Recorded in a number of forms including Brownhill, Brownill, Brounsell, Brownsall, Brownsell, Brownsill and Brunhill, this is an Anglo-Scottish surname. It is locational, and although first recorded in Scotland, it has been claimed that all the present day bearers of the surname descend from a single family, believed to have come from the village of Brownhill near Sale, in the county of Cheshire. This is at best arguable, as there is no apparent reason why the name may not have equally originated from any of the other places called Brownhill as these have all been recorded since at least the 12th century. These include Brownhill near Wakefield in Yorkshire; Brownhills, an urban district near Walsall in Staffordshire; or Brownhills, a hamlet near St. Andrew's, Fifeshire. All are composed of the Olde English pre 7th century words "brun", meaning brown, and "-hyll", a hill, although why a place should be called Brown Hill is less obvious, and may be associated with the presence of peat or iron ore. Early examples of recordings include Adam Brownhill who was a member of the Scottish parliament for Edinburgh in 1367, Ade de Brounhill who held lands near Edinburgh in 1430, Peter Brownsell who was christened at St Giles Cripplegate, in the city of London, on October 6th 1658, and James Brownsill, a christening witness at St Botolphs Bishopgate, on October 22nd 1722. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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