Orwell History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestry of the name Orwell dates from the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture of Britain. It comes from when the family lived in the settlement of Orwell in Cambridgeshire, in Orwell Haven in Suffolk, or in the lands of Orwell in the Scottish county of Kinross.

Regarding this latter parish, "this place derives its name, of Gaelic origin, from an estate so called on the banks of Loch Leven; and the term is supposed to be descriptive of the parish as situated in a green or fertile retreat. On the shore of Loch Leven are the remains of the old parish church, once an appendage of the monastery of Dunfermline; and near the village of Milnathort are the remains of Burleigh Castle, anciently a place of considerable importance and of great strength. " [1]

Early Origins of the Orwell family

The surname Orwell was first found in Cambridgeshire at Orwell which dates back to the Domesday Book where it was listed as Ordeuuelle. The place name literally means "spring by a pointed hill," from the Old English words ord + wella. The River Orwell in Suffolk dates back to the 11th century when it was listed as Arewan and later as Orewell in 1341. This ancient Celtic river-name means simply "stream" having derived from the Old English word "wella." [2]

Today Orwell, Cambridgeshire has a population of about 1,080 people and the Roman road still runs to Cambridge runs alongside the village. St Andrew's Church dates back to about 1150 A.D.

The name was anciently spelt Orval, from "Orval, a fief in the Vicomte of Coutances. Regnault d'Orval, about the time of the Conquest, witnessed the foundation charter of L'Essay, and gave to the Abbey his church of Orval." [3]

Another source notes that Turbert de Orduuelle was the first on record in 1066 in Cambridgeshire and later in the same shire, William de Orewell was listed there in 1201. A few years later, Alan de Orewell was found in the Pipe Rolls of 1212. [4]

Up north in Scotland, "Richard de Orewell witnessed confirmation of a charter by Walter, bishop of Glasgow to the Hospital of Soltre, 1231, and Johannes de Vrwell, one of an inquest in Aberdeen, 1342, may be John of Urwell who had a confirmation of the lands of Drum near Pluscardy, 1343." [5]

Early History of the Orwell family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Orwell research. Another 198 words (14 lines of text) covering the years 1140, 1231, 1362, 1362, 1389, 1431, 1514, 1576 and 1615 are included under the topic Early Orwell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Orwell Spelling Variations

Spelling variations in names were a common occurrence before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago. In the Middle Ages, even the literate spelled their names differently as the English language incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other European languages. Many variations of the name Orwell have been found, including Orwell, Orwill, Orvell and others.

Early Notables of the Orwell family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Orwell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Orwell migration to the United States +

Families began migrating abroad in enormous numbers because of the political and religious discontent in England. Often faced with persecution and starvation in England, the possibilities of the New World attracted many English people. Although the ocean trips took many lives, those who did get to North America were instrumental in building the necessary groundwork for what would become for new powerful nations. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America bore the name Orwell, or a variant listed above:

Orwell Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Orwell, who landed in Maryland in 1676 [6]
  • Catherine Orwell and her husband were banished to Jamaica in 1685

Contemporary Notables of the name Orwell (post 1700) +

  • George Orwell (1903-1950), pen name for Eric Arthur Blair, English novelist, essayist and critic who was probably best known for "Animal Farm" and "1984"
  • Charles Orwell Brasch (1909-1973), New Zealand poet, literary editor and arts patron


  1. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. ^ Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  3. ^ Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 2 of 3
  4. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  5. ^ Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  6. ^ 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)


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