This curious and uncommon surname is of early medieval English origin, and is a dialectal variant of the name Whewell, itself a variant form of Wheel. The surname has a number of possible interpretations; it is derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century "hweol", wheel, in Middle English "whele", and may be an occupational surname for one in charge of a water-wheel, or a topographical surname for someone who lived near such a wheel, or it may be a metonymic occupational name for a maker of wheels. Job-descriptive surnames originally described the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary, while topographical surnames are among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided obvious identifying names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. The variant forms of Wheel range from Wheal(e), Wheel(e)s and While to Wheywell, W(h)aywall, Wheway and Whyway. Examples from Church Registers include: Thomas Whewe (1585, Derbyshire); Edward Whyway (1595, Shropshire); and Thomas Whiaway (1672, Devonshire). The marriage of James Wheway and Mary Hastings was recorded in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, on October 2nd 1750. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Nycholas Whewae, which was dated August 9th 1561, christened in Desford, Leicestershire, 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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