The surname of CORNWELL was a locational name 'one who came from Cornwall'. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Local surnames, by far the largest group, derived from a place name where the man held land or from the place from which he had come, or where he actually lived. These local surnames were originally preceded by a preposition such as "de", "atte", "by" or "in". The names may derive from a manor held, from working in a religious dwelling or from literally living by a wood or marsh or by a stream. Following the Crusades in Europe a need was felt for a family name. This was recognized by those of noble blood, who realised the prestige and practical advantage it would add to their status. Early records of the name mention Hugo de Cornun, who was recorded in the year 1273 in County Devon. Wauter de Cornwaile appears in 1313 in County Somerset. Later instances of the name mention Richard Davis and Mari Cornwall who were married at St. Dionis Backchurch, London in the year 1587. Cornish naming practices are unfortunately poorly documented for the Middle Ages, but present day Cornish surnames, somewhat surprisingly, do not follow the predominantly patronymic pattern of the other Celtic languages, including Welsh. This may be attributed to the greater influence of the English bureaucracy and English naming practices in Cornwall than in Wales at the time when surnames came into use. The majority of Cornish names are habitation names and others are derived from medieval given names. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. The lion depicted in the arms is the noblest of all wild beasts which is made to be the emblem of strength and valour, and is on that account the most frequently borne in Coat-Armour.
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