This unusual and interesting surname recorded in many spellings (see below) is medieval English but of pre 10th century French origins. It is a diminutive of the Olde French "bouvre", and describes a short haired coarse wooven reddish-brown cloth worn by monks and friars in the main, and probably associated with the famous Flemish Weavers of the period. Thus, the name is either an occupational name for a worker in the wollen trade, possibly a wool carder, or alternatively it describes a person who habitually dressed in clothes of this colour. " Borel" was also used as a personal name, and in this context was a form of endearment, describing a comely person or a countryman. In the modern spellings the forms include Berrill, Burrell, Borrell, Burrill, and Birrell, and they are often found with the single "l" suffix. Early examples of the surname recordings taken from authentic charters and later church registers include Alfred le Bureller, in the 1277 rolls known as "The London Letter books", Simon Borel of Sussex in the Subsidy Rolls of the year 1296, and Elizabeth Borrill, who was christened at St Mary Whitechapel, Stepney, on 5th February 1748. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Roger Burel, which was dated 1194, in the Pipe Rolls, Wiltshire, during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "The Lionheart 1189 - 1199". Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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