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The surname FLAVELL - its history and variants

Some notes towards a consideration of the origin of the name FLAVELL and its variants

This is a paper I wrote a couple of decades back about the origin of my family name. It's quite a long paper, and I know it won't interest many people, but I'd like to make sure it's available for other FLAVELL researchers to access. It is already up on a couple of different websites, but I thought it might be a good idea to have it here as a backup. It's OK to quote from it, but please do the right thing and list the source in your appendices.

Preamble
FLAVELL is not a common name. Those of us who bear it seem to spend a lot of our time spelling it out loud to clerical officers and tradespeople, and we get used to having it misspelled, mispronounced and sometimes made fun of. (In my early primary school years some cruel classmates used to call me 'Flav-the-lav'!)

It may be taken as read that the less common the name, the more variants it will have, and FLAVELL is no exception to this rule. Some sixty or seventy versions of the name have been found so far and I don’t think we have cornered all the possibilities yet. True, some of them are just spelling variations, but there have been, historically, at least seven distinct forms of the name, and one of my aims in writing this paper has been to place these in some sort of relationship to each other.

The following notes are tentatively put forward for consideration. A lot more research is needed, and this paper should by no means be regarded as definitive. I would be very interested in receiving feedback and new leads from others interested in any aspect of this work. E-mail me: satimafn at optusnet dot com dot au

Commonly held beliefs about the name
Actually, this research is largely due to my friend Ivy Flavelle, a thorough, methodical, yet imaginative researcher who, in trying to trace the Irish roots of her name, became dissatisfied with the usual explanations of 'It’s an old Irish name', 'It’s an Anglicisation of an old Irish name' and 'Irish FLAVELLS were originally Huguenot refugees'. How come her ancestors suddenly appeared in Londonderry in the C17, obviously intermarrying with the English settlers and bearing very English names? Where did they come from? Ivy suspected they were really English, and set out to see if she could figure where in England they came from, and when.

Meantime, I had always been somewhat uneasy about the usual explanations of the origins of the English FLAVELLS. ‘It’s a French name’, ‘It’s a Normanisation of a Saxon name’ and ‘It’s an adaptation of the Latin Flavius’. Any one of these can sound convincing, until you look more closely.

An appendix will examine suggestions various scholars have put forward regarding the name. For now, though, let’s take the above six rather glib explanations one at a time and see how they stand up:

a) It’s an old Irish name: It’s probably only Irish because the FLAVELLS have been there long enough to have been forgiven for immigrating! We shall see when we come to investigate the history of the name that it seems to have arrived in Ireland with the Anglo-Norman settlers in the late twelfth century.

b) It’s an Anglicization of an Irish name: if this is so, how come there have, historically, been so many in England and so few in Ireland? And surely an Irishman seeking to curry favour with the English invaders by anglicising his name would hardly choose a name as obscure as FLAVELL. If it was, as claimed by Woulfe, (Irish Names and Surnames p.53) an Anglicisation of O’Flannghail, this must have been a secondary derivation, since the two names probably existed side by side in Anglo-Norman times.

c) It’s a Huguenot name: a search of the register of the Huguenot church in London found no Flavs, and a query to the Huguenot Library could provide no examples of verifiable Huguenot use of the name. Ivy also checked the records of the Huguenot church in Dublin, with no results.

There was a William Francis FLAVELLE of Dublin (1779-1851) perhaps the first to deliberately spell his name that way, who, apparently, claimed Huguenot descent. One cannot help but suspect that, living in Dublin, he did not want to be seen as English and so adopted a French-looking spelling. (It goes without saying that many artists, both visual and performing, have found it expedient to take on a foreign-looking name!)

It seems that the mid-nineteenth century Griffith Valuation contributed to FLAVELLE becoming the standard Irish spelling. In earlier centuries, FLAVEL and FLAVELL – with the odd FLEAVIL etc – were the most common spellings in Ireland as in England.

d) It’s a French nameThere is no doubt that the name looks and even sounds French. Researchers not infrequently report being asked if they are French, even by native French speakers. However, a search in the French on-line phone book revealed only four FLAVELLS, two of whom appeared to be English. There are more native French McDonalds than there are FLAVELLS! I even asked a French genealogist to check surname books in his local library, and he could find no references to FLAVELL.

e) It’s a Normanization of a Saxon name: This explanation for the origin of the place name Flyford Flavell in Worcestershire is found in the Oxford Book of English Place Names. Whilst there may have been some cross-fertilization going on here, it is, perhaps, more than co-incidental that early instances of FLAVELL as a surname are found at about the same time as the first references to the village as Flavel rather than Fleferth, its original Saxon name.

f) It comes from the Latin Flavius: the Romans left a lot of things in Britain, but surnames were not among them. Surnames didn’t come into regular use in England until the fourteenth century, and in any case, according to linguistics lecturers I consulted, Flavius would not turn into FLAVELL if it were transposed into English.

So, for various reasons, none of the usual explanations seemed satisfactory: Ivy and I had many conversations on the matter, pondering and puzzling, but to no avail.

A New Possibility
Then one day, Ivy rang me in great excitement. She had been looking at the indexes to the many volumes of the Victorian County Histories, in the hope of finding FLAVELLs, and the Bedfordshire index she had found a reference to a 'FLAVELL’s Manor' in the C15. Referring to the text, Ivy had found that this Manor had belonged to the Norman family of de FLAMVILLE, but had gradually become known as FLAVELLS or FLANNELS. Could it really be that FLAVELL was a version of FLAMVILLE? If so, how could we prove it?

