The Old Buckenham Chilvers


The CHILVERS are an old English family with roots very much in the Norfolk and Suffolk farming communities, although there are now CHILVERS all over the UK, Australasia, USA, South Africa and Canada, in a wide variety of occupations.

The name itself is Mercian Old English. Derived from a first name, in the same way that PETERS comes from Peter's, PHILLIPS comes from Phillip's and JONES comes from John's, CHILVERS means belonging to or son of Chilver, Chilver being a first name. Chilver was originally written as Céolfriþ from the two words "céol" meaning a ship (cf Modern English "keel"), and "friþ" meaning peace. The ship of peace - Anglo-Saxon settlers who wanted to make a living from the rich soil of Britain rather than raid, plunder and sail back on the next tide to the north German coast. The last letter, þ, is called "Thorn" by the way, and the whole thing was pronounced as "Chale-vrith", to rhyme with "Male kith", ie exactly who we're looking for. This end Thorn obviously got lost over the years, the name becoming CéOLFR, and then CHELVER, CHILVER etc.

Digressing completely, Thorn was in fact used in the Old English word for "the" - þe. This was pronounced exactly as it is now, but because of the similarity with the letter "y", some typographers wrote the word as "ye". This has now become, in the popular mind the way that "the" was pronounced, and so we get "Ye Olde Tea Shoppe" etc. It never was "ye" - just simple þe.

But back to the subject. Céolfriþ is the Teutonic version of the name "Geoffrey", and the most famous Céolfriþ was a saint by that name born to a noble family around 642, who became abbot of the monastery in Jarrow in Northumberland in the 7th century where he trained the Venerable Bede. He visited East Anglia in 670 AD when he went to see Botwulf (Botulph) in Suffolk. Well travelled, Céolfriþ also made a number of trips to Rome, and according to Bede wrote a long letter to Nechtan, King of the Picts, detailing when Easter fell. To say that it is a rather laborious and boring letter would be something of an understatement. Being a man of the cloth, and presumably celibate, it is most probable that this Céolfriþ is not our forebear, but it would seem that this was not an uncommon name in Anglo-Saxon times. He died in France in 716 on his final journey hoping to end his days in Rome.

In fact this cannot be our Céolfriþ as he lived about 500 years too early. Surnames only became commonplace, particularly for the, how can I put it, lower echelons of society much later, certainly after the DomesdayBook was compiled. Although the forename Céolfriþ was in use from earliest Anglo-Saxon times, the surname "son of Céolfriþ" probably dates from the 12th or 13th century. That is when our Céolfriþ lived.

You will come across many variations of the name, particularly going back from the mid-19th century, when spelling wasn't treated as being important (look how many ways Shakespeare spelt his name!), and you will find CHILVERS, CHILVER, CHILVES, CHILVAS, CHELVER, CHYLVER, CHILVERT and so forth. The only thing you mustn't get confused with is CHIVERS and its derivatives like CHEEVERS - a completely different name, from the French word "chèvre" meaning a goat. Norman, I'm afraid, and not one of us, as Mrs Thatcher would say.

An Anglo-saxon dwelling such as Céolfriþ
may have lived in

It's fair to assume that the eponymous Chilver, like later generations, was a farmer, and Chilver's family settled into a rural life in the area which was named after his race - East Anglia. He was an Angle, one of the North Folk or South Folk, names which later described the places where they lived:- Norfolk and Suffolk. Very different of course to the East Saxons who settled further south giving their name to Essex. It's pleasing to reflect that no fluffy dice dangled from the bow of the ship of peace :-)

Before the Romans arrived East Anglia had been the territory of the Iceni - the tribe of Boudicca (Boadicaea to us brought up in the Fifties and Sixties) who rebelled unsuccessfully against Roman rule. It is said that Boudicca herself is buried at Quidenham.

We know that the Anglo-Saxon settlers arrived as the Romans left in the mid fifth century AD, and by 597 St Augustine had brought Christianity to a recognised and reasonably stable country. If you are a CHILVERS, or of CHILVERS roots, you can justifiably deride and upbraid anyone who says their family came over with the Normans (like those CHIVERS mentioned above). They are usurpers of OUR land - land which we took fair and square from those wimpy Romano-Brits!! After all, the whole country is called Angle-land.

