More rare Cornish surnames

Here are three relatively rare surnames that don’t appear in my book. All three were more likely to be met with in the 1600s in mid-Cornwall, on the north coast. Two of them definitely stem from placenames while the third is uncertain.

The place Carevick in Cubert, near present-day Newquay, gave rise to the surname Carrivick. The place was originally called Crowarthevick (hut next to the summer-land). It was spelt as such in 1529, five years after a William Crowarthelek [sic] was listed in the same parish. As local knowledge of the Cornish language faded, the name of the place was shortened to Carrevicke by 1602. The surname followed suit. It lingered in the Newquay area until the end of the 1600s, before moving south-east to Ladock in the 1710s. There it multiplied.

Carevick in 1879

Docton was a later arrival, not appearing in numbers until the 1670s, after which it ramified in the parishes of St Ervan and St Mabyn, to the west and east of the Camel estuary respectively. Yet its presence in that district from 1637 at the latest is a bit misleading. It was first recorded in Cornwall in 1603, when Jane Docton was married at Kilkhampton, in the far north. In the 1650s there were also marriages of Doctons at Launceston. This first appearance in north-east Cornwall points to an origin in the place Docton in Hartland, just across the border in Devon. Those around the Camel estuary may have arrived there by sea from north Devon in the early 1600s.

More problematic is the surname Chivell. There were early examples of the name – Richard Chevell at St Minver in 1525 and John Chyvall at Cubert in 1543. The spelling Chyvall may look reminiscent of a Cornish placename, but there is nothing similar in mid-Cornwall. Many of the earliest Chivalls and (the most frequent spelling) Chevalls were found in Padstow, across the water from St Minver. But there were also Chivells at Boyton, far away to the east and next to the Tamar.

While two thirds of Chivells in the UK lived in Cornwall in 1881, most of the other third were found in Devon. There, Kivell is a more common surname than in Cornwall and there is some evidence that the /k/ in Kivell could be pronounced /ch/. Was Chivell a version of Kivell and had the Cornish Chivells arrived in mid-Cornwall from Devon?

And what does the name mean? There is an old Celtic name Cuvel (as in Nancekivell), but there’s also a place in Wiltshire called Keevil, also spelt Chivele in Domesday Book.

3 thoughts on “More rare Cornish surnames

  1. For Chivell, if, conversely, ‘ch’ pronounced /k/ then maybe a la (‘ch’ pronounced /k/ is not v common, but there’s ‘cheson’ for ‘occasion’ in the texts OM1835, PC 2792).

    Whereabouts & whenabouts Kivell (or ‘Chivell’) in Devon? If west Devon, if not many earlier than 19C (?), then could perhaps be a migrated Cornish name from 19C mining booms.

    If ‘chi’ house, then J Gover has Chyvelah / Chywela in 1836 (in Kenwyn, actually not a million miles from Cubert) and Chyvellan (over to Ludgvan way) – C Weatherhill (2005) suggested ‘beetle-house’ for the former and chi-velyn / ‘mill-house’ for the latter. Speculating wildly, how about Chi-ughella – cf ‘higher house’ as in Adjewhella / aswy-ughella ‘higher gap’ nr Penponds/Barripper/Camborne.


    1. my name is Martin Boswarthack my ancestors came from st gluvias parish in the 1600s do yu have any further details thank you Martin


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