There are several explications as to the origins of our surname put forward by more learned men than me.
The three most credible explications all point to the same region : Pevensey Bay or to be more precise in historical terms, the liberty of Pevensey which was an early name for the “Rape of Pevensey”. This term is peculiar to Sussex which was divided into six “rapes”. Pevensey Rape was an area which covered most of the coast between Bexhill and the Cuckmere and inland through Hailsham, Uckfield to take in the Ashdown Forest.
The East Sussex Records Office links the name to different spellings before 1660. These are FUNNELL, FONELL, FONYLL, FENNELL with more or less N’s and L’s.
Richard McKinley, a research fellow at Leicester University traces the origins of the name back to circa 1350 where he says it began in Wilmington and Littlington as “ate Fenegle” indicating that it came from the Middle English word “fenecel”, meaning the herb fennel. Through a number of other variants such as Fenell, Fonell etc., he gets to Westham in 1553 where he says the name in its modern day form was first used.
He contends that the name originates from one landowning family around Litlington and is responsible for many variants such as Vennell, Fennell, Fernell, etc.
This same origin could have been transformed into Afennel (or Afennell), which can also be found around Pevensey and Westham. An Afennell was bailiff of the Liberty of Pevensey in the 15th century.
The FUNNELL’s Norman roots could have at least two origins :
1) They arrived with or in the wake of William the Conqueror. Mathilda DE FURNELL, daughter of Robert DE FURNELL, was born circa 1119 at Drayton, Northampton, England (source IGI).
2) They were early Huguenot refugees. The Fontenelle family had good reasons to flee France and merge into english local life. Their name could have been contracted to Fonnelle and then on to Funnell.
Another théories about the Funnell name is that it could come from Fundenhall, an ancient placename in Norfolk, or, the old Norse fara, Anglo-Saxon faran… to fare, to sail, to travel.
Historical region of the north west of France, the Duchy of Normandy covered roughly the two actual regions of Lower and Higher Normandy. From the fifth century before Jesus Christ, the region is occupied by peoples of Celtic origin. Their tribes establish themselves progressively in todays Cotentin (Unelles), around Evreux (Aulerques, Eburons), around Bayeux (Bajocasses), Rouen then called Rotomagus (Veliocasses) and Lisieux (Lexoviens). The territory north of the Seine belonged to the Belgian Gaule (Gaule Belgique) whilst the rest belonged to the Celtic gaule. Conquered by the Romans in 56 B.C., nearly the entire region was enclosed in the Lyonnaise province under Augustus 1st (1st century A.D.) A long prosperous period ensued and Rouen became the most important marketplace on the Seine.
One of the centres of roman resistance to barbaric invasions in the fifth century, the region belonged to the realm of Sygarius until his defeat by Clovis in 486. The region becomes the heart of frankish Neustrie. Like Irish abbeys, Jumièges, Fécamp and Fontenelle defend the occidental monarchy in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. and favour saint Ouen, counsellor to King Dagobert and Bishop of Rouen in 641. The victory of Austasie over Neustrie in 687 shows the loss of interest of the frankish monarchy for the region which enters into a period of relative decline that worsens under the raids of the “men from the north” or Normans (Norsemen) in the ninth and tenth century. The abbeys are pillaged and abandoned. When King Charles the Simple finally concedes the region of Rouen to Rolland (treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, 911) the invaders have already become sedentary.
Converted to Christianity, Rolland rapidly extends his authority towards Vexin and Maine (924). The rigourous administration of his successers, Guillaume Longue Epée (William Long Sword, 933 – 942), Richard Sans Peur (Richard Withour Fear, 942 – 996), Richard II le bon (Richard 2 the Good, 996 – 1027) allow the duchy to survive without being split into smaller regions as in other regions where the feodal system takes over. Allied to the Capetians, they favour their access to the throne in 987. The dukes of Normandy encourage a reemergence of monarchy by reestablishing the ancient abbeys and churches, developping in the process an original style of architecture (examples in Caen, Coutances, Bayeux) or founding new ones (as at Le Bec-Hellouin, la Grande Trappe, le Mont St Michel in the 11th and 12th centuries).