The ultimate fount of knowledge of the history of the CHILVERS' is Richard CHILVERS whose website must be visited by anyone with an interest in the family - [click here to go there now - opens in a new window].

According to Richard's research the earliest known date for the record of a CHILVER(S) is the marriage on the 28th of November 1555 of Margret CHILVER (sic) to William CARMAN in Diss in Norfolk.

Diss Church - where in 1555 Margret Chilver, the oldest
known Chilver(s) married William Carman

However we now have the will of an Elys (?Elias) CHYLVER dated 15 December 1558 which says:

“In no(min)ie dei amen.The 15th daye of december in the yeare of our Lord god a thowsand five hundered fyftie and 8te

I Elys Chylver of Thrandeston in the countie of Suff being p(er)fecte of mynde & goode remembrance make this my last Wyll & Testament in man(n)er and forme folowing

Fyrst I bequeth my sowle to god Almightie & to our Ladie s(an)cte marie & to all the holye companie of Heaven(n) And my bodie to be buryed w(i)thin the churchyard of Thrandeston Aforesaid

It(e)m I wyll that Alyce my wyef & Henrie my son(ne) together shall have and occupie all that my ten(emen)te(s) w(i)thin the Towne of Thrandeston w(i)th all the lande both fre and copie therunto belonging lyeng & being in Thrandeston Palgrave & Stuston during the terme Of the naturall lyfe of the sayde Alyce my Wyef I will it shall Remayne to wyll(ia)m Chylver my sonne

Item I constitute make & ordeyne myne Executors Thomas Chilver Wyll(ia)m Chylver Rob(er)te Chylver Henerie Chylver & Alexander Chylver my sonnes

These being wytnesse Edward Vestour John Whayte Thom(a)s Reve Clerke w(i)th other.”

The first part of Elys CHYLVER's will

Although dated after Margaret’s wedding, the fact that Elys has sons means that he was almost certainly born before Margaret, and therefore becomes the oldest recorded CHILVER(S). Thrandeston, Palgrave and Stuston lie just across the border in Suffolk just outside Diss, so we are still looking at very much the same part of the country.

Just 10 miles to the north west of Diss lies the village of Old Buckenham. In the 19th century there was a family of CHILVERS living there - my ancestors, and hence these pages. I've put together what I know about the Old Buckenham CHILVERS, and some odds and ends about CHILVERS in the neighbouring villages. I've used as a reference point 1851, a census year for which we have a lot of information - it's as good a place as any, and gives at least one fixed reference point for our study. Maybe these pages will help you on YOUR quest - maybe you hold the missing pieces to our jigsaw. Whatever the case - enjoy!


You can now have the contents of this website and more besides in book form!!!

At only £ 6.99 for a paperback version or £ 13.49 for a hardcover edition you can be the proud owner of "The Chilvers Family of Old Buckenham" - now in its Second Edition. Even better - you can download it for free. These prices represent the cost of production - I'm not making anything from this - I just want you to enjoy.

Read in 240 pages with illustrations about the effect Adolf Hitler had on a group of Chilvers' homes, read about Samuel from Long Stratton who found out the hard way that smuggling wasn't a good idea, read about the connection with the victor of the Battle of Waterloo.



  • Old Buckenham and the surrounding area
  • Samuel and Thyrza
  • Their children
  • CHILVERS in New Buckenham
  • The Carleton Rode/Bunwell CHILVERS
  • The Pulham St Mary CHILVERS
  • The Tottington CHILVERS
  • Surrounding CHILVERS families
  • Relevant Registration Districts
  • The CHILVERS DNA project
  • Origins - back into the earliest times
  • Links to other relevant sites

    My apologies, by the way, if you like flashy graphics, whizzy Java applets, animated GIFs, frames and other such Internet gimmicks - you won't find them here. I've designed this site so it can be read by anyone interested no matter what spec machine they have, be it top-range PC, my old favourite Amiga or gas-driven 286. I've also not used any Web Design package but I've written all the HTML coding myself using Notepad. We CHILVERS can be quite obstinate.

    If you have any information or comments, or you just want to say Hello, then please e-mail me, George CHILVERS, at

    Page last updated 30 June 2007