This is a very rare English surname, although one recorded since at least medieval times. It is apparently locational, and originates from a now "lost" hamlet or village called probably in Olde English "Aeld Cnoll" or similar, and translating literally as the Old Hillock. This was may have been a reference to a pagan or at least Ancient British and pre Christian burial barrow, rather than a hill as such. "Lost" village names are a major feature in the British Isles surname listings. It is estimated that as many as five thousand surname do come from this source, of which often the only public reminder in the 20th century is the surviving surname. There are a number of reasons as to why these villages disappeared including plague, war, and the growth of suburbia, but the most realistic is that agricultural changes forced their closure. This particularly applied to sheep farming which required far fewer workers, than the displaced arable farming of old. The fact that the earliest recordings that we have been able to find are in the surviving church registers of the city of London is not significant. London was probably the only place that most people had heard of other than their own village, and it was towards London that dispossessed people turned if only because rumour had it that the streets were paved with gold! The first recording is that of Will Oldknowe, whose son Thomas was christened at the church of St Mary Woolnoth, on August 27th 1549. This was during the reign of King Edward V1, known as the Boy King, 1547 - 1554.
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