Origin of the Name Burlington


From: Burlington - Part of a Greater Chronicle, by John E. Fogelberg

Why the people in Woburn's Second Parish, when they did finally succeed in separating themselves from the Town of Woburn, chose to call their new corporate entity by the name of Burlington is a mystery. The logical name would have been the Indian "Shawshin" since this area was referred to by that name long before 1799. The Reverend John Marrett must have made some comment about it in his diary or his correspondence, but if he did it was destroyed with the parsonage in which he lived when that building burned down in 1897. Why the origin of the name Burlington was never brought up for serious discussion until lately also is a mystery. Certainly something should have been said about it at the time Burlington designed its Town Seal in 1899. But there is no mention of it then. However the parsonage in which Marrett had lived became the central motif on that seal.

Since Burlington had become the focus of attention in the late 50's and early 60's because of its phenomenal growth, an Alice Burke wrote two articles for the Boston Traveler in September of 1966 in which she specu­ lated upon the origin of the name Burlington. Her work shows evidence of considerable research for she proposed three possibilities, all of which are plausible: that the town was named for some place in the British Isles from which either the first settlers or the first minister came; that the town was named for some nobleman of prominence; or that the town was named to commemorate the first important naval victory of the Revolu­tion, which event occurred off Flamborough Head in Bridlington Bay on the east coast of England in September of 1779.

The name Burlington?? There is no city, town or hamlet in the British Isles named Burlington. But there is a town called Bridlington which for a certainty during the time of Charles I was known as Burlington. John W. Lamb, Canon of Bridlington Priory Church writes the following in his Guidebook:

Much discussion has arisen from time to time concerning the derivation of the name Bridlington. Some think that it is derived from the Norse "ber-linger", which means smooth water, thus referring to the calm sea in the Bay. Others think the name is derived from "bridling town", the place where riders, on their journey along the coast, would renew or have re­paired the bridles and harness of their horses. Whatever may have been its origin we know that it is called Bretlington in Domesday Book. In the Foundation Charter of the Priory it is given as Bredlington; in the Charter of Henry I it is Brellintona; while in the Bull of Pope Calixtus II it appears as Bridlingtonia. There is sufficient evidence to show that in pre-Reformation days the name Bridlington was chiefly used, but later the form Burlington, often contracted to Burliton, was used along with the name Bridlington. To this day, however, some old inhabitants, expecially in the Old Town, delight to use the name Burlington.

However, as of this writing (note: 1976), nothing definite has been found to actually tie this town's name of Burlington to that of Bridlington, England.