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with Astles, Astell & Astill
Astle One-Name Study
with Astles, Astell & Astill

The Name

The Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames (P.H. Reaney) lists Astle (as well as Astles and Astill) as a variant of Astell, and indicates it is derived from Astle in Cheshire, or from residence near the “east hill”.

In Ormerod’s History of Cheshire page 712 and 713, Astle or Asthulle is described as a hamlet in the township of Chelford, “which gave name at an early period to its mesne lords”. The origin of the name in Cheshire therefore appears to be straightforward.

The origin of the surname in the East Midlands and to the south may however be quite different from that of the Astle(s) of Cheshire.

The Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames makes a cross reference from Astell to the surname Askell, and this surname is grouped with its own variants Astell, Astil, Astill, Eskell, Haskel and Haskell. Under this entry, Askell is of Danish origin and is a contracted form of of Asketill. Asketil is derived from ‘Aes’ a god of Odin’s tribe, and ‘Ketil’ a kettle or cauldron.

This appears to suggest a trail from Asketill to Askell and Astell or Astill, and also to Astle, with each name having several sub-variations and alternative spellings over time. The distribution of these surnames within those parts of Mercia which were occupied by the Danes supports this theory.

A good example of this transition from Asketil to Astel comes from the register of the Black Prince’s administration (1346-1365).

“In 1365, one Robert Astel of Hazelbech, Northants, asked the Black Prince to confirm his rightful ownership of one of his lands in Hazelbech. He produced a document providing that the land had been given to ‘William son of Asketil of Hazelbech and his heirs”.

Robert Astel was of course one of these heirs.

Other early references include Simon de Astell c.1225, Lichfield, Staffordshire, and Richard de Asthul (Astell) 1349 from a Register of the Freemen of the City of York.

Wills and parish registers show that in the 1500’s the name was spelt in a variety of ways Astell, Astel, Astle, Astill, Astyll, Astull, etc. These surnames could vary within the same family and also the same individuals. However, this indicates that the central ‘t’ of the surname was then pronounced, unlike today when it has been dropped in some areas of the country such as Derbyshire through differences in regional pronunciation.