- This interesting surname is a variant of Knowles, itself a topographical name from the Old English pre Seventh Century word "cnoll", the top of a hill, plus the Anglo-Saxon suffix "-ing", which means dweller at, hence "a dweller at the top of the hill". There are also places called knole in Kent and Sussex as well as Knowle, in Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Warwickshire, all of which derive from "cnoll". The surname itself first appears in records in the early 14th Century (see below), but an early name, from "cnoll" appears in 1185, when a Robert de la Cnolle (Roberte of the top of the hill) was listed in the Pipe Rolls of Devonshire, where the surname knowling is popular and widespread. Margaret Knollins married John Weller on November 20th 1550, at Upper Beeding Sussex, while one Elizabeth Knowling married Thomas Hore on July 4th 1579, at Powderham in Devonshire. At St. Stephen's Church, Coleman Street, London the christening of Judeth, daughter of Robert Knellinge took place on October 26th 1586. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Knollyng, which was dated 1327, Subsidy Rolls of Sussex, during the reign of King Edward 111, "The Father of the Navy", 1327 - 1377. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
Surnames reference. 2013.