Family History Notebook

The Origins of the Swindell / Swindale Surname
Swyndle, Swindle, Swindell, Swindells, Swindall

The probable origin of the name is Swyndelves, near Stockport in Cheshire. In this area there is evidence of hereditary surname formation outside the major land-owners at early as at least 1282 - e.g. the Bridge or 'de Ponte'  family of Stockport - but at this time most 'surnames' (bynames) in the area were occupational and not hereditary. By the late fourteenth century the reverse appears to be true and the Swindell surname probably originated sometime in the mid-14th century (assuming that it originated in Cheshire). The earliest record of the name yet found is in Nottingham in 1434.

There are many reference dictionaries for the origins of British surnames including

Charles Bardsley: "A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames with Special American Instances" (Henry Frowde, London 1901)

Henry Harrison(with Gytha Pulling): Surnames of the United Kingdom (The Eaton Press, London 1912)

P. H. Reaney: A Dictionary of British Surnames (Oxford University Press 1958)
P. H. Reaney and A. Wilson: A Dictionary of English Surnames (Revised third edition Oxford University Press 1997)

Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges: "A Dictionary of Surnames"  (Oxford University Press 1988)

Basil Cottle: "The Penguin Dictionary of Surnames" (Penguin 1967, 1978)

Patrick Hanks and Richard Coates: "The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland"  (Oxford University Press, published 2016)

Basil Cottle suggests that 'Swindell(s), Swindler may be modern jests mis-representing Swingle(s), Swingler', where a swingle is a flail for beating flax and Swingler is an occupational surname. The earliest Swingler baptism I have found is in Billesdon, Leicestershire in 1619 but many Swindle/Swindell baptisms in the second half of the sixteenth century in Cheshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire. I believe Swingler/Swingle/Swingell to be a completely seperate name to Swindell/Swindle

All the remaining authors treat the Swindale / Swindell / Swindle / Swyndle name as being 'locative' or 'toponymic', e.g. someone who dwells or dwelt in Swindale, and then derive Swindale as 'the valley of the swine'. 
(However in Norway Svindalen is thought to derive from 'narrow valley' rather than 'valley of the swine'.) Swindale near Shap in Cumberland is a favoured location but Reaney and Wilson follow Hanks and Hodges in pointing to Swindale near Skelton in the North Riding of Yorkshire.  Swyndelves in Cheshire is an alternative choice of location.

Although there are (at least) four villages of Skelton in the old North Riding of Yorkshire
        ●    4 km NW of Boroughbridge
        ●    8km W of Richmond
        ●    6 km NW of York
        ●    3 km S of Saltburn
I  have found Swindale Farm (previously known as Swindale House) and Swindale Beck some 8 km south of Saltburn. Despite the comment in Reaney and Wilson there is no evidence yet found  of any connection between this Swindale and the Swindale/Swindell &tc surname.

In my part of the family, knowing that the Swindales came from the west of the Lake District in the early part of the 20th century, there was a natural tendency to connect the name with the valley of Swindale in the east of the Lake District, 5 km SW of Shap. However the family can be traced back to the area around Hexham in Northumberland in the 17th century. At that time the spelling in the parish registers was commonly Swindle, Swindel or Swindall. The occurrence of the name in Northumberland may well have resulted from migration from Derbyshire - see Swindle.

The Swindale Beck runs down through Brough in Cumbria to join the River Eden and there is a Swindale Grange 0.5 km outside Brough as well as a Swindalehead House further up the stream. Another Swindale runs down a few miles west to Hilton and yet another further west runs down to Knock.   In the same area, but to the south-west, Great Swindale and Little Swindale run down into Weasdale. Place names deriving from the root Swin are common in the north-east - for example 10 km north of Hexham the Swin Burn runs down from Swinburne Castle to Little Swinburn.

Another Swind(a)le yet to be located is recorded near Uckington in Shropshire. Another Swyndle Hill yet to be located is recorded near (Rowton?) on the Shropshire/Stafford border (suffiently far from Uckington to be definitely distinct.

On the Great Gaddesden estate, Hertfordshire, a Thomas Halsey was admitted to land in Swyndell and Farthingshill on the 16th of Feb 1544/5. A Swindell Close is recorded in 1624 in  which by 1768 had become Great Swindell and Little Swindell.

A piece of land in Swindell on Cowden, (2km west of) Bakewell is recorded in 1695.

If the IGI records for early Swindales (with an 'a') are reviewed they will be seen to be in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire - with a marriage as far south as Woodbridge, Suffolk. However my investigations involving several thousand Swindells/ Swindales etc show that the spelling is a matter of local practice and that Swindale must be regarded as a variant of Swindle/Swyndle and Swindell/Swindel/Swindells/Swindels etc. Early occurrences.

The Swindale spelling became more popular through the 20th century, presumably as distancing the name from Swindle.

The earliest reference to Swindell yet traced is to a William Swyndell in pleas at Nottingham in 1434. (The website refers to the name Swindyle in Cheshire in 1195 but does not quote the source).

Other early records appear in north-east Cheshire and north west Derbyshire. Humphrey Swyndles is mentioned in a Star Chamber case around 1550 and the family can be traced in the Macclesfield/ Prestbury area of Cheshire. Other Swyndles/Swindells, not apparently related to Humphrey, are to be found in the same area in the later part of the 16th Century. Charles Bardsley suggests that these families may have gained their name from Swyndelves, a 'lost' estate in the township of Bosden in north-east Cheshire only a few miles from where these early Swyndles lived. The placename later (1624, 1675) reappears in the Stockport area as Swyndells.

Equally early references appear in northern Leicestershire and in Lincolnshire and down the the east coast as far as Woodbridge but the vast mass appear in east Cheshire radiating eastwards from Stockport and from there into Derbyshire. Interestingly there was very little ramification westwards from Stockport into the more valuable land of the Cheshire plain. The real explosion of the Swindell surname accompanied the expansion of the weaving business, especially silk, in Macclesfield in the 19th century.

Robert del Swyn in mentioned in the Pipe Rolls of Edward I for Northumberland in 1291 and it is interesting that the occurrence of the surname Swin (/swinn/swyn/suin &tc) in early parish registers has a close match with the Swindale/Swindles &tc in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.

It is my opinion that the spelling prior to the middle of the 19th century is more a function of local accent than indicating different branches of the family - and that it is possible that there are several original locations for the surname. However at present (2008-2020) Swyndelves would be my favourite choice for the origin of the name.


1    There was much interesting speculation on the origin of the Swindell / Swindale surname on Dave Swindell's page at "" (no longer available).  Dave Swindell has kindly made an updated version available to me (2015) and it is available here.

2    More information in the Swindell one name study.

Contact Information:- or postal address