The surname of ORBELL was a baptismal name 'the son of Orable' a variant of Arable, i.e. Arabella. The surname still clings to the neighbourhood of County Cambridge, where the personal name was popular six centuries ago. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write, signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets in Britain were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coats of arms came into being, for the practical reason that 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. Early records of the name mention ORABILIS (without surname) who was recorded in 1221 in County Kent, and ORABLA (without surname) appears in 1243 in Cambridge. Orable de Hatele was recorded there in 1273, and Arable de Meyhamme of Kent, was documented in the same year. Orabell de Caunsefeld, appears in County Lancashire in the year 1332. The name was early in Scotland and there are two women so named, Orabilis, daughter and heiress of Nesius, who married Robert de Quincey sometime before the year 1200, and Orabilis who married Adam, son of Duncan, earl of Mar. Later instances of the name mention Nicholas Errable (Mr May's servant) who was buried at St. Antholin, London in 1543, and Ambrose Orbell and Ann Curtis were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1750. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another.
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