The beginning of the eleventh century is a troubled period: the heir to the duchy, Richard III is evinced in 1027 by Robert 1st the Magnificent (later called Robert the Devil) who helps the french king Henry 1st to fight the Lords of the “Ile de France” (todays parisian region). At his death in 1036, his illegitimate son Guillaume (William), later known as the Conqueror, only manages to impose himself with the aid of the king (1047). But, bathing in his own glory, William falls out with Henry 1st and claims the inheritance of the english king, Edward the Confessor.
In 1066, he departs to conquer saxon England. The new King Harold has to rush down to the coast with his troups after victoriously fighting off a Danish invasion near York. The Bayeux tapestry relates in detail this William’s expedition which ended in victory for him at the battle of Hastings (which actually happened at the site of Battle Abbey, a few miles from Pevensey). The saxons capitulate after king Harold II dies from an arrow in the eye. The Normans alliance with the Capetians is broken: the duke, the kings vassal on the continent, is now his equal.
After the conquest, the Norman aristocracy emigrated in numbers to England. The abbeys installed dependances. Norman institutions, like the Exchequer court (tribunal), were transplanted in England where literary works flourish in anglo-norman dialect. In spite of incessant struggles for succession and the tries of the french kings, Philippe 1st and Louis 11th to take over “French” Normandy, the Normans enjoy a period of prosperity on both sides of the channel and the region is covered with fortified castles (Falaise, Château-Gaillard in France, Lewes, Pevensey, Hastings, etc in England). At the death of Etienne of Blois in 1154, the French crown is passed to the Count of Anjou, Henry 2nd Plantagenet, who, owing to his marriage with Eleanor of Aquitaine (1152), reunites under his domination an immense empire stretching for its French part over Normandy, Anjou, Brittany, Maine, Aquitaine, Poitou and Gascogne. The power of the English kings over the continent worries the capetian kings: after several losses to Richard the Lionheart, the king of France Philippe 2nd of Austria, manages to win back Normandy from Jean sans terre (John with no lands), accused of felony (1204) but conserves the main institutions of the duchy.
In England, the Normans rule over the Saxons. Never again will the country be invaded successfully by a foreign power. Unrest between the neighbouring countries is only just beginning. The english language will become a mixing pot of celt, norse, saxon, norman dialect and aristocratic french. Sheep in the fields will become mutton (mouton) once cooked, as pigs will become pork (porc).
The Normans will compile the Domesday Book, a comprehensive inventory of the country’s wealth, the first ever and for many centuries, the only public record.
The Huguenot exiles included protestants fleeing France in the l6th and l7th centuries, many having suffered severe persecution for their faith. The origin of the name is uncertain but it appears to have come from the word aignos, derived from the German Eidgenossen (confederates bound together by oath), which used to describe, between 1520 and 1524, the patriots of Geneva hostile to the duke of Savoy. The spelling Huguenot may have been influenced by the personal name Hugues, “Hugh”; a leader of the Geneva movement was one Besancon Hugues (d. 1532).
I have not been able to trace the destiny of the Abbey of Fontenelle which existed in Norman times, However it seems possible that it could have housed protestants, and indeed most local people attest to this until this day. The Chateau of the Duc de Guise, whose influence was felt from Rouen to the coast is actually under restoration (headed by an Enqlish couple). It has impressive dungeons where protestants were held prisoners.
It seems possible that our Fontenelles could have left France in the early years of the persecution to establish themselves in the South of England. This could explain their “turning up” in Sussex and particularly in the area of Pevensey which is more or less opposite the estuary of the Seine, from where they would have departed. They would indeed have found themselves on the same beaches where William the Conqueror stumbled and fell on arriving some four hundred years earlier.
