Battle in East Sussex Town Guide

Veness / Venis Family

It is a bit odd for messages on the Battle message board to not appreciate that to look for the origin of the Venis, Venus, Veness etc family name, all you need to do is look at the list of the “Compagnons” of William the Conqueror listed in the roll of compagnons held at Battle Abbey, just by the entrance?

The name listed in this document records the family name as Venois, (derived from the place Venoix, which today is a suburb of Caen).

If you visit the church at Dives-sur-Mer, where the Norman knights gathered before departing, you will see the names listed on the wall of the church including ‘Venois’.

The reason there are so many of the family name Veness in Sussex, Kent, Hampshire is that that is where the land originally granted to the family was. In the Domesday Book all the Veness family land was recorded under the family title at the Norman Court, Le Mareshal, The Marshall. People don’t move around very much over the centuries. When the Duchess of Cleveland visited Battle Abbey in the 1880s, she remarked on the fact that in the fields around Battle Abbey, there were Veness family members labouring in the fields! (Ie where once the family had owned the land). She wrote the definitive book on Norman surnames published in 1889 under the title ‘The Battle Abbey Roll’.

Robert de Hastings was appointed as the first Port Reeve of Hastings after the battle in 1066, and changed his name from Robert de Venoix in the process. But he had 3 brothers who carried on the de Venoix name.

2 responses to “Veness / Venis Family”

  1.  avatar

    I still can’t reconcile the two theories of the Venis/Vennes/Venus families of Sussex, being descended from Geoffrey De Venoix from the time of the Norman Invasion and the 3 Hugenot De Venoix brothers who are supoosed to have landed in Rye in 1586(ish). I believe Geoffrey became custodian of Pembroke Castle and was known as “The Mareshal” and whose descendants, as they dispersed throughout the country, seemed to become the Marshall family.
    If those working the fields in the 1880’s were descended from the 11th Century De Venoix’s has anyone managed to fill in the missing 500 years ???
    I can trace a direct line back to Nicholas De Venoix (one of the Hugenot brothers) but nothing beyond him. Suggesting that the story of them being one of the first “Channel Boat People” may be true. In which case, there is no proof that their name in France, was actually De Venoix. That could have been a given name by the Rye authorities when the brothers explained from whence they had come.
    Can someone please clear up my confusion ????

  2.  avatar

    I started tracing my family history of Veness when I was young. The records of Pedigree charts and the legal papers were to be handed to me by my mother from Australia, particularly concerning my grandmother, Elsie Maud Bird. Her maiden name was Veness. However, the families came from Sussex in the tiny hamlet village of Brightling down to the descendants to spread to remote the farming community in Manilla in part of the west of New South Wales, Australia.

    The earliest existence of Veness appears to have originated as VENIE. Nichol VENIE, Frenchman, later called VENIS, lived in Brightling, East Sussex, in the late 16th century. Veness was spelt with variations in the name in two stages, firstly Van Esse – Vanesse, originally from Flemish, and others surnames with different variations – Venes, Veness, Venis, Venise, Venus from Venoix: (Calvados) – Anglo-Norman Families. Most of Veness’s surnames came from Normandy itself.

    The surname is spelt in various ways today: Veness, Venes, Venis, Venus, Venice, and Venness. In the earliest document, the spelling was variable from the parish clerk and administrator process. Still, numerous variants were recorded in the legal papers and baptism, where the surname pronoun can be changed due to the different dialects. It is difficult to see where the family originated from, but one interpretation of the meaning of the surname is from “de Venoix” in Normandy. The pronunciation also varies from Venice sounding like the city (usual spelling VENIS) to Venus like the goddess (conventional spelling VENESS).

    According to references, the old versions of “VENIS” were initially from VENOIX in Normandy, France. The name comes and probably derives from VENOIX (Calvados), France. The meaning and origin of the place name are uncertain but may be connected with the French “Vent”, meaning wind and hence “the windy place”, or similar.

    The Genealogy of the Veness families, although the surname was not widely common around England and most can be traced significantly in the South of England, particularly in Sussex, into two main categories, one from East (Brightling) and another in West Sussex. (in the 1570s & 1580s in Wisborough Green and Kirdford). The earliest Veness/variant appeared in the Parish Registers in West Sussex – Wisborough – Robert Venice’s children baptised in 1578 to 1584, all spelt under VENICE. Also, another earliest in Parish of Kirdford, West Sussex – Thomas Venyss/Venys (Venice) appeared in County Corner on March 22nd 1577. He married Joane Jackman on May 16th 1585 and had two issues, all spelt under the name of VENICE

    The population of England in 1540 was only two and a half million. The villages were, therefore, tiny; there are two possibilities for family connections in Sussex (East and West).