Linguistic Considerations
Phonology and History
I am not a linguistic scholar, but I did study the subject at undergraduate level for a couple of years as it’s an area that has always fascinated me, especially the field that used to be known as 'comparative philology'. In the nineteenth century, when well-educated British chaps were bumbling their way around Asia and Africa, some of them had the time and inclination to study the local languages. Their findings led to the realisation that languages fall into 'families', whose members differ from each other as a result of changing over time or through geographical separation. For example, French is today a separate language from Italian, but it can clearly be seen that they had a common origin in Latin, which in turn developed from an earlier, hypothetical ancestor language known as Proto-Indo-European. Latin’s siblings included Classical Greek, Sanskrit and Pali, and to continue the analogy still further, we might say that Hindi and Modern Greek are its nieces or nephews! Scholars have also learnt that the ways languages change are subject to certain parameters, and can even be predicted to some degree.

When the Normans invaded England in 1066, they didn’t have 'proper' surnames, but they did tend to distinguish each other by the name of the place in France they came from: for example, Robert de LIVET, Robert de BEAUMONT. Among those Norman settlers were some who must have come from Flamangeville, later shortened to Flamanville or Latinised to Flamantavilla, among other things. (Latin, of course, was the lingua franca of scholars for centuries, being used for church and legal records.)

Language Change
As Norman words became anglicised, many were simplified, generally by dropping letters or whole syllables. Now, harking back to the fact that such changes don’t happen entirely at random, let’s have a look at the ways Flamanville might have altered over time.
1.     Dropping unaccented syllables
This is a common change in everyday speech: a refrigerator, for instance, is hardly ever called that–we usually call it a fridge–so we can see how easy it would be to shorten Flamanville to FLAMVILLE. (A modern-day equivalent might be the common abbreviation ‘Joburg’ for Johannesburg.) This change had probably started even before the Normans left France, as the place is variously referred to as Flamangeville, Flamanville or Flamville.
1.     Losing a consonant
When several consonants occur together, especially if they are made with the same parts of the mouth, there is a tendency to drop one or more of them. The lips are involved in making both m and v, so it’s easy to drop one of those sounds when they occur together. FLAMVILLE could, over time, easily lose the m or the v out of the middle, giving rise to FLAMILLE or FLAVILLE.
1.     Changing one sound into another
We make the various sounds used in our language with different parts of our mouths. Some are made primarily with the lips or the lips and teeth (called labial and labio-dental sounds respectively): these include m, f, p, v, b and w. In fact, in many languages, some of these sounds are interchangeable. Asian students whom I coach in English often mix them up: for example, I had trouble understanding what a Japanese medical scholar was talking about when he kept referring to ‘the prude’. Would you believe he was talking about blood? Japanese, apparently, doesn’t distinguish between p and b, nor r and l, nor u and oo. No wonder the poor guy was having trouble!

The consonant ‘n’ can also be involved in this kind of sound change, although it is not a labial or labio-dental sound, being made by raising the tongue tip to the alveolar ridge. The reason we need to consider this sound as well as the labials and labio-dentals is that it is sometimes used to replace ‘m’, especially when that sound and another consonant are dropped: e.g. we can reasonably expect our FLAMVILLE to become FLANNEL in some cases. As we saw in the introduction, the FLAMVILLE homestead in Bedfordshire was also known as FLAVELLS or FLANNELS Manor. Another example of this was found by researcher David Walker on the University of Essex’s History Data Service site (apparently now defunct)  – an undated reference to a Henry FLANNELL aka FLAVELL, an outlaw from Middlesex.

Now, let’s look at the FLAMVILLE/FLAVELL change in the light of these possibilities. We might, and in fact can, find the names FLAMWILL, FLAMILL, FLANILL, FLAVILL and FLAWELL. Ivy had possible variants on the IGI printed out, county by county, and, as we had suspected, she found that certain versions of the name were used interchangeably. For example, in 1649, at the parish church at Frankton, Warwickshire, Thomas FLAVEL and his wife Dorothy had their son Thomas baptised. In 1653 they were back with their second son, William, and in 1656 with a daughter, Phillippa, but William and Phillippa were both registered as FLAMEL. Similar examples can be found in other parishes, mainly in Warwickshire, dating from the mid seventeenth to the late eighteenth centuries: the variants involved were usually FLAVEL(L) and FLAM(M)EL or FLAMWEL(L).

Over the border in Worcestershire, at a somewhat earlier date, the 'w' style variants were more common. At Bromsgrove in the early (pre 1600) parish register entries, there were a few FLANNELLS, but by and large they favoured the FLAWELL or FLAUEL spellings, and the name only crystallised as FLAVEL in the first decade of the seventeenth century. (In old styles of handwriting, ‘u’ and ‘v’ were often used interchangeably: with ‘u’ being more used in the middle of a word and ‘v’ at the beginning. Furthermore, in those days, ‘v’ and ‘w’ were not the entirely separate sounds we consider them to be in English today.)

Some variants are, mercifully, very rare. I had been expecting to find FLABEL or FLAPEL, but they didn’t turn up in any of the Parish Registers Ivy and I consulted. (Remember that, in theory, the middle consonant or consonants could include any labial or labio-dental sound, or almost any combination of the two.) However, another researcher, Warren Archer, fell over a family in the Ripton Abbots (nowadays Abbots Ripton), Huntingdonshire, register for the 1660s whose offspring were variously registered as FRAVELL or FRABELL! These variants also involve another kind of linguistic change: the ‘l’ after the initial letter has become an ‘r’. That’s because the two sounds (sometimes called ‘glides’ or ‘liquids’) are easily confused, especially by people new to English, be they two-year-olds from Manchester, England or Asian students in Perth, Western Australia! We have already seen that v and b are easy to interchange. In this case, the change from ‘v’ to ‘b’ between registrations might be explained by a parent having lost his or her front teeth in the interim!

