Are there Sewells
amongst the Shewells?
by Eric L Sewell
This article was originally published in the July 2000 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
In the course of exploring the origins of the SEWELLs of Northumberland and Durham I have come across surnames such as SHIELD and SHEWELL (see Soul Search Vol 2 No 4). Although Geoff Sewell included SHEWELL amongst the SEWELL variants, quite naturally he did not include SHIELD (Soul Search Vol 1 No 5).
To check whether there was a possible reference to my earliest likely ancestor, Robert SEWELL (c.1685) of Simonburn, I have taken another look at the Northumberland Hearth Tax List of 1664. As I expected there were no SEWELLs, but I did find the following entries for Allendale, which is sufficiently close to Simonburn to prompt further enquiry:
East Allendale Grieve Shipp: Francis SHEWELL
The Forest: Heugh SHEWELL
The Parke in Allendale: Thomas SHEWILL
Keenley Grieve: Richard SHEWELL
Catton Grieve Shipp: Lionell SHEWELL
Catton: John SHEWELL
In an article entitled The SHIELDS of Allendale (Northumberland & Durham FH Journal - Autumn 1990) I found the following:
1531 Rynzen SHELE and Cuthbert SHELE both of East Allendale
1547 Hugh SHIELD – grieve (overseer) of Allendale, who held the mill
1608 Hugh SHIELD (d.c.1636) who held the mill
Nicholas SHIELD who held the mill and was 84 in 1666, when he was described as a gentleman. His son was Thomas.
Thomas SHIELD of Wooley, Francis Shield Snr, Hugh SHIELD Jnr, Richard SHEELE, John SHEELE Jnr & John SHIELD Snr (a fuller) were imprisoned briefly on religious grounds
When I went back to the Northumberland Muster Roll of 1538 (a valuable early list of names, but excluding Newcastle) I found no SHIELDs but there were eighteen SCHELLs in Allendale, including Cutbert, Hewe, Robert and John. Although there were no SHEWELLs, one Allendale resident was surnamed HEWLL. One should note that the SCHELLs also appear in the Muster Roll in other parts of the county.
In Allendale, it seems that the SCHELLs of 1538 were recorded later as SHIELDs and in 1664 as SHEWELLs. The change to SHEWELL apparently did not last, for by the 18th century the IGI includes only SHIELDs in Allendale, and in the 1881 Census (91 names) these are given a final ‘S’.
SCHELL and SHIELD are names that are said to be derived from schele or shiel, a shieling being the name given by the Scots to a shepherd’s hut. SHIELD, SHIELDS and SHELL are surnames which are still current in Northumbria, and there are place-names such as North and South Shields.
Although SHEWELL occurs nowhere else in the 1664 Northumberland Hearth Tax List, the IGI (1988 version) for Northumberland and Durham contains 41 SHEWELL events dating between 1588 and 1819. Most relate to the Tyne area in the vicinity of Newcastle and none to Allendale. This would be the end of the story but some IGI records indicating some possible confusion between the names SHEWELL and SEWELL within what appears to be the same family:
Ann SHEWELL, daughter of James SHEWELL and Ann was baptised at Sunderland on 27 Oct 1730.
Ann SEWELL, daughter of James SEWELL and Ann, was baptised at Sunderland on 14 Nov 1729.
Dixon SHEWEL, son of William SHEWEL and Shewsanah CROSLY, was baptised at South Shields at the New Presbyterian Church in 1806.
Margaret SEWELL, daughter of William SEWELL and Shewsanah CROSBEY, was baptised at South Shields at the New Presbyterian Church 28 Oct 1800.
Isabella SHEWELL, daughter of Peter SHEWELL and Sarah, was baptised at South Shields on 21 Nov 1790.
Ann SEWELL, daughter of Peter SEWELL and Sarah, was baptised at South Shields on 30 Sep 1792.
The SHEWELLs seem to have disappeared from Northumberland in the early 19th century. This is confirmed by the 1881 Census - the fourteen residing in County Durham in 1881 were born elsewhere. Despite the large numbers of SEWELLs in Cumberland, the county does not appear to be SHEWELL stronghold - there are only three in the IGI and none at all in 1881 Census.
The greatest concentration of SHEWELLs was in Gloucestershire, where they composed about a third of all those listed in the IGI (total of 1128). Shewel, incidentally, is an obsolete term for a scarecrow and amongst the Gloucestershire place-names one finds Shewell Barn, Shewell Coppice, Shewell Wood and Shewell Hill. In 1881, the Census for the county contains 59 SHEWELLs, but not all were born there and none can be found in current telephone directories.
The Gloucestershire SEWELLs form only about an eighth of all the SHEWELL and SEWELL entries in the IGI for the county. Just as the SHEWELLs diminished in numbers so did the SEWELLs, with only three appearing in the 1881 Census who were born in the Gloucestershire.
Once again a cursory study of the IGI reveals some possible mixing of SEWELL and SHEWELL:
Hester SEWELL, daughter of Henery SEWELL and Ann, baptised 9 Aug 1700 at North Nibley.
John SHEWELL , son of Henery SEWELL and Ann, baptised 4 Aug 1702 at North Nibley.
Henery SHEWELL , son of Henery SEWELL and Ann, baptised 10 Jul 1704 at North Nibley.
Edward SEWELL, son of Edward SEWELL, baptised 24 Feb 1667 at Bisley.
Walter SHEWELL, son of Edward SHEWELL, baptised 23 Mar 1675 at Bisley.
John SEWELL, son of Edward SEWELL, baptised 2 Feb 1677 at Bisley.
Sarah SEWELL, son of John SEWELL, baptised 9 Oct 1701 at Bisley.
Thomas SHEWELL, son of John SEWELL, baptised 17 Oct 1705 at Bisley.
Will SHEWELL, son of John SEWELL, baptised 7 Dec 1706 at Bisley
John SEWELL, son of Robert SEWELL, baptised 11 Oct 1693 at Bisley
Robert SEWELL, son of Robert SEWELL, baptised 25 Dec 1696 at Bisley
Julian SEWELL, daughter of Walter SEWELL, baptised 21 Apr 1618 at Bisley
Jane SEWELL, daughter of Walter SEWELL, baptised 11 May 1620 at Bisley
Alice SHEWELL, daughter of Walter SEWELL, baptised Apr 1623 at Bisley
Margaret SHEWELL, daughter of Walter SEWELL, baptised 18 Feb 1704 at Bisley
Jane SHEWELL, daughter of Walter SEWELL, baptised 22 Oct 1707 at Bisley
Walter SEWELL, son of Walter SEWELL, baptised 13 Sep 1713 at Bisley
Walter SHEWELL, son of Walter SEWELL, baptised 25 Mar 1715 at Bisley
William SEWELL, son of Walter SEWELL, baptised 26 Feb 1716 at Bisley
I need to point out that nearly a quarter of all the Gloucestershire SHEWELLs were located in the village of Bisley, and therefore I would not wish to put too much weight on what might be just a series of coincidences.
Nevertheless, further research into the SEWELLs and the SHEWELLs of Bisley might be interesting, particularly since there is a brass dated 1515 in All Saints church dedicated to Kateryn SEWELL (see Buildings of England – Gloucestershire: The Cotswolds).
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