    The name VENIS appears to have come originally from France; many people claim that their ancestors fought their way here with William the Conqueror, but we know our common ancestor came here around the 1570s.

    NICHOL VENIE was born in Normandy, France in c1560. He came to Brightling, East Sussex, in the 1570s. In the 16th and 17th centuries, there were various VENIS families across Sussex, but my ancestor appears to have originated as VENIE. Nichol VENIE, Frenchman, later called VENIS, lived in Brightling in the late 16th century. He likely had ten unconfirmed children; five appeared in the Brightling Christening. The name of Villeine is French, but in England, in those days, it was a status (villain) – a lowly one, and Nicholas would have been a villain. The spelling Venis, of course, and Nicke was cross-referenced with the name of Villeine. Villein (pronounced “vill-ain”) was the term used in the feudal era to denote a peasant (tenant farmer) who was legally tied to the land he worked on. An alternative term is serf (from Latin servus = “slave”). A villein could not leave the land without the landowner’s consent. Villeins thus occupied the social space between a free peasant (or “freeman”) and a slave. The majority of medieval European peasants were villeins. Nicholas was buried on June 17th 1628, at Brightling under the Frenchman’s name from the register, his wife Anne Villeine, alias Nicke; the widow was buried on December 22nd 1636, at Brightling.

    The evidence shows that Veness, with three brothers – Robert and Thomas- went to West Sussex (Wisborough Green & Kirdford) and Nichol to Brightling, East Sussex, after landing at Rye, East Sussex Harbour by rowing boat. The interpretation was down in many generations of the Veness families. (Extract from Horace Victor Veness b 1887 at Ickesham, Sussex – d 1949 at Bridge, Kent). Interestingly, it causes families to misunderstand the interpretation of details passed down through the generations. It appeared my forebears came from France as a show from the register of Brightling in Christening and Burial entries. Here is the original of Horace Veness’s letter –

    MORCAMBE W.E. August 4th, 1946.
    Mrs. Harvey,

    Dear Madam,

    Thank you for yours of July 23rd. I am always interested to hear from anyone that belongs to the family. I think we are related, although very distant. After reading your letter, it seems that your Grandfather and my Grandfather were brothers. My Grandfather Veness farmed the Crutches Farm for Kenward of Icklersham, and I think there were several brothers round about Sussex.
    My Father once told me he had never met the name outside the family it could always be traced back. Do you know the family started in England somewhere about 1600. 3 Brothers landed at Rye Harbour from Holland. The name was then VAN-NESS, but it seems to have been abbreviated later to VE’NESS. One brother went to Northiam, and one on the South Downs, near Lewes. Another Pevensey, or that district. Our family comes from Northiam, and is in the Church Registrar, there are dates over many years. My Father and Mother lived at Winchelsea. And both are buried in Winchelsea Churchyard. My son is a Dispenser in the Sick Bay RN and one-day an A.B. reported for treatment. My Son asked the name. he gave it as Veness. then he asked him if he knew Hastings, and he said yes its my home. then he gave his Fathers name, and my Son made a note of it, and it was one of my cousins sons. so you see. the name & family can still be connected. Yes, as you say the town has suffered, but it is still the Hastings we knew. I shall be pleased to see you anytime you are this way, but I do not think I shall stay here after this season. All my people have lived in Kent and Sussex, and I should hate the idea of ending my days here. I hope to go to Hastings soon my sister lives at Markwick Terrace St. Leonards. Have you seen the book? Hastings in the Front line. If not, I will send it to you/

    Yours sincerely,

    (a book extract of the Veness Family History by Robin John Herdman).

What’s new?

Stephen Mason – Silk Painting
Stephen Mason - Silk Painting

I offer Silk painting sessions over two or three days at my studio and C17 home in Battle. No previous … more

Listed in: Art Courses

Message Board

Abbey Green Info

Hi, is there a contact available with regards to putting on an event on the abbey green?

Ethel Sams the Stonehouse 1937 – Any info?

Hello – I’m looking for any information about my father’s mother – Ethel Sams. She lived at the Stone House … more

Explore Battle ...