They would have had a certain willingness to merge unnoticed into the countryside and probably would have welcomed its contraction to Fonnelle, even more so if the name was already present in the area.
Protestants throughout Europe were having a rough time at this period in history. Calvinists can be linked to the Lutheran Church whose followers were amongst the earliest settlers in America. Most of them, refugees from the northern countries and France, travelled to “protestant” England to rejoin boats departing for New England. The name of Fontenelle subsists as such in the U.S.A. and can be traced back to the earliest arrivals from Europe.
Were they amongst the protestant settlers or early arrivals from France (also manoeuvring against the Enqlish for influence in the New World) ?
In later years, the name of Fontenelle became known by the works of Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle (born in Rouen 11/02/1657, died in Paris 09/01/1757), a scientist and man of letters who also pleaded for religious tolerance in philosophical works and notably in an amusing satire Relation de l’ile de Bornéo (1686; “Account et the Island of Borneo”), in which a civil war in Borneo is used to symbolize the dissensions between Catholics (Rome) and Calvinists (Geneva). This would certainly more than suggest that his family had some knowledge of religious strife and/or sympathy with Calvinists.
After the Protestant Reformation began in Germany (1517), the reform movement spread quickly in France, especially in places that had suffered economic depression (Normandy–N.D.L.R.) and among those who had grievances against the established order of government. The French Protestants soon experienced persecution, however, and the first French martyr, Jean Vallière, was burned at the stake in Paris in August 1523. Despite persecution, however, the movement progressed; but measures against it were redoubled after the “Affair of the Placards” (October 1534), when posters attacking the mass were found on walls throughout Paris and even on the door of King Francis I’s bedroom at Amboise.
Thereafter the number of Protestant refugees from persecution increased. Many went to Strassburg (Strasbourg), then a free city of the Holy Roman Empire, where Martin Bucer had organized a Reformed church. The most famous of these exiles was John Calvin, who left for Basel in the autumn of 1534. At Basel he is thought to have written his Institutes of the Christian Religion, which was prefaced by a letter to Francis I pleading the cause of the Reformers in France.
In 1538 Calvin visited Strassburg on Bucer’s invitation and organized the French community there. The first Huguenot community in French territory, that of Meaux, was founded in 1546 on the model of the Strassburg community. The Huguenot church in Paris was founded about 1555, and in spite of persecution the Reformers increased in numbers.
Finally the Protestant church at Paris was commissioned to summon the first synod, which was attended by 72 deputies representing all the provinces of the kingdom (May 1559). The deputies drew up a confession of faith, which was greatly influenced by the ideas of John Calvin; thus French Protestants became a Reformed rather than a Lutheran church. The synod of 1559 was also the beginning of a remarkable quantitative increase in the Reform movement. At that synod 15 churches were represented; two years later, in 1561, the number was 2,150 -an increase that carried the struggle into the arena of national politics.
The Conspiracy of Amboise formed by Huguenots with the object of kidnapping the boy-king Francis II (March 1560), resulted in the death of all the plotters except Louis I de Bourbon, Prince de Condé. But the Reformers had become so powerful that Gaspard de Coligny, their most famous leader, protested in their name at the assembly of notables at Fontainebleau (August 1560) against all violation of the liberty of conscience. The attempt at peace failed. After a number of Huguenots assembling for worship in a barn at Vassy were massacred by soldiers of the Roman Catholic Guise family, Condé declared that there was no hope but in God and arms. At Orléans on April 12, 1562, the Huguenot leaders signed the manifesto in which they stated that as loyal subjects they were driven to take up arms for liberty of conscience on behalf of the persecuted saints.
