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Withell in Cornwall

From prehistoric times, two tracks across the narrow peninsula of Cornwall were used to avoid the hazardous sea route around Land's End, one following the river Camel from Padstow in the North and crossing to the estuary of the Fowey in the South. As early as 55-60 AD the Romans constructed a fort at Nanstallon near Bodmin to guard this main communication and trade route. The parish of Withiel was quite close to this route and the earliest record of bynames occurred in this area.

From the evidence found in medieval documents, Ecclesiastical records, Court Rolls, Taxation records and surveys, Wills and Parish Registers, it has been possible to research the evolution of these early bynames to the present day surname of Withell. However it is not possible to know if these were related or if there was a single original family.

Withell/Withiels were recorded as property owners and occupiers, priests, churchwardens, attorneys, officials in manor courts, goldsmiths, tailor, gamekeeper, mariners, and shipbuilders. . Gentry status was achieved by Withells living in St Merryn, Fowey, St Austell, Perranzabuloe, St Wenn, Truro, St Neot. Several were involved in litigation either at the manor court or the courts at Exeter.

These are just a few of the entries in our database.

Early bynames occurred in areas close to the village of WITHIEL- Polruan/Lanteglos, Probus and parishes near Padstow. Simon de Wythiell probably took his name from his estates in Wythiel.

By 1367 Withiel had developed as a hereditary surname in Cornwall as indicated by the marriage of Alice daughter of Withiel to Johannes Flamock of Boscarne. Boscarne was a manor in Nanstallon between Bodmin and Withiel.

In the early 15th century the surname was further recorded in both Polruan and Padstow.

Some 16th century records

By the beginning of the 17th century the surname had spread over a wider area of Cornwall.

Although it has been possible to put together several generations of each of these early families in individual parishes, connections between them have not been made.

The Padstow/St Merryn and the St Wenn families began to gradually use the spelling WITHELL from the late 17th century but the Perranzabuloe families retained the spelling WITHIEL into the 20th century as did some of the St. Austell descendants.

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