Hepburn (surname)

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Derivationfrom a placename in Northumberland
Meaning"high place beside the water"

Hepburn is a family name of the Anglo-Scottish border, that is associated with a variety of famous personages, eponyms, places, and things. Although commonly a Scottish name, its origins lie to the south of the border in the north of England. Specifically, the name is thought to have derived from either the town of Hebron in Northumberland or Hebburn in Tyne and Wear. The origins of the name are suggested to be the same as that of Hebborne from the Old English words heah ("high") and byrgen ("burial mound"). Alternatively it could mean something along the lines of "high place beside the water", as the word burn is a still widely used in Northumbrian and Scots for stream.

Next to Chillingham Castle there remains a bastle tower where the family originated. This was the seat of a line of the family until the eighteenth century when that branch died out, having left only a female heir. However, it is as the Earls of Bothwell that the Hepburn family are perhaps best remembered. This branch of the family originated in Lothian when a Hepburn was granted land having saved the Earl of March from a horse that had lost control. This family first became the Lords of Hailes before being granted the Earldom of Bothwell.

There were also Hepburns of Waughton, thought by some to have branched off from the Hailes line, thought by others to predate it. Another line was the Hepburns of Beanston, and yet another was the Hepburns of Athelstaneford. All of these families were prominent in various ways at various junctures of Scottish history, but all were primarily located around the East Lothian area.

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