The Breach Family's Sussex Origins

A Family History Blog by Alison Vainlo (Breach)

Breach Origins

The Breach Name

Map of Sussex 1646

What's in a Name? 

"Breach, that's unusual, where does it come from?" Was a question often asked when giving my name to strangers. I looked at a variety of sources to answer this question and this is what I found.

Families with the name Breach have their origins in the southern counties of England, primarily Sussex and Kent although the first recorded use of the name was in Shropshire where they held a family seat at Breche as Lords of the Manor and may pre-date the Norman Conquest of 1066. 

The first written record came in 1245 when Robert le Brechere was recorded during the reign of King Henry II.

Today the Breach name is still concentrated in the southern most counties with East Sussex having the greatest population. Breaches who have emigrated tend to populate The United States, with Pennsylvania coming out top. Australia, New Zealand and Canada come next respectively.

What does it Mean?

The name Breach is topographical in origin and comes from the pre-seventh century word braec, a derivative of brecan and means 'land broken by the plough’ or ‘he who lives near newly cultivated land’. Variations in spelling have included Bracher, Bratcher, Breacher, Brach, Brech, Britch and Breache.  

Surnames in general came to be used from the thirteenth century in the British Isles when governments brought in personal taxation. Surnames were first used by nobility and wealthy landowners, this then filtered down to merchants and the working classes. By 1450 most people had a fixed, hereditary surname; these names have come down to us in various ways but they have four main origins, occupational, topographical, patronymic (father’s name) and characteristic e.g. Little - for a short person.

Topographical surnames are among the earliest to be created as features in the landscape provided easily recognisable terms for identifying people in the small medieval communities. Examples include the name Hill, for someone who lived on a hill, Wood, for someone who lived or worked in a wood.

The surname Breach seems highly appropriate for us as most of the ancestors I have found seem to have claimed a living from agricultural work of some sort or another.

Alison Vainlo 2018


  1. Hello my name is Lorraine Camp and I'm now following your blog as my Great Grandfather was Frederick Breach who was married to Miriam Cheal. Frederick Breach's father was David Breach who was married to Elizabeth Fairhall and Miriam's father was Edward Cheal married to Eleanor Cheal. I have over the years done some research into family history and recently came across your blog which has been a real surprise as it has filled in lots of gaps for the Breach and Cheal family history.

    1. Hi Lorraine, thank you for getting in touch and I am interested to hear how you are related to my family. One thing I must correct you on though, Frederick Breach was the son of Richard Breach and Mary Cheal (David Breach's parents), not as you have it here. If you wish to discuss further I am adding a contact box to this blog so we can exchange email addresses privately. Many thanks again. Alison

  2. Hi Lorraine. I am related to the Wiltshire Breaches. My husbands family came to New Zealand in 1855 and settled in North Canterbury (Rangiora) outside of Christchurch in New Zealand. I note that a lot of the other Breach names follow through most branches of Breach, including ours and the Sussex (south England) branch. I'm keen to find out the connection between these different Breaches.


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