The family of Pemberton undoubtedly derive their name from Pemberton in Lancashire. This is described1 as "a populous and extensive township, containing the manufacturing village of Lamberland Green. The Manor before and after the Conquest was one of the berewicks, or members, of the Manor of Newton-in-Makerfield, and is now claimed by the Leghs of Lynne, Haydock, etc., in right of their ancestors. The old 'Pemberton Hall' is now scarcely remembered." Since 1904 Pemberton has been taken into the civil parish of Wigan. The Normans took their names from places, just as the Saxons gave their names to places, and so one of the Norman families came to be known about the twelfth century as "de Pemberton," "de Penberton," or "de Penbreton." As the place-name is antecedent to the family name it seems natural to accept the most obvious derivation - "Pember's tun,"2 or village, but other suggestions have been made. One is that it stands for Pen-berton, i.e. the "berton" or walled-in-farm, or the "pen" or hill-top.3

Another4 would derive it from Pen Celtic for "head" or "hill," beorh or bre, which also mean “hill” and tun or “town,” i.e. “The town at the head of the hill.” – This, however, involves an awkward pleonasm. The last suggestion5 is “Pin-bearu-tun” or “the pinegrove farmstead.”

It is not known when the family first received the grant of a Coat-of-Arms, but we find arms assigned to them in various Harleian MSS., and the fact that Sir William Pemberton6 (d. 1293) was knighted points to an early grant.

The arms of Pemberton of Pemberton are generally given7 as “Arg., 3 buckets sa., hooped (and handled) or,” and the same is the case when quartered with Fazakerley (1523).8

Another MS. inserts a chevron sa.9 on the Arms of Sir James Pemberton, Lord Mayor of London, who came from Eccleston, Lancs., and the same is the case with “Pemberton of Dunstead.”10

When quartered with Molyneux (1520) the Arms are always given with the chevron, which is two MSS. is sable11 and in two vert12. Most modern branches retain the chevron.

Then we come to a difficult case. Above the Pedigree of the Northants. family (which begins with William Pemberton, of Somershall, Lancs.), in the visitation of 1619 is given the name of Sir William Pemberton13 (d. 1293) with that of his daughter, who married Thomas Molyneux, and in the opposite corner are the following arms: -

1st and 4th quarters: Arg. a chev. sa. between 3 buckets, hooped and handled or; 2nd and 3rd quarters: Arg. 3 heads (griffins’ or wyverns’) erect, sa.

It seems most likely, but not certain, that these are the arms of William of Somershall,14 but the combination is interesting as they recur, not only in the Northants. family,15 but also in those of William, Parson of Ongar,16 and one branch of the Birmingham family,17 while the Durham branch18 has retained the 3 heads and dropped the buckets, and one similar head has remained the crest of most branches.

What we have said disposes of the legend, especially tenacious in the Canadian family, that the buckets were granted as arms to a member of the family, who was a Mayor (generally Lord Mayor of London), for his services in helping extinguish a fire. Sir James Pemberton, the only Pemberton to be Lord Mayor of London,19 certainly bore these arms, but so did members of the family long before he was born.

1. E. O. Baines’ History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster, and Victoria History of Lancashire.
2. Pendburh is an A.S. fem. name ” (Harrison).
3. The late Mr. Henry Pemberton, of Philadelphia, U.S.A.
4. Wyld and Hurst. “Place Names of Lancashire.”
5. Henry Harrison. “Place Names of Liverpool District,” and “Surnames of the U.K.”
6. Chart 1, No. 10.
7. Harl. MSS. 1158, fo. 17 (Arms and Ped. of Lancs. families), 1987, fo. 145; (R. Holme’s, Lancs. Ped.), 6,159, fo. 64 (Visitation of 1567); 1234, fo. 15b (Visitation of 1595); and 1,468, fo. 105 (Visitation, 1664).
8. Harl. MS. 1152, fo. 7b (Lancs. Ped.), and 1987, fo. 68 (R. Holme’s Lancs. Ped.)
9. Do. 2039, to. 222b (E. Holmes, Cheshire Coll.). See Chart 34.
10. Do. 1987, fo. 145. where the lower bucket is larger than the upper two.
11. Harl. MS. 1987, fo. 3b (R. Holme's Lancs. Ped., under Molyneux), and 6,159, fo. 55.
12. Do. 1,158, fo. 56 (Ped. and Arms of Lancs. Fam.), and 2,086, fo. 84b (Visitation of 1567).
13. Chart 1, No. 10. Harl. MS. 1,553, fo. 165.
14. He has not been identified in Lancashire. His son died in 1492, so he may be descended from William III. (Chart 1, No. 17).
15. See Chart 9.
16. Chart 37, No. 6.
17. Chart 22, No. 55.
18. Chart 29.
19. Chart 34.

[Ed. Notes to 2014 Edition:
The foot notes for this Introduction are numbered differently than in the 1923 edition. That Introduction occupied 3 pages whereas this one, being a web edition, occupies only one.
The compiler of these pedigree charts, Major-General Robert Charles Boileau Pemberton, is no. 91 on Chart 13, and his son, the editor, the Rev. Robert Pemberton, is no. 114 on the same chart.]