This very unusual surname, recorded in Church Registers of South East England from the mid 16th Century under spellings including Dumbrell, Dumbrill, Dumberrill, Dumbrall and Dombrell, is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from some minor, unrecorded, or now "lost" place believed to have been situated in Sussex because of the high incidence of early surname recordings from that county. An estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets are known to have disappeared since the 12th Century, due to such natural causes as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, and to the widespread practice of enforced "clearing" and enclosure of rural lands for sheep pastures at the height of the wool trade, from the 15th Century onwards.The component elements of the placename are most likely the Olde English pre 7th Century "dun", down (a word borrowed from the ancient British), with "bre", an old British (pre Roman) word meaning "hill", to which was added an explanatory Olde English "hyll", hill; hence, "hill on the downs". On February 4th 1551, John Dumbrell and Elizabeth Roberts were married at Horsham, Sussex, and on June 9th 1622, Elizabeth Dumbrill married a William Townsut at Wivelsfield, Sussex. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Agnes Dumbrill, which was dated July 5th 1547, marriage to Thomas Wood, at Hove, Sussex, during the reign of King Edward V1, known as "Bluff King Hal", 1547 - 1553. 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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