This deceptively simple name is in fact of complex and conjectural etymology. There are three (at least) possible sources, and all that can be said with relative certainty is that in its modern spelling form it is 17th Century. The first possibility is that the origin is medieval English, and a developed form of "Gulling". This was a nickname diminutive derived from the (sea) gull, and supposedly described one with a pale complexion, however, given the rapacious habits of seagulls, it may have other interpretations.The second possible origin is French Huguenot, from "Gouelin", again a nickname diminutive which translates as "the younger gourmet", from the Old French word "Goulu", a big eater! The third possibility is as a variant form of the popular locational name Gowland, which derives from some "lost" medieval village believed to have been in East Anglia. The name also appears in Devon, but not before May 3rd 1721, when John Gowlling married Joan Taylor at Kenn, near Exeter. Interesting recordings from London Church Registers include: Jean Gouelin, a witness at the French Huguenot Church, Threadneedle Street, on March 31st 1678, and William Gowling, the son of Humphrey Gowling, who was christened at St. Botolph's without Aldgate, on October 1st 1690. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger Gulling, which was dated 1203, in the "Pipe Rolls of Hampshire", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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