According to a surname guide published by the magazine Your Family Tree, the name Grenfell is a varient of Granville, together with Grenfield, Grenville, Grenvill and Greynville. Granville is a locative surname derived from Grainville-la-Teinturiere in Northern France and the earliest references in England include Gerard de Grenvill in 1161 in Berkshire, Eustice de Greinuill in 1197 in Essex and William de Grenefell, a Freeman of York in 1363. It is probable that the first men from Grainville arrived in Britain during the latter part of the 11th century.
The One-name Study with which this website is associated concentrates on the branch of the family originating from St Just in Penwith in the far west of Cornwall. How the family arrived at St Just is a matter of speculation but some historians, notably the late Dr AL Rowse, believe that the family were descended from the Grenville family, who owned the Manors of Stowe and Penheale in Cornwall. At least two Grenfell families have since changed their surname to back Granville, and this name together with Grenville appears several times as a forename. In the 1881 census returns for England, Scotland and Wales the name of Grenfell appears 499 times and Granville 431.
There is no reference in the Subsidy Rolls of St Just between 1509-1523 of the name Grenfell or anything like it, however in 1588 Easter Book of the parish, amongst the residents of Truthwell there is a Marga (widow), John Grainfield and Martin Glandfield. Prior to this, in 1583, there is said to have been a Deed in which John Nance of Illogan conveyed to Bastian Williams, Margerye Glandfelde and John Glandfelde a tenement at Truthwell. Some have believed that Margerye was indeed Margery Trengove, a cousin of John Nance, who married into the Grenville family. In the pedigree of the Grenville family in Vivian's Visitation of the Heralds of 1620, Marga Trengove was shown to be married to George Grenville of Penheale. However the pedigree of the Trengrove family says that Margaret Trengrove married Giles Grenville, from another branch of the family. Recently, John Tanner (see below) has discovered that the original Foot of Fine quoted as a source confirms that it was Giles, not George that Margaret married. Both branches, however, are descended from Sir Thomas Grenville (1460-1513) of Stowe.
The book 'A Statistical Account of St Just in Penwith' by Revd. John Buller was published in 1842. In it is the statement attributed to Dr Borlase "the Manor at Kalinack in the last generation........ belonged to Grenville of Stow, Earl of Bath; and by remains of a like name common in the parish, written Grinfield, Grenfield, and Grenfell, in the parish register, it is probable that a branch of the family settled in the parish". However this statement was subsequently refuted by Canon Thomas Taylor MA, in an article 'The Genesis of a Myth' published in the magazine 'The Ancestor' in 1902. Revd. Taylor who was the Rector of St Just and a noted genealogist and local historian stated that there was no evidence to show that the Grenville family from Stowe were ever Lords of Kalineck Manor.
For a recent view, we are indebted to John Tanner of Berkshire, England who has researched the available pre-1700 records of the Grenfell family in all parishes west of Lelant. These early records cover Parish Registers and Bishop's Transcripts for baptisms, marriages and burials for St Just in Penwith and St Ives, Zennor, Paul, Madron and St Erth. Also included are Protestation Returns, Subsidies and Wills and relevant correspondence. In addition he has examined documents pertaining to the Penheale branch of the Grenville family. John's extensive and detailed research which he entitles 'Early West Cornwall Grenfells - tentative analysis' has led him to deduce, from incomplete evidence, but with reasonable probability, that the earliest generation of Grenfells living at St Just were the children of Richard Grenville, son of Degory Grenville of Penheale, also descended from Sir Thomas Grenville of Stowe. And back to whom both the St Just and St Ives Grenfells can be traced. For more details of John's research he can be contacted at:
Whatever the route by which Grenville family came to St Just in Penwith and became Grenfells, the Coat of Arms of the present family carries the blazon 'Gu. on a fess between 3 organ restes or, a mural crown of the field' - 3 gold organ rests (or clarions) on a red background with a centre crown. Except for the crown this is the same as that of the Grenville family, and also that of the Duke of Corbeil in Normandy - a title that was granted to John Grenville of Stowe, Earl of Bath.
Of the surviving records, the earliest baptism in St Just is that in 1632 of Ann daughter of Hercules Grenfield, who married Jane Busvargus in 1631. The earliest marriage was in 1611 between John Martin and Mary Grendfield. The first recorded burial occurred in 1600. The mark of Pascoe, son of Hercules, appears on the 1658 Pledge of Allegiance to the Lord Protector. A facsimile copy of the document appears on the website.
John, the grandson of Hercules and Jane married Rachel Tregear in 1681, which in several published pedigrees appear as the parents of Pascoe, baptised in 1692, who married Mary Edwards in 1718 and then Mary Maugham in 1727. From this latter marriage are descended the many eminent public figures of the 19th and 20th centuries. The family tree of some of the Descendants of Hercules is included on the website. Searches to date of the parish records have not revealed any baptisms from the marriage of John and Rachel, neither has the burial of Rachel been discovered. However the research of the Cornish Association of Victoria show a more likely marriage between John Grenfell and Mary Gilbert in 1688 as being the parents of Pascoe and his siblings Mary, Jane and John. Both marriages are included on the Family Trees database on the site.
In addition to the early St Just records mentioned above, the earliest surviving records in other parishes include St Ives where the earliest baptism was that of Joanne daughter of Matthew in 1651, the earliest marriage was of Lewis Scoller and Katherine in 1672 and the burial of Grace daughter of Matthew in 1654. Also the earliest records in Zennor could be 1620, Paul 1614, Madron 1632 and St Erth 1684. Variants of the Grenfell name appear in the 1641 Protestation Returns for St Just, St Ives and Zennor.