The Ambler Surname

This is a very interesting medieval English occupational surname. According to Canon Charles Bardsley writing in the year 1880, it describes a groom, one whose specific duty was to teach horses to amble. This was a gait between a walk and a trot where both legs on one side moved together, providing a smooth movement. The word amble derives from the Latin ambulare, meaning to walk, although ambling is rather more than walking. Palfreys, a light saddle horse, were regarded as being particularly suitable for women and elderly people, and were as a matter of course, taught to amble. In the records known as Whitakers Craven for the year 1320 we have the entry in Latin of - Item: pro informatione unius pulli ad amulandum, 11s 6d. This figure would have been a significant sum, the equivalent of several weeks wages. Occupational surnames were amongst the first to be created in about the 12th century. However they did not generally become heriditary unless a son or sometimes a daughter, followed the father, or sometimes the mother, into the same skill or business. In this case the first recording may be that of Thomas le Amblur of York in the Hundred Rolls of landowners in 1273, whilst William Ambler without any preposition appears in the same rolls. This suggests that the first named holder may have the name as a nickname. Ambler and Palfreyman are both particularly popular surnames in the county Yorkshire.This bears out the theory that the Amblers came originally from Yorkshire.


There seem to have been few Amblers in Preston, Lancashire, prior to 1800.  Lancashire BMD shows the birth of Ellen Ambler 1847 in Preston and gives mother's maiden name as SMITH.  Lancashire BMD shows the marriage in 1845 of Edward Ambler and Margaret Smith at St. John, Preston. This would seem to be the right one, although the first name is Margaret rather than Grace.

It looks as if Edward Ambler was married twice. The mother’s maiden name on daughter Ellen’s birth in 1847 was Smith, and this matches up with the 1845 marriage of Edward Ambler and Margaret Smith in Preston. It looks as if Margaret then died in childbirth in 1849, along with newborn daughter Margaret Ambler, as Lancashire BMD shows two deaths in 1849 in Preston – Margaret Ambler aged 27, and Margaret Ambler aged 0. Thus Margaret senior would have been born about 1822.

I have not found  marriage for Edward Ambler and Grace McCutcheon, but there are six Ambler births in Preston between 1851 and 1862 where mother’s maiden name is given as McCutcheon: Edward 1851, Elizabeth 1852, Harold Spencer, 1856, Richard 1857, Frank Forsyth 1860, Mary Grace 1862. Thus it is possible this marriage (Edward and Grace) took place in 1850.  These children are definitely the siblings of my Great Grandfather Richard

The 1841 census shows a Grace McCutcheon, b. c 1823 Scotland, living on Market Street in Manchester with Jno. McCutcheon, 25, draper, b. Scotland, and John Kelly, 20, draper, b. Scotland. Possibly this is the same Grace.

Richard, son of Edward was born in 1890 in Burr, Ireland.  His son was my Grandfather Edward, father of my Dad Kenneth.

Family Traits

The Amblers have been both creative and innovative.  From our ancestors and the current generation have come singers, dancers, concert pianists, business managers, artists and IT specialists.  There have also been rogues, scoundrels and storytellers.  Common sense and business acumen run strongly through the genes.  Grandfather Edward Ambler was awarded the MBE for services to the British Government.  However, there is also a streak of rebel in there.  Great Grandfather Richard was a policeman but was also discharged for dereliction of duty and drinking on watch. 
We are a mixed bundle indeed.

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