This unusual name has two possible origins both locational. The first is as a dialectual and regional variation of either of the placenames, Birtle in Lancashire or Birtles in Cheshire. When people moved from their homes and were known by the name of that place it was common for spelling and pronunciation differences to appear in the recording of the name as in this case. The meaning of the placenames mentioned above is 'birch hills' from the Olde English 'birc', birch and 'hyll', hill. The second possible source for the surname 'Burtwell' or 'Birtwell' is from some now lost place, meaning 'the spring or stream of the birches'. Many villages were 'lost' in medieval England, either from forcible 'clearing' to make way for sheep pastures or from a natural distaster such as the Black Death of 1348. One Peter Bartwell is recorded in London in 1575. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of An Burtwell, married Ambrose Mason. which was dated 26th December 1699, St. Matthew's, Friday St., London. during the reign of William III of Orange and England 1689-1702. 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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