Family History Notebook

Early Occurences of the Swindell Surname

It is generally believed that  in 'ordinary' families hereditary surnames were not widely adopted in northern England before the second half of the fourteenth century. 1


The earliest (as yet detected) occurence of the Swyndell surname is a William Swyndell in pleas at Nottingham in 1434. This would be only two or three generations after an origin of the surname in Cheshire.


A William Swyndell is listed among the Canons (monks) of Beauchiel Abbey in 1461-2.

James Swindells and John Swyndell of Buxton are listed in the Court Rolls in 1515, 1517 and 1524


In 1522 evidence to the boundaries of Marple (east of Stockport, Cheshire) was given by a Roger Swyndels, aged fivescore years and more (!). (Earwaker Vol 2 p 52 ref Watson MSS from an old paper at Marple Hall.)

In 1542 a John Swyndels was occupying a 'mease near the Newe Brydge in Stockport'.

Award  DAR/D/65/4  14 Dec. 1542

In dispute between Robert Dokenfeld of Portewode esq. and John Ardern of Hareden esq. concerning a mease and lands in Stockport. Edwarde Holt of Trafford gent. and Alexander Elcok, mayor of Stockport, arbitrators, award that the mease near the Newe Brydge in Stockport, now in occ. of John Swyndels, shall be held by John Ardern and that Robert Dokenfield shall hold for life certain lands in Stockport lately in dispute between the parties. Rent of 16d. to John Arderne, Robert Dokenfield as exor. of Robert Arderne to pay 4 marks due to Richard Arderne.

The Disley registers show a strong concentration of Swindells but only commence in 1591 - some five or six generations later than the Nottingham mention. Stockport registers start in 1584 with the first Swindell mentioned in 1586.

The Prestbury registers start a generation earlier with Humfry Swyndells in 1561. Humfrey Swyndles is mentioned in a petition of 1553 to the Court of the Star Chamber in Edward VI's reign (Court of Star Chamber: Proceedings, Edward VI STAC 3/3/44) which I have transcribed.


Edmund Swyndells married Felice Adams in 1576 and William Swyndells marrued Joone Merriman in 1586, both in the parish of Yardley. William's will of 1615 mentions his brother Edmund and also Francis Swyndells, son of Humphrey Swyndells. There is also a will of Edmund Swyndell in the same parish in 1596

Recognizance before Sir Richard Greves by Thomas Cottrell of Kings Norton Labourer to appear at Sessions and give evidence against William Lea and John Swyndells concerning divers misdemeanours committed by them against him.  1/1/54/7  7 October 1628

These documents are held at Worcestershire Record Office

No further details   Recognizance before Sir Richard Greves by John Swyndells Shoemaker John Lyndon Yeoman and Roger Kettle Yeoman all of Kingsnorton for the appearance of the said John Swyndells at Sessions to answer for the misdemeanours committed by him against Thomas Cottrell.  1/1/54/6  7 October 1628


The Leicestershire records start in Breedon in 1562 with the first reference, Elezabeth Swindale, in 1564.


The surname occurs as early as 1579 in Woodbridge in Suffolk.


A clergyman, John Swyndells, is recorded in Sussex as a witness at Wisborough Green in 1527. A John Swyndell, presumably the same man, became vicar of Kenton in Devon in 1533 and died before 1539. A dispute over his estate in about 1554 gives the name of his father (John) and the executor of his will (Edmund Swyndell of Washington, Sussex).


Naturally Swindells (mainly), Swindalls, Swindales, Swindles etc have migrated to London from their original parts of the country. The earliest recorded migrants to London I have noted so far are Alys Swyndelle who died in 1540 and  John Swindell who died before 1580.

Other similar names




1    P.H. Reaney declares
"It is abundantly clear that in the north surnames became hereditary much later than in the south." a
"The Yorkshire Subsidy Rolls [1297/1327] confirm the impression that surnames were transient and ephemeral" a (ie by-names in more recent parlance).b

A manorial court at Billingham, County Durham in 1378 reflects a mixture of by-names and probable hereditary surnames.

David Hey states
"Many knightly families in the south of England ... had taken hereditary surnames by the end of the 12th century.  ... In the north of England the process took longer but the knights who were still without surnames in the fourteenth century formed only a small minority" c

As an example in Northumberland/Durham/Yorkshire, Sir Hugh de Eure born 1233 was a younger son of John fitz Robert but the Eure surname was hereditary therafter.


a    Introduction to "A Dictionary of English Surnames". P.H. Reaney and R.H. Wilson. 1997 ISBN 0 19860 092 5 page li

b    ibid page l.

c    "Family Names and Family History". David Hey 2000 ISBN 1 85285 255 0  pages 52, 53