Thus began a period of confusion and violence in France, known as the Wars of Religion, that lasted until almost the end of the century. A famous incident of this period was the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day. On the night of Aug. 24/25, 1572, after a council at which the queen mother Catherine de Médicis, King Charles IX, the Duke d’Anjou (later Henry III), and the Guises were present, there occurred a massacre in which Coligny and almost all the leading Huguenots in Paris were slain. The Paris massacre was repeated throughout France, and Protestants were slain in thousands. The Protestant survivors resolved upon a desperate resistance, and a Huguenot political party was formed at Milhaud, near Nîmes, in 1573. Especially prominent was Philippe de Mornay, known as Duplessis-Mornay. The Huguenots at first hoped that the crown of France would pass to a Huguenot; when that became obviously impossible, they fought for full religious and civil liberty within the state.
War was resumed after the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day and continued, with short-lived intermissions, throughout the reign of the unpopular Henry III, who succeeded Charles IX in 1574. Henry’s hesitations encouraged the formation of the powerful Holy League against the Huguenots; and, after the assassination of Henry III in 1589, his successor, the Protestant heir Henry IV, could pacify the kingdom only by adjuring Protestantism (July 1593), accepting Catholicism, and thus depriving the League of its pretext for resisting him. The Huguenots after 40 years of strife obtained by their constancy Henry IV’s promulgation of the Edict of Nantes (April 1598), the charter of their religious and political freedom.
Civil wars, however, occurred again in the 1620s under King Louis XIII. Eventually the Huguenots were defeated, and the Peace of Alès was signed on June 28, 1629, whereby the Huguenots were allowed to retain their freedom of conscience but lost all their military advantages. No longer a political entity, the Huguenots became loyal subjects of the king. Their remaining rights under the Edict of Nantes were confirmed by a royal declaration in 1643 on behalf of the infant king, Louis XIV.
The French Roman Catholic clergy, however, could not accept the Huguenots and worked to deprive them of their rights. General harassment and the forcible conversion of thousands of Protestants were rampant for many years. Finally, on Oct. 18, 1685, Louis XIV pronounced the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. As a result, over the next several years, France lost more than 400,000 of its Protestant inhabitants. Many emigrated to England, Prussia, the Netherlands, and America and became very useful citizens of their adopted countries. Many were urban people in commerce and industry, and their absence would hurt France in the coming Industrial Revolution.
In the first part of the 18th century, the Huguenots seemed to be finally eliminated. In 1715 Louis XIV announced that he had ended all exercise of the Protestant religion in France. That same year, however, an assembly of Protestants held a conference at Nîmes devoted to restoring the Protestant church. Although much reduced in number, Protestantism persisted in France.
Persecution of the Huguenots was revived from 1745 to 1754, but French public opinion began to turn against the persecutions. In spite of fierce opposition by the Roman Catholic clergy, an edict in 1787 restored in part the civil rights of the Huguenots. In November 1789, with the birth of the French Revolution, the National Assembly affirmed the liberty of religion and granted Protestants admission to all offices and professions.
Source : www.britannica.com
In France, our family name can be found under the form FUNEL. It is localised to the south of France and is more common in the mediterranean coastal regions.
It is said to be either :
– a derivative of Fumel, taken from the Latin “fumus” (smoke) which could be linked to pete cutters in the local marshes,
– a toponyme coming from the Alpes-Maritimes : Bastide Funel at Saint-Valéry-de-Thiey et the Château (Castle) of Funel in Biot.
There is also a placename Fumel in the Lot-et-Garonne.
Four FUNELs have been promoted “Chevaliers de la Légion d’Honneur”, one of the highest distinctions in France :
– Esprit César FUNEL from Toulon (Var) on the 21 Sep 1775
– Honoré René Théophile FUNEL from Nice (Alpes-Maritimes) 9 Nov 1851
– Hubert Bénoît FUNEL from Toulon (Var) 21 Mar 1789
– Prosper Raoul FUNEL from St. Vallier (Alpes-Maritimes) 8 Mar 1865
It can also be found as a composant in other family names such as FUNEL DE CLAUSONNES.
(This article was originally published on this site in May 2000)
One Response to Theories on the origins of the Funnell name
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.