Another fellow Flav researcher, Miriam Clarke, found the following in the register of:
Holy Trinity Church, Coventry: 1 Jun 1721 Hannah, daughter of Thomas FLABIL and Ann. It was, apparently, indexed under FLEBALL!

I’m pleased to report that I’ve only found one instance of FLAPPEL, and that was a single entry in the 1881 census for London. FRAPPELL, however, is still found in the UK, the on-line phone directory yielding 18 entries. Being an unvoiced version of ‘b’, ‘p’ is certainly a possible variant on the middle consonant. However, we’ve only come across three instances in which a fricative consonant in the middle of the name was unvoiced. John FLAFELL was christened 31 Aug 1723, at Coleshill, Warwickshire, one of eight children of John and Elizabeth to be found on the IGI. The others were all entered as Flavell, Flavel or Flavil, but somehow poor John finished up sounding like a Lebanese sandwich! The other one, FLEIFIEL, was found by Dennis Flavell on a mid-18th century marriage entry in Gloucester, England. The last one is Antoine FLAIFEL, a bishop of the Coptic church who was discovered by Ambrose Flavell. Knowing nothing of his origins, we can’t prove he was really a Flav, but his story, which is told later in the Chronology section, is worth recording!

Changes in the vowel sounds are less common, but they do sometime occur when, for example, the writer was trying to represent an unfamiliar name, perhaps in an unfamiliar accent. There are a couple of incidences of the ‘a’ becoming ‘o’ as in the case of FLOWEVIL, which was found by Barbara Anderson on the 1851 census for Primrose Hill, Dudley, Worcs. Barbara found the same John transcribed as HAXELL in the LDS version of the 1881 census. Transcriptions of censuses have much potential for error, from the original census taker's spelling to the transcriber's interpretation of it to the researcher's interpretation of the transcription. Sometimes I think it's a miracle we ever find our ancestors at all!

Some of these variants, of course, could owe their origin to names other than FLAMVILLE: the FRAVELL version, for instance, might be derived from another Norman name, FREVILLE, which is still found in England, France and the Low Countries even today. Raymond Flavell has suggested that the French place name Fléville might also have provided some input. Similarly, it is easy to imagine that FLEWELL might have started out as LLEWELLYN. I have no proof of any such connections, but they must be kept in mind as possible alternatives. Maybe some of the versions have more than one parent name.

Here are the variants found so far, some by Ivy and me, many by other researchers, in the course of searching through parish registers, census returns and other old documents. They're listed here in alphabetical order, but if you look at the version of this paper at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~satima/flavlist/flavroots.html  you will find them tabulated according to the middle consonant sound. Some of the weirder ones such as HOVELL are mistranscriptions that sneaked in when documents were copied: elsewhere you can find the same families listed as FLAVEL or similar common variants.

·         FELAVEL
·         FILANEL
·         FLABEL
·         FLABELL
·         FLABIL
·         FLABILL
·         FLAFELL
·         FLAMEL
·         FLAMELL
·         FLAMEWELL
·         FLAMIEL
·         FLAMILL
·         FLAMIWELL
·         FLAMMEL
·         FLAMOL
·         FLAMVELL
·         FLAMWEL
·         FLAMWELL
·         FLANEL
·         FLANELL
·         FLANIL
·         FLANILL
·         FLANILLE
·         FLANNELL
·         FLANNELLE
·         FLANWELL
·         FLAPPEL
·         FLAPPELL
·         FLAUEL
·         FLAUELL
·         FLAUEWELL
·         FLAUILL
·         FLAUNVILL
·         FLAVAL
·         FLAVEL
·         FLAVELE
·         FLAVELL
·         FLAVELLE
·         FLAVETT
·         FLAVEWELL
·         FLAWEL
·         FLAWELL
·         FLAWILL
·         FLAWYLL
·         FLAYWELL
·         FLEAMIL
·         FLEMELL
·         FLEMMEL
·         FLEMWELL
·         FLEWELL
·         FLAVIL
·         FLAVILL
·         FLAYBELL
·         FLAYVILLE
·         FLEAVEL
·         FLEAVELL
·         FLEAVILLE
·         FLEBALL
·         FLEIFIEL
·         FLEVAL
·         FLEVEL
·         FLEVELL
·         FLEVIL
·         FLEVILL
·         FLOVILL
·         FLOWEVIL
·         FRABELL
·         FRAPPEL
·         FRAPPELL
·         FRAVELL
·         FRAVILL
·         HAVELL
·         HAXELL
·         HOVELL
·         PHLAVELL

Spelling and Pronunciation
Before the nineteenth century, spelling simply followed pronunciation. No one was going to worry whether a particular priest or parish clerk favoured FLAVELL, FLEAVILLE or FLEWEL. Even in the latter part of the century, the same family might have registrations and census entries under many spellings. However, over the course of the nineteenth century, the combination of free, compulsory education and civil registration began to have the effect of standardizing names, so by the time of the 1881 census most of the above variants were no longer to be found. Apart from FLAVEL and its spelling variants, only three other forms – FLEVILL, FLEWELL and FLAWELL – can be found in any numbers in 1881, and even they were quite rare, each being restricted to a narrow geographical area. There were a few, more-or-less isolated, instances of FLEMWELL, FLAMWELL, FLANEL(L), and even the odd FLABEL, FLAPPEL, FRAVELL and FRABEL (although the last named seems, in this case, to be a corruption of the German FRÖBEL). In all cases, though, these rare variants were scattered by birth and residence, or were attached to just one nuclear family, which suggests that they might simply have been mis-spellings on the part of the census takers.

