This rare and interesting name is of Medieval English origin and is a nickname surname for a rather corpulent, portly man, 'A goodly portly man y faith'... Henry 1V, William Shakespeare. The derivation is from the Old English 'gora', a spear head (being triangular and thus resembling a person of this stature) and 'belig', the belly. There seems to be no hard and fast rule where nicknames are concerned, the humour in the Middle Ages being more robust and down to earth than humour today, and names that we might find insensitive or insulting would have been taken in good part in times past. Amongst the sample recordings in London is the christening of Amy Gorbell, the infant daughter of Abraham and Mary Gorbell, in July 1794 at St. Mary's, Whitechapel, Stepney, and the marriage of William Gorbell and Margaret Bowring on August 3rd 1822 at St. Dunstan's, Stepney. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Gorbill, which was dated April 1630, at St. Mary's, Whitechapel, Stepney, during the reign of King Charles 1, 'The Martyr', 1625-1649. 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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