This interesting and unusual surname, widely recorded in church registers of Somerset and Gloucestershire from the mid 16th Century, is of locational origin from a now "lost" place, originally believed to have been in South West England. The prime cause of the "lost village" phenomenon was the enforced "clearing" and dispersal of the former inhabitants to make way for sheep pastures at the height of the wool trade in the 14th Century, along with natural causes such as the Black Death of 1348. The component elements of this placename are the old English pre 7th Century "fox" meaning "fox", plus "wella", a spring or stream. On January 24th 1574 William Foxwell and Elizabeth Hayman were married in Pitminster, Somerset, and on May 22nd 1588 Alice Foxwell married a William Nurton in the same place. The christening of John Foxwell, an infant, took place in Ashill on December 26th 1605 and on October 16th 1606 the marriage of Richard Foxwell and Dina Rise was registered in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Foxwell, (marriage to Joan Whit), which was dated June 18th 1545, Pitminster, Somerset, during the reign of King Henry V111, "Bluff King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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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