This very interesting surname is of Olde English pre- 8th century origins. It is almost certainly occupational for a 'bridelsmyth', a maker of bits and bridles for horses and and one who worked in both leather and metals. The original spelling was 'bridel' or 'bridell' and the earliest surname spellings took these forms. There is a suggestion that in some instances the present name holders could have derived from a place name such as 'The Bridewell' in London, Bridewell in Devon, or Bridewell Springs in Wiltshire, the surname being a local 'slang' form. Given the fluidity of surname spelling right through to the 19th century, it is quite possible. These places derive their names from a lost fertility right, or so it is claimed. Certainly 'Bridewell' does mean the spring (wella) of the bride (bryd), but this may be a reference to ownership or even a dowry. Early recordings include Elinor Bridell of London on May 30th 1566, Johanna Briddle of Chelsea on June 14th 1591, and John Bridle, of Dorset, sentenced by Bloody Judge Jeffreys to ten years hard labour in the West Indies, on September 25th 1685, after the failure of the Monmouth Rebellion. The surname is found in several spellings including Bridel, Bridle, Bridell and Bridewell, the coat of arms is a style known as canting, i.e. a play on the name, being a silver field charged with a gold bridle. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter Bridel, which was dated 1196, recorded in the register of the Freeman of Leicester, 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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