Recorded as Bur, Bure, Bura, Bower, and the compounds Borebank, Bourbank, Burbank and Bowerbank, this most interesting surname has two possible origins. However spelt it is English, and is generally residential, deriving from the pre 7th century word "bur", meaning a cottage or an inner room in a castle or mansion, and hence a person who lived at such a place. Secondly in the case of Bowerbank and Burbank, it is locational from some now apparently 'lost' medieval hamlet(s) or even single large buildings and presumably a large cottage or house on a bank, which if they ever were, are no longer recorded in the known gazetters of the British Isles. This is not in itself unusual. It is known that at least three thousand former settlements and even small towns have completely disappeared from thre British Isles over the past five centuries, the survival of the surname often in various spellings, being today the only public reminder of its former existence. There are still a number of places called Bower, but we have not been able to identify any which were previously Bowerbank or Burbank. Early examples of the surname recordings include Matthew de Labur of Surrey, in 1194, Robert del Bower of Staffordshire, in 1332, and in the city of London Robert Borebank, at St Botolophs Bishopgate on February 16th 1617, and Catherine Bowerbank, who married Cotton Dent at St Pauls church, Covent Garden, on New Years Day, 1738. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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