This very rare name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and may be either a locational surname, from some minor, unrecorded or now "lost" place believed to have been situated in Staffordshire, or a topographical name peculiar to the north Midlands. An estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets are known to have disappeared in Britain since the 13th Century, due to such natural causes as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, and to the widespread effects of the Enclosure Acts rom the 15th Century on. The component elements of the placename are the Olde English pre 7th Century "thorn(en)", thorn(y) and "wella, waella", spring, stream; hence, "(place at) the stream bordered with thorn-bushes. As a topographical surname, composed of the same elements, Thorn(e)well would have denoted residence by such a stream. The modern forms of the surname are Thorn(e)well, Thorn(i)well, Thornywell, Thorniwall and Thornewill, and the following recordings illustrate the development of the name: Thornewell (1609, Staffordshire); Thornywall (1613, ibid.); Thornawell (1624, London); Thornywell (1664, Derbyshire); and Thorningwell (1695, Staffordshire). The christening of Timmison, daughter of John Thornewill, was recorded in Cotton, Staffordshire, on April 24th 1689. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Lawrence Thornwell, which was dated October 6th 1605, witness to the christening of his son, Mathew, at Fewston, Yorkshire, during the reign of King James 1 of England and V1 of Scotland, 1603 - 1625. 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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