This rare and interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and has two possible sources. Firstly, the surname may be a variant of the Scottish surname "Wanless", which derives from the Middle English "wanles", hopeless, luckless, and was a nickname for an unfortunate person. The creation of surnames from nicknames was a common practice in the Middle Ages, and many modern-day surnames derive from medieval nicknames referring to personal characteristics. Simon Wanles was monk of Melrose in 1451. Secondly, the surname may be a locational name from either Windle in Lancashire, or Windhill in the West Riding of Yorkshire.The former was recorded as "Windhull" in the 1201 Pipe Rolls of the county, and the latter as "Windhill" in the 1208 Feet of Fines. Both placenames share the same meaning and derivation, which is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "wind", wind, and "hyll", hill or mound; hence, "a hill exposed to fierce gusts". Locational names were originally given as a means of identification to those who left their village or place of origin to settle elsewhere. Alan de Windul was noted in the 1242 Book of Fees of Lancashire. On March 5th 1857, James, son of John and Georgiana Windless, was christened at Brompton by Northallerton, Yorkshire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Alan de Windhull, which was dated 1201, in the "Pipe Rolls of Lancashire", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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