This unusual surname is medieval but of Olde English origins. It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with ships, since it is with ships that 'wheelhouses' are most generally associated. In this case, the 'wheel' in question was a water-wheel, and the 'house' should be more properly called a Mill or possibly a workshop, whose tools were driven by water! The derivation is from the pre 7th century words 'hweol' and 'hus', and the name is first recorded in Yorkshire in the 14th century. This first recording date is towards the end of the surname period, when most people already held hereditary surnames, but paradoxically it seems that mills driven by water were a fairly new introduction into certain parts of England, hence a new surname was created. Curiously the early examples of the surname refer to 'de Welehous' suggesting that 'Wheelhouse' may have been a place, but if so we have not been able to identify it. Examples of the early recordings include Willemus de Welehous, a carpenter, recorded in the rolls of the city of York in 1379, Joseph Wheelhouse in the Friary Rolls of Yorkshire in 1702, and Robert Wheelhouse, who married Ann Bethell at St George's Chapel, Mayfair, in 1742. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Whelehous, which was dated 1379, in the Poll Tax Rolls of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Richard 11, known as 'Richard of Bordeaux', 1377 - 1399. 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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