This interesting surname has a number of possible origins. Firstly, it may be of English locational origin from either Rowell in Devonshire or as a dialectal variant of Rothwell in Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire or the North Riding of Yorkshire. Rowell in Devonshire is derived from the old English pre 7th Century "ruh" meaning rough or overgrown, and "hyll" a hill. Rothwell is composed of the old English elements "roth" a clearing and "wella" a spring or stream. Rowell being the local pronunciation of the place in Northamptonshire.It could also have originated as a diminutive of the medieval given name "Row", a short form of Rowland, deriving from the old German "hrothi" meaning fame, and "landa" land. The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the thirteenth century (see below). A famous namebearer being George Augustus Rowell 1804 - 1892, a meteorologist. He originally followed the trade of a cabinet-maker, later he studied astronomy, and published letters and papers on meterological subjects. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Letitia de Rowelle, which was dated 1273, The Hundred Rolls of Bedfordshire, during the reign of King Edward 1st, "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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