bangay and its variants appear in the Letheringsett parish registers.


The earliest record so far discovered containing the spelling Bange is dated 1395/96 when Augustine Bange, a piscator, appears as a freeman of Norwith (ref.2). In 1496, Robert Bange of Kessyngland, Suffolk left a will (ref.3) while, in 1522, Elen Bange is listed as a resident of Acle, Norfolk (ref.4).


Finally, Simon Banget and Thomas Bangatte, are recorded as residents of Heacham, Norfolk in their wills of 1539 and 1550, respectively (ref.5).


While the origin of the surname Bangay has not yet been established, there is ample evidence to show that it has been associated with Norfolk for at least 400 years and possibly for greater than600 years. It has been suggested in the past that the name may be linked to the parish of Bungay in Suffolk but this now seems less likely. Thus, while phonetic spelling has given several variations to the second syllable of Bangay, the first syllable has remained constant presumably because ‘Ban‘ or ‘Bang’ is phonetically quite distinct, and would not, therefore, be confused with the equally distinctive ‘Bun’ or ‘Bung‘ or Bungay.


Munford, in his book on Norfolk place name derivations (ref.6), suggests for Banham that the prefix is the Anglo Saxon Bann or the Frisian (Holland) Bahne, Bane or Banne, all of which are personal names. Similarly, the prefix of Banningham is stated to be the Anglo Saxon Banningas, a patronymic indicating a filial settlement of the descendants of one, Ban, a renowned leader.

Over the centuries, Norfolk has been subject to much invasion and immigration from the European Continent. Indeed, as pointed out by Blake et al (ref.7), the Domesday Book shows that, at the end of the Saxon period, Norfolk was one of the most denselypopulated counties in England. Further, in the early middle ages, English wool was famous all over Europe and, on several occasions, the Government had thought of encouraging foreign weavers to come to England and teach their superior methods. Eventually, a law in 1337 promised that “all cloth workers of strange lands, of whatever country they be, shall come safely and surely and shall be in the King‘s protection and safe conduct to dwell, choosing where they will;” a few Flemings, at least, chose Norwich. Later, in Tudor times, a fresh wave of immigrants arrived in Norfolk from Holland and the low countries, fleeing Spanish persecution. These people, who were mainly Dutch or French speaking, included highly skilled weavers and cloth makers.


The spellings Bangat, Bangatte and Banget suggest a possible French origin and, accordingly, it was decided to investigate whether any of these forms still exist on the Continent. This was done by simply consulting the collection of Continental telephone directories housed at the Westminster City Council Reference Library. A brief examination of a selection of towns and cities in France, Germany and the Netherlands showed that both Banga and Bange are present in small numbers in numerous places in all three countries. In addition, a single example of Bangayan was observed for Amsterdam while Paris presently has one Banget, and Rhone, a Banhegyi.


The Dutch, Danish and German languages all contain the word “Bange‘ meaning anxious, worried, disquieted, uneasy, etc. During the period leading up to the Reformation, many people, particularly those in mid-European countries, began to question the meaning of religion and words were sometimes adopted as names to show a person‘s thoughts on the matter. It is therefore possible that the word “Bange” was taken as a name to indicate disquiet about religious teachings.


To complete this study, an examination was made of several comprehensive lists of place names, for example, ‘The Times Atlas of the world‘. Surprisingly, places having the name Banga exist in Angola, Chad, India, Philippines and Zaire. The Philippines also has a Bangai, while Banggai, Banguey and Banggi are to be found in Indonesia, East Indies and Malaysia, respectively. The significance of this finding has yet to be investigated, but, it is interesting to note that the birth indexes at the General Register Office dating from about 1966 contain an increasing number of immigrant Indian family registrations having the name Bangay or the variants Banga, Bangai, Bange, Bangee, Bangga or Bangi.





  1. Cozens-Hardy, ‘The History of Letheringsett’, published by Jarrold and Sons Ltd., Norwich, 1957.
  2. L‘Estrange, ‘Calender of Freeman of Norwich from 1317-1603’, published by Elliot Stock, 1888 (copy in the Society of Genealogists Library).
  3. Norfolk Record Society, ‘Index of Wills Proved at Norwich Consistory Court, 1370-1818′.
  4. A. McKinley, ‘Norfolk Surnames in the 16th Century‘, published by Leicester University Press, 1969.
  5. Norfolk Genealogy, ‘Index of wills Proved in Norfolk Archdeaconry Court 1453-1542 (Vol.3) and 1542-1560 (Vol.5)
  6. Munford, ‘An Attempt to Derive the True Derivations of the Names of Towns and Villages and of Rivers and Other Natural Features of Norfolk‘, published by Simken, London, 1870 (copy in the Guildhall Library).
  7. N. Blake, J.Bull, A.R. Cartwright and A. Fitch, ‘The Norfolk we Live in’, published by George Nobbs Publishing, 1958.


Permission sought – used here solely for educational purposes. If wishing to reproduce this matter please seek express consent.

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