This interesting surname is of Old French origin, and has two possible sources. Firstly, the surname may be from a diminutive of the Old French "b(o)ure", a type of coarse reddish-brown woollen cloth with long hairs, and was used in many senses, for example, cushion, harness, collar, crest and headdress. The surname could have been used for a maker, seller, or habitual wearer of any of these. Secondly, the surname may be occupational for a judicial torturer, deriving from the Old French "bourreau", from "bourrer", to maltreat, torture, literally to card wool.It may also be an occupational name for a wool carder. Job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary. Burrell has been the name of a Sussex family since the 12th Century. They were among the three or four leading ironmasters of the county when that trade was at its most prosperous, and from these Burrell ironmasters are descended the families at Knepp Castle, West Grinstead, and Ockenden House, Cuckfield. In the modern idiom the surname can be found as Bourrel, Burrel(l), Borrel(l), Birrell, Borel(l) and Burrells. One of the earliest settlers in the New World was Mr. Henry Burrell, who is recorded as holding 15 acres of land in the "Barbadoes", on December 23rd 1679. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger Burel, which was dated 1194, in the "Pipe Rolls of Wiltshire", during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "Richard 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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