This interesting surname, widely recorded in Sussex Church Registers from the late 15th Century, may be either of Anglo-Saxon or of Old French origin. If the former, Funnell is a variant of the more familiar Fennell, itself a metonymic occupational name for a grower or seller of fennel, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th Century "finguel, fenol", ultimately from the Latin "fenuculum", diminutive of "f(a)enum", hay. Fennel was widely used in the Middle Ages as a seasoning ingredient in sauces, and in some instances, the surname may have originated as a nickname for a particularly enthusiastic user of the herb, or as a topographical name from residence near a patch where fennel was grown as in Henry atte Fenegle (Sussex, 1332). William Fenigle and Cristiana Fenel were noted respectively in the 1327 Subsidy Rolls of Sussex and Somerset. If of Old French origin, Funnell is a variant of Furnell, itself a locational name from any of the places in France called Fournal or Fournel, from the Old French "fournel", furnace. One Alan de Furnell was noted in the 1191 Pipe Rolls of Oxfordshire, and in 1553, a John Funnell was entered in the Sussex Wills Records. The marriage of Robert Funnell to Alice Cowper took place at Eastbourne, Sussex, on October 8th 1562. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Funnell, which was dated 1483, in the "Birth Registers of Chiddingly", East Sussex, during the reign of King Richard 111, 1483 - 1485. 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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