Recorded in the spellings of Elwell, Elwill, Illwell, Elwel etc, this interesting surname is locational. It derives from the village of 'Elwell' four miles from Dorchester in Dorset. This village is first recorded in the county Fees Roll of the year 1212 in the reign of King John as 'Helewill'. This is a Middle English derivation of the OLde English 'Hael waella', which today is translated as 'The Wishing Well', however this is almost certainly wrong. The original meaning was probably more sinister and may have been 'The spring (waella) of omen', suggesting that some misdeed or tragedy may have taken place there. The surname is centred around the village of North Wootton, implying that some at least of the original inhabitants of Elwell moved to other areas perhaps as a result of agricultural changes or even plague. The early recordings include Richard Elwell who married Joan Manfell at North Wootton on December 4th 1609, whilst on February 14th 1619, Jone Illwell (so much for spelling), married John Dawson at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney. A later recording was that of John Elwell, at the famous church of St Mary Le Bone, London, on June 23rd 1692. The Coat of Arms granted in Exeter in 1701, has the blazon of an ermine field, charged with a chevron engrailed between three eagles displayed with two heads. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Elwil, which was dated November 25th 1588, married at Whitchurch Conicorum, Dorset, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as 'Good Queen Bess', 1558 - 1603. 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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