This unusual and interesting name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational surname that derives from a contracted form of either of the places named Bickenhall in Somerset, or Bickenhill in Warwickshire. The place in Somerset is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Bichehalle", and as "Bikenhal" in the 1243 Assize Court Rolls of the county, and means "Bica's or Bicca's hall", or "hill", derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century personal name "Bic(c)a", from "becca", pickaxe or mattock, with either "hyll", hill, or "heall", hall. The place in Warwickshire is recorded as "Bichehelle" in the Domesday Book, and as "Bykenhull" in circa 1220, and means "Bic(c)a's hill", derived from the same Olde English elements as the place in Warwickshire. Locational surnames were developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, usually to seek work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace. The modern surname can be found recorded as Bicknell, Bignell, Bignall and Bignold. Recordings of the name from London Church Registers include those of the marriage of Thomas Bignell and Marie Hide at St. Gregory by St. Paul, on January 30th 1610, and the christening of Joseph, son of Robert Bignell, on June 5th 1636, at St. Mary Whitechapel, Stepney. A Coat of Arms granted to a family of the name depicts a red lion rampant on an ermine shield, on a blue chief an ear of big-wheat couped and bladed gold between two silver estoiles. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas de Bikenhulle, which was dated 1214, in the "Curia Regis Rolls of Warwickshire", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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