Origin of the surname Hunnisett

The name Hunnisett, and its other forms, was unknown in England before the 16th century. Several of the earliest Hunnisetts in England are known to have been ironworkers from France who settled in Sussex. Prior to this time the name was found near Namur in the Low Countries (now Belgium), where again the name was associated with the iron industry.

The name is beleived to be of Walloon origin and to have derived originally from the name Johannes (John in English). Hanosse, which is probably a familiar form of Johannes (like Betty is of Elizabeth), is found in French iron forge records from the latter part of the 14th century and was used as both a forename and a surname. In the 15th century we find the surname Hanozet which is almost certainly a diminutive form of Hanosse (like Littlejohn, Johnson or Jackson). All these names were used by ironworkers near Ermeton suggesting that the name evolved in successive generations of the same family.

At the beginning of the 16th century the name crossed the channel and began to appear in English records. Although the French name would have posed a few problems for the English scribes, which must partly account for the numerous variations of the name to be found in the earlier English records, many of the very early spellings are remarkably close to the French Hanozet, which still exists in Belgium and parts of France. Major variations in the early English records were Henesye and Honison. Some of the early variations may have been influenced by the fact that in France the ‘H’ and final ‘t’ would usually have been silent.

The first settlers lived in Sussex, the centre of the iron industry at the time, and this is still the area with the highest concentration of Hunnisetts today. In the 17th century the name spread into Kent and then in the 18th century to London. The 19th century saw much more travel with the name appearing further afield including abroad, especially Australia and the United States. The 20th century saw even more spread, with the name now appearing all over the world.

The most common forms of the name today are Honeysett and Hunnisett. Other significant variants include Honneysett, Hunneysett, Honisett and Honnisett.

The name should certainly not be confused with the modern surnames Hunnicutt or Hennessey which have quite different origins.