Current Usage
If we look at the British on-line phone directory today, we can find one FLAWELL, four FLEMWELLS and fourteen FLEVILLS. The USA yields the odd FLAM(M)EL(L) and FLAN(N)EL(L), and it seems there are still instances of FLAMWELL in Ireland and South Africa. Generally speaking, however, I think we are safe in saying that the standard spelling today is FLAVELL, with regional pockets of FLAVEL and FLAVELLE.

FLAMWELL seems to have died out in England: the last reference I’ve been able to find is a record of one Thomas FLAMWELL purchasing a chapel for the Worksop Primitive Methodist Circuit at Hodthorpe in 1906. The name was known to Charles Dickens, who gave it to a character in Sketches by Boz: Chapter V–Horatio Sparkins. Dickens describes the character thus:

Mr. FLAMWELL was one of those gentlemen of remarkably extensive information whom one occasionally meets in society, who pretend to know everybody, but in reality know nobody.

Oh dear, could name-dropping be a family failing? 😊

Comparison with other Anglo-Norman Names
FLAVELL is not unique in losing its original form: other Norman names appear to have died out by a similar process. CANVILLE, for example, seems to have followed the same route as FLAMVILLE, being replaced by CAVELL or CANNELL. Another similar name, BARNVILLE, is easier to track, since in Ireland it is still found in its original spelling and also as BARNWELL and BARNEWALL.

 Historical Factors
Watching the name change
How can we really know that our modern name, FLAVELL, is derived from the Norman FLAMVILLE? We would not have even thought of the possibility, had it not been for two lucky accidental finds. The first was Ivy’s discovery of 'FLAVELLS Manor' in the Bedfordshire Victoria County History, and the second was her chance skimming of a book called Register of the Hospital of S. John the Baptist, a transcription of a Bodleian manuscript by Eric St. John Brooks. In it, Ivy found references to an early Anglo-Norman settler in Ireland under two names: de FLAMMEVILLA - and FLAVILL.

In between Ivy’s two discoveries, we had spent hours looking through Calendar Rolls, Patent Rolls, Pipe Rolls, Hearth Tax records and many secondary sources in search of the elusive link that might demonstrate the connection between FLAMVILLE and FLAVELL. I dredged up my long-forgotten high-school Latin, only to find it pretty useless in many cases, since Medieval Latin was quite a different dialect from that of de Bello Gallico! With the help of dictionaries we muddled through, and developed an eye for any possible variant of the name occurring on a page: we became pretty proficient at noticing de FLAMMAVILLE and FLAMENTAVILLA, even when they were lurking in footnotes! We learnt that an apostrophe at the end of a word indicated an abbreviation, and the early references to FLAVELL, when viewed in the original text, often had this diacritical mark, being written thus: FLAVILL’. In retrospect, it can readily be seen as the standard shorthand for what was a fairly hefty word in Latin, and, one might suspect, a reflection of the actual way the name was starting to be pronounced.

Chronology
We don’t pretend to have found every reference to the name in all its forms, but what follows is a chronological list, incorporating the relevant occurrences we discovered. It’s interesting to see that the FLAMVILLES were frequently called upon to witness deeds for more important Norman families, and occasionally intermarried with them, but seldom came to prominence in their own right.

Unless otherwise stated, references are generally from the Victoria County Histories.

1066 – William of Normandy landed at Hastings and defeated King Harold. Subsequently, William founded an abbey near the site of the battle, and a roll was created listing names of his followers. Some versions of the roll contain the name FLAMUILE, but we cannot be certain that this knight actually fought in the battle, since the names of the abbey’s benefactors were added over the ensuing years. On the other hand, the name may have even been present in England before 1066, since there were Normans at the court of King Edward the Confessor. They were active in defending the Welsh border, holding lands in south Wales and especially Herefordshire.

1086 or soon after – a man by the name of 'de FLAMENTVILLA' witnessed a charter for Ralph de Limesi concerning Hertford Priory. (This charter was, of course, in Latin, hence the Latinisation of the name.)

1100 or thereabouts – the lordships of Aston, Burbach, Sketchley, Barwell and Birdingburie, were given by the same Roger de Limesi, Bishop of Coventry -

…with the consent of his whole chapter, and the approbation of king Henry I to Robert de FLAMVILE or FLAMENVILE (a noble Norman, and a retainer probably of Hugo de Grentesmainel), who had been serveable to him in obtaining the monastery; to be held by the service or two knights’ fees.

On the death of Robert de FLAMVILE, the above-mentioned several lordships were given by Henry I to Hugh de Hastings (steward of his household), who had married Erneburgh, daughter of Hugh de FLAMVILE, and niece to Robert.

A double union appears to have taken place between the families of Flamvile and Hastings; for Roger de FLAMVILE, about the year 1150, was the founder of an hospital at Norton in Yorkshire, and a benefactor to the priories of Nostell and Malton in that county, as were his two sons, William and Hugh, the latter of whom, in his grant, has these words: antequam sororem meam Matildam FLAMVILE Roberto de Hastings in matrimonio dedi.

(The lengthy quote above is from Nicholls’s classic work History and Antiquities of Leicestershire, in which he deals with the fortunes of the FLAMVILLES of Aston Flamville at some length.)

1131 – Hugh de FLAMVILL was granted land at Dalby, Yorkshire, by the Abbot of St Mary’s, at a rent of 25 shillings.

