Show ContentsNowell History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, the name Nowell was first found in Britina. It was a name for a person who was connected in some way with the Christmas season. Such a name may have been attached to the person whose duty it was to provide the Yule log to the Lord of the manor, although this connection is by no means exclusive.

Early Origins of the Nowell family

The surname Nowell was first found in Staffordshire at Ranton, home of Ranton Abbey and Ranton Priory, built c.1150 by Robert fitz Noel of Ellenhall. 1

The ruins of Abbey House remain today but most of the building fell to ruin by the late 1600s. For Noel's services as a companion to William the Conqueror, he received the aforementioned priory plus the manors of Ellenhall, Wiverstone, Podmore and Milnese. His eldest son, Robert Noel, Lord of Ellenhall, was granted the greater part of Gainsborough from the Prior of Coventry temp. Henry I. From him derived the Noels of Hilcote and the Noels of the counties of Rutland and Leicester. 2

"The Hall [of Ellenhall] belonged to the ancient family of the Noels, from whom descended the Noels of Hilcote, in this county, and the Noels of Ridlington, in Rutlandshire; it afterwards passed, with the manor, by marriage, to the Harcourts." 3

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 list Ralph Noel in Huntingdonshire and Noel de Aubtanis in Somerset. 4 Kirby's Quest listed the name as a forename in Somerset as in: Noel atte Wynde, 5

The hamlet of Moxhull in Warwickshire played an important part in the family's lineage. "It is situated to the west of the Birmingham and Fazeley canal; and is chiefly distinguished as the residence of Berkeley Noel, Esq., whose seat of Moxhull Park is bounded on the east by the high road: the house was built about the 14th century, and is a substantial edifice, containing some ancient portraits of members of the Noel and Hacket families." 3

Another branch of the family was found in Exton, Rutland. "The church is a spacious and elegant structure, chiefly in the early, and partly in the later, English style, with a tower strengthened by buttresses, and surmounted by a spire; it contains several finely-executed monuments to the Noel family and their connexions." 3

Yes another branch of the family was found at Little Mearley in Lancashire. "The hamlet and manor of Little Mearley, in the township, still remain in the descendants of William Nowell, the first grantee under John de Lacy, who died in the year 1240." 3

Early History of the Nowell family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Nowell research. Another 92 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1507, 1515, 1558, 1560, 1571, 1576, 1590, 1602, 1641, 1655, 1661, 1662, 1684, 1689, 1690 and 1714 are included under the topic Early Nowell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Nowell Spelling Variations

It is only in the last few hundred years that the English language has been standardized. For that reason, Anglo-Norman surnames like Nowell are characterized by many spelling variations. Scribes and monks in the Middle Ages spelled names they sounded, so it is common to find several variations that refer to a single person. As the English language changed and incorporated elements of other European languages such as Norman French and Latin, even literate people regularly changed the spelling of their names. The variations of the name Nowell include Noel, Noell, Nole and others.

Early Notables of the Nowell family

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was

  • Alexander Nowell (c. 1507-1602), an English Puritan theologian and clergyman, Dean of St Paul's
  • Laurence Nowell (c. 1515-c. 1571), an English antiquarian, a cartographer and a pioneering scholar of Anglo-Saxon language and literature, best known for his Nowell Codex, a collection that included t...
  • Laurence Nowell (died 1576) English churchman, Archdeacon of Derby (1558) and later Dean of Lichfield (1560)

Nowell Ranking

In the United States, the name Nowell is the 4,770th most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. 6

United States Nowell migration to the United States +

Faced with the chaos present in England at that time, many English families looked towards the open frontiers of the New World with its opportunities to escape oppression and starvation. People migrated to North America, as well as Australia and Ireland in droves, paying exorbitant rates for passages in cramped, unsafe ships. Many of the settlers did not make the long passage alive, but those who did see the shores of North America were welcomed with great opportunity. Many of the families that came from England went on to make essential contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America carried the name Nowell, or a variant listed above:

Nowell Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Jon Nowell, who arrived in Virginia in 1621-1629 7
  • John Nowell, who landed in Virginia in 1624 aboard the ship "Margaret & John" 7
  • Mrs. Parnell Gray Nowell, of London who arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1630 aboard the ship "Ambrose" as part of the Winthrop Fleet 8
  • Increase Nowell of London who arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1630 aboard the ship "Ambrose" as part of the Winthrop Fleet, found in Charlestown. 7
  • Richard Nowell, who landed in Virginia in 1637 7
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Nowell Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Ruth Nowell, who arrived in Virginia in 1704 7
  • Thomas Nowell, who arrived in Leeward Islands in 1705 7
  • William Nowell, who landed in Virginia in 1705 7

Australia Nowell migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Nowell Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. John Nowell, English convict who was convicted in Lancaster, Lancastershire, England for 10 years, transported aboard the "Augusta Jessie" on 10th August 1838, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) 9

New Zealand Nowell migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Nowell Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Maria Nowell, aged 16, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "Fifeshire" in 1842 10

West Indies Nowell migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. 11
Nowell Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Mr. Peternell Nowell, (b. 1589), aged 46, British settler travelling aboard the ship "The Dorset" arriving in Barbados in September 1635 12

Contemporary Notables of the name Nowell (post 1700) +

  • Howard Wilbert Nowell (1872-1940), American instructor in pathology at Boston University, pioneer cancer researcher from Merrimacport, Massachusetts
  • Mel Nowell (b. 1940), American retired NBA basketball player
  • Wedgwood Nowell (1878-1957), American character actor who appeared in over 140 movies from 1915 through 1947
  • Bradley James Nowell (1968-1996), American lead guitarist
  • Winslow A. Nowell, American Republican politician, Postmaster at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1889-93 13
  • William Nowell, American politician, Representative from Michigan 2nd District, 1930 13
  • Richard Nowell, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Arizona, 1956 13
  • James A. Nowell, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Minnesota, 1916 (alternate), 1924 13
  • Charles H. Nowell, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Massachusetts, 1904; Member of Massachusetts State House of Representatives Twenty-Eighth Middlesex District, 1905 13
  • Richard Nowell (b. 1975), English retired professional cricket player from Croydon, Surrey
  • ... (Another 3 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

The Nowell Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Jus suum cuique
Motto Translation: To every man his own.

  1. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  2. Burke, John Bernard, The Roll of Battle Abbey. London: Edward Churton, 26, Holles Street, 1848, Print.
  3. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  4. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  5. Dickinson, F.H., Kirby's Quest for Somerset of 16th of Edward the 3rd London: Harrison and Sons, Printers in Ordinary to Her Majesty, St, Martin's Lane, 1889. Print.
  6. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  7. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  8. Pilgrim Ship's of 1600's. Retrieved January 6th 2023 from
  9. Convict Records of Australia. Retrieved 23rd August 2020 from
  10. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 4th November 2011). Retrieved from
  12. Pilgrim Ship Lists Early 1600's retrieved 29th September 2021. Retrieved from
  13. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 16) . Retrieved from on Facebook