This interesting and unusual surname, recorded in church registers of Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire from the mid 12th Century under the variant spellings De Avenell, Davenell, Davenall, Davenhill etc., is ultimately believed to be of French locational origin from a place called Avenell, so named from the old French "aven", a natural well mainly found in limestone regions, plus the diminutive suffix "el(l)". The name "Avenel" is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 for Shropshire. It appears as "Avenellus" in the 1190 "Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire". The birth of Avice, daughter of William De Avenell, was recorded in Nether Haddon, Derbyshire, in 1155, and her marriage to one, Richard De Vernon was registered in the same place in 1175. The forms Davenell, Davenhall etc., result from the fusion of the French prefix "de" with the placename. On October 14th 1582 Thomas, son of Humfrey Davenell, was christened in Gnosall, Staffordshire, and on May 6th 1670 one Sarah Davenal was christened in Christchurch, Wellington, Shropshire. The marriage of Jane Davenhall and Thomas Chambers took place in Castle Church, Staffordshire. The marriage of Jane Davenhall and Thomas Chamers took place in Castle Church, Staffordshire, on October 22nd 1733. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Paganus Avenel, which was dated 1130, in the "The Pipe Rolls of Hertfordshire", during the reign of King Stephen, known as "The Count of Blois", 1135 - 1154. 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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