1150 or soon after – William FLAMVILLE founded a hospital on an island in the River Derwent as a gift to the priory of St Mary at Malton, Yorkshire.

1188 - 5th Nov- Inter Abbatem S.E.et Robertumde Godeham per Robertum de Flamvilla senescallumipsius abbatis...de advocatione ecclesie de Boxted. (Found by Gerard COLDHAM in Volume IV of a 'Catalogue ofManuscripts preserved at University of Cambridge Library', No. 380)

Before 1200 – the village now known as Flyford Flavell in Worcestershire was being referred to as Flavell. (Its Saxon name had been Fleferth, which is similar enough to make us suspect some cross fertilisation)

Before 1200 – the FLAMVILLE family held lands at Renhold, Bedfordshire, subsequently know as Flamwelles, Flavells or Flannels Manor. Hamo FLAMVILLE was a benefactor of Newnham Priory. His successors included John, Henry, Robert (who was Commissioner for Peace for the county) and Hammond (aka James). The last-named was convicted of a felony in absentia, having, apparently, fled the country, but in 1383 he was pardoned ‘at the supplication of the king’s kinsman, the Bishop of Norwich’, as Hammond was going overseas with the bishop ‘on the king’s service’. However, his lands and goods had been handed over to others, notably Stephen Romglo and Giles French, and they were not returned to him despite the pardon. Nevertheless, the property continued to be known as Flavels until as late as the mid-seventeenth century, it having changed hands several times in the meantime.

1200 or thereabouts – John of Birkin married Agnes de FLAMVILLE, the widow of William de Percy of Kildale, Yorkshire.

1200 or thereabouts – Walter de FLAMMEVILLA, also known as Walter de FLAVILL’, witnessed deeds in connection with the Hospital of St John the Baptist without the New Gate, Dublin. The apostrophe after the –LL indicates that the name was considered to be an abbreviation (Brooks, see Bibliography). It is perhaps worth noting that the Anglo Norman invaders of Ireland were mostly drawn from the West Midlands and Welsh border region, still the heartlands of the FLAVELL name today.

After 1200: the following document, dated to the early C13, appears in The Chartulary of Bridlington Priory edited by W.T. Lancaster (1912)

Gift: Geoffrey de Thorni and wife Avice to Bridlington Priory:–- 3 tofts in Rudestain (sometime held, one each, by Reginald Grim, Ralph de Roma, and his brother Robert Flavel) – Witn. Richard the chaplain, Master Robert de Brellington, John the clerk, Gilbert de Gaunt, Adam son of Mauger de Rudestain, John son of William sometime parson of Rudestain, Ranulph Thothe, William Scaldehare, Thomas de Sualedale, Thomas de Willardebi.

It’s not easy to decide whose brother the above Robert FLAVEL was – Geoffrey de Thorni’s or Ralph de Roma’s. The important thing, however, is to realise that surnames were very fluid well into the C15. A person might be variously known as Thomas Johnson, Thomas Weaver or Thomas Risby, depending on whether he was being identified by his father’s name, his occupation or his village of origin. Here, it seems that Robert was being identified by a family name – FLAVEL – while his brother, whichever one it was, was being identified by the name of his homestead, manor or village.

1212 or thereabouts – William de FLAMVILLE and his sister Matilda are mentioned in the Testa de Neville regarding property in Northumberland. This pair must have been persons of substance, as they often turn up, under various spellings, in connection with property deals: they are variously documented as FLAMULL’, FLANVIL’ and FLAUNVILL. John de FLAMVILLE of Bedfordshire is also mentioned in the Testa, as is one Adam de FLAMVIL’ in Northamptonshire and Elias de FLAMVILL’ in Stokesby, Yorkshire. In 1279, the Testa mentions William de FLAMVILL’ and his daughter Petronilla as renting land from Oliver Sarazin.

1232 - There was a dispute between the above Matilda–-also known as Maud de FLAMVILL — and the Abbot of St Mary’s at York regarding the advowson of the church at Dalby. This right –- to choose the incumbent priest –- had been held by the de FLAMVILLE family for a century, (see above under 1131, Hugh de FLAMVILLE) but eventually the Abbot’s candidate was chosen with the consent of both parties. Elias de FLAMVILL (see above) eventually quitclaimed the advowson and the manor back to the Abbot.

1259 – 76 References to Richard de FLAMMAVILLE, who received letters of attorney in 1261 and seems already to have been proctor general. He was called prior of Ruislip in Wiltshire in a judgement of 1259 (Morgan, see bibliography). It is possible that Richard was literally ‘of Flamanville’, since the establishments in England with which he was associated were under the rule of the Abbey of Bec, Normandy. There was, in fact, a Benedictine foundation at Flamangeville, Seine-Maritime, dating from the 11th century.

1287-1300: John FLAVEL was Constable of Devizes Castle

1294 - Roger de FLAMEVILL witnessed a charter for Roger of Mowbray. (Calendar of Charter Rolls, Edward I).

1334 – Sir Robert FLAMVILL was knighted, taking as his crest 'two battle axes endorsed saltireways ensigned by a dove all ppr'. Sir Robert’s grandson, William, (see below) was Commissioner of Peace for both Leicestershire and Warwickshire.

1378 – William FLAMVILLE, knight, of Leicester and Sheriff of Leicester and Warwickshire, was commissioned with others to 'enquire what persons are bound to repair the hall of the gaol at Leicester'. William’s name is constantly found in the Patent Rolls until 1397, when he is mentioned because one of his servants 'was murdered by Richard Burbach the Elder and the Younger on Sunday the close of Easter'. There must have been other branches of the family in the area, too–see under 1391 below.

