Recorded in several forms including Barrar, Barrer, Barrere, Barrier, and Barror, this is an English medieval surname, but one of Norman French origins. Probably introduced at or shortly after the famous Conquest of 1066 by Duke William of Normandy, it derives from the pre 7th century word 'barre' meaning a gate or barrier. The subsequent surname could therefore be either residential for a person who lived at a place called Barr or Barre such as Barre-en-Ouche in Normandy from which we have the recording of Ricard de Barra of Somerset in the Domesday Book of 1086, or for someone who lived by a gate to a city, as in the recording of Anger de la Barra of Clerkenwell in the city of London, in 1216. Gilbert de Barrier appears in the Pipe Rolls of Sussex in 1210, whilst Gilbert le Barra, a spelling which suggests that the name is occupational for a person who guarded the gate, is recorded in the Curia Regis rolls of Devonshire in 1221. It is said that in East Anglia a 'barr' originally referred to a weir or fish trap, whilst in the city of York, the four gates within the walls of this ancient place are known as 'bars' as in Monkbar, whilst the streets are called 'gates' as in Gillygate, from the Danish word 'geat', meaning a road or way.
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