This ancient surname of RUNNELS was a locational name meaning 'one who came from RUNWELL' a spot in County Essex. The name was brought into England from Scandinavia, and the literal meaning of the name referred to a secret council where the meeting place would have been a spring or stream by a wishing well, where council members would confer. The Scandinavian element in English place names is very considerable. It is an outcome of the extensive Scandinavian settlements made in England from the latter half of the ninth century onwards. They were mostly Danes, but in the north-western part of the country such as Cheshire, Lancashire, Westmorland, Cumberland and West Yorkshire, the settlers were mostly Norwegians. Many English names adopted by Scandinavians were changed in form to conform better to Scandinavian habits of speech. The earliest of the name on record appears to be RUNWEOLLA (without surname) who was recorded in the year 939, and RUNEWELLA (without surname) was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. It was not until the 10th century that modern hereditary surnames first developed, and the use of fixed names spread, first to France, and then England, then to Germany and all of Europe. In these parts of Europe, the individual man was becoming more important, commerce was increasing and the exact identification of each man was becoming a necessity. Even today however, the Church does not recognise surnames. Baptisms and marriages are performed through use of the Christian name alone. Thus hereditary names as we know them today developed gradually during the 11th to the 15th century in the various European countries. A later instance of the name includes RUNEWELL, who was documented in Essex in the year 1203. The eagle depicted in the crest is emblematical of fortitude and magnanimity of mind. The Romans used the figure of an eagle for their ensign, and their example has been often followed. It is the device of Russia, Austria, Germany and the United States of America.
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