Recorded in several spellings including Whitenell, Whitnall, and Withnall, this is an English locational surname. The famous Victorian etymologist Canon Charles Bardsley writing in the year 1880 says that (quote) ' I cannot find the exact locality. Evidently it must be sought in the West country'. Clearly Canon Bardsley did not have access to a good gazetter as it is almost certainly from the village of Withnell near Blackburn, in the county of Lancashire. This village is first recorded in the year 1160 as Withenhull, or the hill covered by willow.Where Canon Bardsley is correct is in his findings that the first recordings of the surname certainly appear to be in the county of Somerset, when Ralph de Whitenhull appears in the the famous register and record of the surviving charters for that county known as Kirby's Quest. This recording was in the year 1316 in the ninth year of the reign of King Edward 11nd of England, 1307 - 1327. Stephen de Whitenhull, who is believed to have been the brother of Ralph, also appears in the same charters. Locational surnames were usually 'from' names. That is to say names given to people as identification after they left they original homes to move somewhere else. Given that spelling was at best erratic and local accents very thick, the further they moved, the more likely it was that the name spelling underwent a transposition, sometimes to the point where it was barely recognizeable.
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