1389 – Roger de FLAMVILLA witnessed a deed recorded in the Calendar of Patent Rolls.

1391 – Thomas FLAMVILLE of Leicester is owed 40s. by John Bocher of Gildesburgh (Calendar of Patent Rolls).

1447 – William FLAMELLE, a brewer in London, is mentioned in the Close Rolls.

1493 – Thomas FLAVELL, a merchant, was granted the Freedom of the City of York.

1495 – Richard FLAVELL’ and his wife Alice are mentioned as members of the Guild of Knowles, a charity in the Solihull area. Other bearers of the name are also mentioned on the Register of the Guild, the name usually being spelt as above, but sometimes as FLAWELL, FLAVELLE or even FAVELL. (See 5.2, below.)

1505 – The last of the FLAMVILLE family of Aston Flamville (see under 1378, above) dies without heirs.

1524 – Thomas FLAVELL is a councillor of the city of Coventry (Cal. Lett.Pap)

1538 – Start of Parish Registers: FLAMWELL, FLAMMELL, FLANNEL, FLAVELL, FLAWELL etc are found in many parts of the country, especially in Warwickshire, over the ensuing three centuries. The earliest occurrence found on the International Genealogical Index is FLAWYL at St Peter’s, Sheffield, in 1564.

Ca 1560 – One Thomas FLAVELL married Alyce Smyth, one of the heirs of Draycote Manor, Warwickshire.

1616-20: Another Thomas FLAVELL was master of Bromsgrove Grammar School, in Warwickshire. He left a journal.

1650 – Complaints against an oppressive manorial bailiff in Shropshire – one Richard FLAVELL, who had a man’s ears cropped for having cropped the 'wash oak' at Comley.

1691 – John FLAVEL, non-conformist minister, died at Exeter. In his biography, probably written by his kinsman John FLAVEL of London, it is mentioned that 'those of the name FLAVEL derive their pedigree from one who was the third great officer that came over with William the Conqueror'. John was the son of another minister, Richard FLAVELL of Bromsgrove, who was imprisoned, with his wife, for his non-conformist leanings. (The episode ruined their health and they died shortly afterwards) Another son, Phineas, was also a man of the cloth.

1747 – John FLAVELL aka John FAVELL made a Freeman of Gloucester. (See 5.3, below)

1780 – William FLAVEL farmed at Alderbury in Shropshire.

!782-84 – In Coventry, Mary FLEMIL or FLAVEL (both names are used, spelt with one L or two) is sued by William ASTON for monies he claims were owed to him by her late husband, Edward FLEMIL or FLAVEL, Worsted Twister.

1805 – Sidney FLAVEL, manufacturer of Leamington Spa in Warwickshire was awarded arms 'Arg. A maunch gu. Bezanté surmounted of a chevron az. Between three keys, wards upwards and palewise of the last. Crest – In front of the flames of fire ppr. Two keys in saltire, wards upwards, az. Motto – Tu deus ale flammam'

Sidney apparently claimed descent from one 'John de FLAYVILLE, who was taken prisoner at Agincourt, 25 Oct 1415', but I have been unable to unearth any reference to this knight in the battle lists. The most interesting thing to me, however, is that Sidney FLAVEL incorporated the maunch from the FLAMVILLE arms, and chose a crest and motto that refer to flames – a pun, perhaps, on FLAMEWELL, a not uncommon variant of the name around Coventry. Likewise, the crossed keys are reminiscent of the FLAMVILLE crest, which contained crossed battle-axes. Sidney was born less than 200 years after the death of the last of the FLAMVILLE family, and it’s possible that, although he may have been unable to prove the lineage, that his family had a tradition concerning the connection.

Apropos, my family still carries traditional knowledge of having emigrated from Worcestershire to Staffordshire, and that, if it happened at all, must have happened at least 300 years ago and possibly more. Family tradition is not always reliable, but it’s always worth noting.

1807 – One Antoine FLAIFEL, who had been a bishop of the Coptic church in Egypt but eventually became a Roman Catholic, died in Rome, where he had spent his last years at the monastery of Saint-Etienne-des-Abyssins. We can’t prove Antoine was indeed a FLAVELL but his story is too good to leave out! It was Ambrose FLAVELL who found out about Antoine and suggested we forget about Norman roots and look for gypsy origins instead.  Certainly the name has travelled far and wide and continues to do so.

Ambrose FLAVELL and his father Raymond have contributed much to our knowledge of the medieval FLAMVILLE-FLAVELL families through their studies of old church records and scholarly papers based thereon. Variants of the name in such documents include FLAUNVILLE, FLAUVILLE, FLAWVYLLE, FLAMAVIL FRENANVILL and FLAWULL as well as FLAMVILLE. These are particularly apparent in the records of the Cistercian Abbey of Old Wardon, Bedfordshire. Another document, the Cartularium of the Abbey of Rievalle (Rievaulx) makes it clear that the Yorkshire and Leicestershire branches of the family were actually one and the same, and mention of the above-named Agnes de FLAMVILLE and her second husband, John of Birkin, in the Bedfordshire records suggests that the FLAMVILLEs there might well have been of the same ilk.

FLAVELL and FAVELL
In that hoary Victorian work The Norman People, it is claimed that FLAVELL derives from FAUVEL 'by transposition of letters'. Certainly the two names are easily confused: several researchers report instances of this happening from personal experience, and a couple of instances can be seen in the chronology above.

