The Meaning of DARTNALL

The name Dartnall is believed to have originated in Derkinghole, near Leigh, Penshurst, Kent.

According to the publication A Dictionary of British Surnames,

"Dartnall-Dartnell-Durtnall-Durtnell-Dutnall-Darknell, (is) a West Kent and Sussex name found as deDurkinghole in 1240 from a lost place in Penshurst, now perhaps Doubleton's Farm”.[1]

This is a view in the vicinity of Doubleton’s Farm taken in 1999.

However, more recent research[2] reveals that the lost settlement of deDurkinghole may actually have been located a few miles further north of Doubleton's Farm, at Little Moorden in the Parish of Leigh, near Chiddingstone Causeway. This link to Leigh is also noted in the The Origin of English Surnames, thus:

“In and around Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells, and at Bromley and Bexhill-on-Sea, live a number of families named Durtnall, Durtnell and Dartnall. The surname, also found occasionally as Darknell and Dutnall, has been noted from 1240 and derives from a lost place, ‘Durkinghole’, in Leigh”.[3]

The most detailed work on the Dartnall family that I have come across is contained in Lt.-Col. C.S. Durtnell’s book “From an Acorn to an Oak Tree – A Study in Continuity”[4]. A copy of his book, and collection of working papers relating to it, is held in the archives of the Centre for Kentish Studies at Maidstone, Kent. The book is no longer in publication but if you wish to read more about the Dartnall family and its origins a copy can be viewed at the Centre for Kentish Studies.

Lt.-Col. Durtnell notes that:

"the family ERKINHOLD, d’ERKINHOLD, DERKINGHALL, de DARKINGHOLE, DARKNALL, DARTNALL, DURTNELL and some other 30 other variations of the name … has remained for over 800 years in the SEVENOAKS locality of WEST KENT and we have an unbroken history since 1180. In addition, ERKINHOLD records, very disjointed of course, may be traced back a further 500 years to the year 658.”


Geographical Movement of the Family in Kent 1200-1946 A.D.

Lt.-Col. C.S. Durtnell’s book contains a very useful chart indicating the gradual dispersion of the family within Kent since 1200 A.D. For copyright reasons, I cannot show it here. However, the pattern revealed is an initial dispersion between 1200-1400 A.D. in Chiddingstone, Leigh, Otford and Penshurst. This extended to Brasted, Staplehurst, Sevenoaks, Westerham and the neighbouring County of Sussex from 1400-1600 A.D. then to Edenbridge, Hadlow, Keston, Tonbridge and Tudley by the 18th Century.

The line of the family that can be traced to Brasted, including Lt.-Col. C.S. Durtnell, has the distinction of being included in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest builders in England. The company, known as R. Durtnell & Sons, has been in business as country builders in Brasted for an unbroken period of more than 400 years since 1591. It has achieved a reputation for quality craftsmanship and has carried out work at a variety of prestigious locations, such as Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, the Mayfair Hotel, the Royal Albert Hall, the Queen's House at Greenwich and the Tower of London.

I am able to trace my own Dartnall/Dartnell/Durtnal/Durtnell family ties back by direct descent to Edenbridge in the 1700s. My "earliest" relative was James Durtnall who was baptised 15 June 1788 at Edenbridge.

James was a wheelwright. He married Mary Rivers 13 May 1820 at Horton Kirby by Banns.

James, stylised as "James Dutnall", died from smallpox 8 May 1838 at Beesfield, Farningham. His age at death was recorded as 48 though he was actually 50 years old based on his baptism date. His wife Mary was present at death.

James and Mary had three children.

i. Mary Jane Dutnall was baptised 15 August 1822 at Eynsford.
ii. Thomas Dartnell was baptised 23 January 1824 at Eynsford; died 13 February 1902 at 11 St. John's Terrace, Sutton-at-Hone.
iii. Elizabeth Dartnall was baptised 9 November 1827 at Eynsford. She married George Walklin 27 February 1864 in Horton Kirby Parish Church, son of Richard Walklin and Sarah. He was baptised 25 September 1842 at Farningham.

I am the 6th generation descended from James Dartnall, through the line of his son Thomas Dartnell.


The earliest evidence of a family Coats-of-Arms is to be found embedded in the floor of Penshurst Church and dates back to the 15th Century.

Coats-of-Arms were awarded to the Darknall family in 1496 and the Durtnell family in 1946.

Dartnall Research Group

If you would like to do more research into the Dartnall family name and all its variants, there is now a research group established on Yahoo! Groups. Membership is free but restricted to those with genuine research interests. Contact me at for further details.

[1] A Dictionary of British Surnames, published in 1976.  Author P.H. Reaney.

[2]Durtnall of Kent – A Family History”, study in progress by M.J. Durtnell..

[3] The Origin of English Surnames, page 322. Author P.H. Reaney.

[4]From an Acorn to an Oak Tree – A Study in Continuity”, published by Hooker Bros. of Westerham, Kent in 1975.  Author Lt-Col. C.S. Durtnell O.B.E.


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