Recorded in many spellings including Shelbourn, Shelborne, Shelbourne, Shelburne, Shelburn, and Shilburn, and the titled name of the earls of Shelburne, although the family name is Petty, this is an English surname. It is however one which in many ways is better known in Ireland, through the world famous 'Shelbourne Hotel', in the centre of Dublin, named after the earls of Shelburne. The name is clearly locational and originates from some place of a similar spelling, except that no such place exists. Clearly it once did, and probably in the county of Hampshire, since that is where the Petty family originated. The name probably derives from the pre 7th century Olde English words 'sceld-burna', or the shelter by the stream or water, or perhaps the similar word 'scylf' meaning a hillside. 'Lost' medieval villages are a feature of the surnames listings of the British Isles. It is estimated that no less than three thousand locational surnames do originate from now totally 'lost' places, of which the only public reminder in the late 20th century is the surname itself. Examples of the surname recording taken from early surviving church registers of the city of London where the name is widely recorded include Saray Shelbourne who was christened at St Stephans church, Coleman Street on September 20th 1550, and Elizabeth Shelburne, who was christened at St Sepulchre church, on March 11th 1676.
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