However, in light of the current study, the two would appear to be discrete names: FAVELL and its variants seem to derive from de FAUVILLE and FLAVELL from de FLAMVILLE. Perhaps it is wise to look at both names in registers and other documents, because it’s always possible that the family may have changed from one to the other through local usage. A case in point would be the John FAVELL mentioned in the chronology above, who was made Freeman of Gloucester in 1747. He appears to have started life as a FLAVELL, but in Gloucester this name is rare. There were however, several FAVELL freemen on the register, including a William and a brace of Johns (apart from the one we are considering here).

It might be suspected that local usage prevailed in many such instances. For example, there are occurrences of FLAMVILLE and FLAVELL in Yorkshire (see the above chronology) between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, but by the eighteenth century, only FAVELL can be found there. (A James FAVELL was admitted to the Kirkthorpe Hospital in 1761, but he is on record as having absconded three years later!) Conversely, in Staffordshire, there was at least one FAVELL line around Wolverhampton in the sixteenth century, but with an apparent influx of FLAVELL families in the following century or two, they appeared to die out. Perhaps, in each case, one name was subsumed into the other, with the more numerous prevailing.

Pronunciation
There are at least four ways to pronounce our name – there may be more, but I can’t imagine how they would sound! It can rhyme with any of the following:

Flay'vul (rhymes with Navel)
Flavv’ul (rhymes with Travel)
Flah'vul (rhymes with Marvel)
Flɘvelle’ (rhymes, more or less, with 'hotel', i.e. accent on the last syllable. the 'a' is more like a uh; i.e. a 'schwa' or 'indeterminate “e”'.)

Most people seem to favour the first pronunciation, but the others also have followings in various parts of the world. The Irish form FLAVELLE — now largely found in Canada — would appear to be regularly pronounced with the accent on the last syllable, and many New Zealanders favour the ‘travel’ version. The 'marvel' pronunciation (actually more like 'mahvel' if you’re North American) is found in parts of the USA.

The most common pronunciation, Flay'vul (in all cases read the 'u' as a schwa or indeterminate 'e'!) is probably the oldest. It is the one found almost exclusively in the name's heartlands, the West Midlands of England. It seems the family was active there from at least the 1300s. If we go back to Anglo Norman / Medieval times (pre 1400), the name would have been pronounced Flahm'vil, but due to the phenomenon known as the Great Vowel Shift (or the Great Bowel Shift, as I have heard some students irreverently call it!) it would have changed to Flame’vil. The GVS progressed along a certain path, starting with the 'ah' sound that dentists ask you to make. 'Ah' turned into 'ay' (as in 'hay'. which meant that many words that already used that sound had to change into something else, thus starting a kind of domino effect that really has not yet finished and perhaps never will. The greatest changes took place before 1650, but somehow, the West Midlands, the name’s heartland, fell into a time warp and never really caught up. It is, linguistically, one of the most conservative parts of the country. The dialect spoken there even today still has some of the vowel sounds of Chaucer's English. Because the West Midlands did take on board some of the GVS’s early changes, starting with 'ah' to 'ay', I believe their pronunciation of our name is the oldest. From Flame’vil it’s two easy jumps to the modern version – > Flame’vul > Flay’vul. And further north, another vowel shift has made it Flavv’ul. Change the stress to the last syllable and we have the last pronunciation, which probably only dates from the nineteenth century – 'Flɘvelle’’. That's the way my family pronounces the name.

Work-in-Progress
So, what do we have? A lot of names, some shadowy figures, some interesting characters, but only two genuine links between the FLAMVILLE and FLAVELL names. However, these two links are pretty convincing. We have, so far -   Walter de FLAMMEVILLA aka FLAVILL’ in Dublin in about 1200, and the FLAMVILLE manor in Bedfordshire being known as FLAVELLS in the late medieval-early modern period.

Without these two references, it would be hard to make the jump from FLAMVILLE to FLAVELL, and easy to fall into the trap that goes something like this: 'The name looks French, but it doesn’t seem to be Anglo-Norman, so it must be Huguenot', or, indeed any of the other apparently erroneous views of the name which have been put forward from time to time.

Now, as fellow researcher Ivy is fond of saying, one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but here we have two swallows, and from impeccable sources, backed up, I venture to say, by other historical references and linguistic detective work. Our research remains a work in progress, but I think we’re on the right track. I would be happy to receive further information from other researchers: you can leave a comment or find me on Facebook if you’d like to discuss any of the matters mentioned in this article.

Appendix
Earlier suggestions as to the name’s origins
The Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names suggests, in regard to the village of Flyford Flavell in Worcestershire, that the 'ford' doesn't mean a river crossing, as it usually does, but is a form of 'fyrhp', or 'frith', meaning 'woodland' (as in Chapel en le Frith'). The village was known variously as 'Fleferth', 'Flaeferth', and 'Flefert' between 667 and 1295, 'Flavel' in 1212, and a place in Flyford was called 'Alflaedetun' in 1282, hence the possibility that the 'fly' is a shortened form of Alflaed.

Woulfe, in 'Irish Names and Surnames' p.53, quoted on Dennis Larsen’s web-site, claims that they were
a family of the Ui Fiachrach, originally seated at Loch Glinne in Crossmolina Parish (County Mayo). Driven from there by British. Settled in Finghid (now Finned) in Easkey Parish (County Sligo).

Both the above references, I believe, are incorrect in their assumptions.

