Urwell History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the bearers of the Urwell family name are thought have lived in ancient Anglo-Saxon England. They were first found 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 Urwell family

The surname Urwell 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 Urwell family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Urwell 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 Urwell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Urwell Spelling Variations

Until quite recently, the English language has lacked a definite system of spelling rules. Consequently, Anglo-Saxon surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. Changes in Anglo-Saxon names were influenced by the evolution of the English language, as it incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other languages. Although Medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, so it is common to find one person referred to by several different spellings of his surname, even the most literate people varied the spelling of their own names. Variations of the name Urwell include Orwell, Orwill, Orvell and others.

Early Notables of the Urwell family (pre 1700)

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

Migration of the Urwell family

Searching for a better life, many English families migrated to British colonies. Unfortunately, the majority of them traveled under extremely harsh conditions: overcrowding on the ships caused the majority of the immigrants to arrive diseased, famished, and destitute from the long journey across the ocean. For those families that arrived safely, modest prosperity was attainable, and many went on to make invaluable contributions to the development of the cultures of the new colonies. Research into the origins of individual families in North America revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Urwell or a variant listed above: Catherine Orwell and her husband were banished to Jamaica in 1685.



  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)


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