This rare and interesting surname has two possible interpretations. Firstly, it may be of early medieval English origin, and a topographical name for someone who lived by an area of high ground or by a prominent rock, deriving from the Middle English "fell", high ground or rock. Topographical names were some of the earliest names to be created, as topographical features, whether natural or man-made, provided obvious and convenient means of identification. Roger del Fel is listed in a Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds, Cumberland (1318). It may also be of Anglo-Saxon origin, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th Century "fell", skin, hide or pelt, and is a metonymic occupational name for a fell-monger. Job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary. The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 13th Century (see below) and has many variant spellings ranging from Fell, Fells and Felle to Felose and Fellce. Recordings of the surname from London Church Registers include: Francis Felse, who was christened on October 7th 1553 at St. Martin in the Fields, Westminster; William, son of John Felce who was christened on March 1st 1628 at St. Mildred Poultry; and Frances Felce who married Thomas Grove on December 11th 1747, at St. George, Mayfair, Westminster, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Fel, which was dated 1279, in the "Hundred Rolls of Northumberland", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "the Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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