Bibliography

BAUDRILLART, Alfred (Supervising editor) Dictionnaire d’Histoire et de Géographie Ecclésiastiques, tome troisième. (Paris, Librairie Letouzey et Ane, 1924)

BROOKS, Eric St.John (transc.) Register of the Hospital of S. John the Baptist (Bodleian Library)

DUGDALE, William, Monasticon Anglicanuma history of the abbies and other monasteries, hospitals, frieries, and cathedral and collegiate churches, with their dependencies, in England and Wales. Vol 6 part 2, (London 1846)

FOWLER, G. Herbert (Transcriber and editor) The Cartulary of the Cistercian Abbey of Old Wardon, Bedfordshire (Manchester University Press 1931)

FOX, Arthur Charles: The Art of Heraldry–an Encyclopaedia of Armory. London, Bloomsbury Books, 1904 and 1986

Lancester, WT (ed): The Chartulary of Bridlington Priory

MORGAN, Marjorie, The English Lands of the Abbey of Bec (OUP 1946)

Nicholls: History and Antiquities of Leicestershire

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: 1881 British Census and National Index

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: (film) Register of the Guild of Knowles

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: International Genealogical Index

The Cistercian Order: Cartularium Abbathiae de Rievalle (Andrews and Co, Durham, 1889)

An Account of the Admission of Members to the Hospital at Kirkthorpe, 1749-1799 (found in the Wakefield Archives)

Calendar of Charter Rolls

Calendar of Patent Rolls

Holy Trinity Church, Coventry, Parish Registers researched by Miriam Clarke

Landbeach Parish Church: Parish Registers–Baptisms 1538 –1851 Transcribed from the original records and collated with the Bishop's Transcripts by the Cambridgeshire Family History Society; researched by Deb Flavell, Melbourne, Australia. Other Parish Registers in Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire have been researched by Warren Archer.

Lichfield Record Office on-line catalogue - not found as I upload this, although it used to be at http://hds.essex.ac.uk/ 

University of Essex’s History Data Service site - this is also apparently defunct.

Victorian County Histories, volumes for Bedfordshire, Leicestershire, Northumberlandshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Yorkshire

Worksop Primitive Methodist Circuit Records

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
As well as Ivy Flavelle, I am also indebted to other researchers for suggestions and information found in Parish Registers and other sources. These include Barbara Anderson, Warren Archer, Sue Challenger; Miriam Clarke, Gerard Coldham, Ambrose Flavell, Deb Flavell, Dennis Flavell, Raymond Flavell, Roger Flavell, Dennis Larsen, Theodore Van Raalte and David Walker. 

Appendix
Earlier suggestions as to the name’s origins
The Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names suggests, in regard to the village of Flyford Flavell in Worcestershire, that the 'ford' doesn't mean a river crossing, as it usually does, but is a form of 'fyrhp', or 'frith', meaning 'woodland' (as in Chapel en le Frith'). The village was known variously as 'Fleferth', 'Flaeferth', and 'Flefert' between 667 and 1295, 'Flavel' in 1212, and a place in Flyford was called 'Alflaedetun' in 1282, hence the possibility that the 'fly' is a shortened form of Alflaed.

Woulfe, in ‘Irish Names and Surnames’ p.53, quoted on Dennis Larsen’s web-site, claims that they were
a family of the Ui Fiachrach, originally seated at Loch Glinne in Crossmolina Parish (County Mayo). Driven from there by British. Settled in Finghid (now Finned) in Easkey Parish (County Sligo).

Bibliography

BAUDRILLART, Alfred (Supervising editor) Dictionnaire d’Histoire et de Géographie Ecclésiastiques, tome troisième. (Paris, Librairie Letouzey et Ane, 1924)

BROOKS, Eric St.John (transc.) Register of the Hospital of S. John the Baptist (Bodleian Library)

DUGDALE, William, Monasticon Anglicanuma history of the abbies and other monasteries, hospitals, frieries, and cathedral and collegiate churches, with their dependencies, in England and Wales. Vol 6 part 2, (London 1846)

FOWLER, G. Herbert (Transcriber and editor) The Cartulary of the Cistercian Abbey of Old Wardon, Bedfordshire (Manchester University Press 1931)

FOX, Arthur Charles: The Art of Heraldry–an Encyclopaedia of Armory. London, Bloomsbury Books, 1904 and 1986

Lancester, WT (ed): The Chartulary of Bridlington Priory

MORGAN, Marjorie, The English Lands of the Abbey of Bec (OUP 1946)

Nicholls: History and Antiquities of Leicestershire

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: 1881 British Census and National Index

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: (film) Register of the Guild of Knowles

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: International Genealogical Index

The Cistercian Order: Cartularium Abbathiae de Rievalle (Andrews and Co, Durham, 1889)

An Account of the Admission of Members to the Hospital at Kirkthorpe, 1749-1799 (found in the Wakefield Archives)

Calendar of Charter Rolls

Calendar of Patent Rolls

Holy Trinity Church, Coventry, Parish Registers researched by Miriam Clarke

Landbeach Parish Church: Parish Registers–Baptisms 1538 –1851 Transcribed from the original records and collated with the Bishop's Transcripts by the Cambridgeshire Family History Society; researched by Deb Flavell, Melbourne, Australia. Other Parish Registers in Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire have been researched by Warren Archer.



Victorian County Histories, volumes for Bedfordshire, Leicestershire, Northumberlandshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Yorkshire

Worksop Primitive Methodist Circuit Records

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
As well as Ivy Flavelle, I am also indebted to other researchers for suggestions and information found in Parish Registers and other sources. These include Barbara Anderson, Warren Archer, Sue Challenger; Miriam Clarke, Gerard Coldham, Ambrose Flavell, Deb Flavell, Dennis Flavell, Raymond Flavell, Roger Flavell, Dennis Larsen, Theodore Van Raalte and David Walker. 


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