Recorded in a number of spellings this is a place name and surname of pre 11th century Norman French origins. It was also in the French form - (French being the the national language of England between 1066 and about 1350), an early recording in medieval England. The known spellings include Bonnville, Bonneville and Bonville (French), Banville, Benville, Banwell, Benwell (English and Irish), Bonnival, Bonnivell, Bonniwell (French Huguenot) - and others. In all cases the name means 'pleasant place'.There are villages in Normandy (France) and Somerset (England), as well as in Ireland. Locational names like this were originally those of the lord of the manor and his family, or were given to people who had left their original homes, as easy identification by their new neighbours. As reading and writing until the 19th century was at best erratic and local accents very 'thick' this lead to 'sounds like' spellings some far removed from the original. Early examples of the surname recordings are mainly found in the British Isles. In France the vast majority of church registers were destroyed during the early days of the 1792 Revolution as instruments of the former king's secret service. This may well have been true because as one of Napoleon's early actions on becoming emperor of France in 1803, was to restore the church in all its forms including responsibility for registers. However by then few original ones remained. The Bonneville family of Languedoc held a coat of arms, with the blazon of a blue field charged with a gold lion. Amongst the recordings that survive are Alice Bonnivall, a witness at the church of St Martins in the Field, Westminster, London, on August 12th 1536, and in France Nicholas Bonnville of Trichamps, Meurthe et Moselle, on November 20th 1702. The very first surviving recording of the name in any form is believed to be that of William de Banewell of the county of Somerset, England in the first year of the reign King Edward 111, 1327 -1377.
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