Bishop's Waltham


A Name Marvelously Changed

My paternal family name has been spelt in many ways since the 12th century. These include such spellings as Douvedale, Dounedale, Dovedale, Dowdall, D'Ouvedale, Ouedalle, Ovedale, Uuedale, Uvedale, Vuedale, Vvedale, Uvedall, Unedale, Unedale, Undal, Udle, Uddle, Vidal, Eudall, Woodhall, Woodall, Wedale, Udall, and Udell. However the most common spellings were Ovedale and Uvedale in the first half of the millennium, and Udall and Udell in the second. The spelling started shifting from the old spellings to Udall in the 16th century.  In order to review this period I will refer to specific persons in various generations, by no means all, and discuss how the family spread and migrated during that period and how the name evolved.

There are several theories on the origins of the family and the name. The first of these theories is that the family originated at Oudalle in Normandy[1] and migrated with William the Conqueror to England. Oudalle is located several miles east of Le Havre, across the Seine from Honfleur and, of course, just across the English Channel from Portsmouth. The family was to have a long association with the Portsmouth area, including holding Porchester Castle from the early 17th century.  The second theory is that the family originated in the Uldale valley in the Lake District. 

  The earliest record of the family from 1161 is of Hugh[2], son of Hameline Douvedale, holding one-half a knights fee[3] in Tacolneston, Norfolk by military obligation to Richard de Lucy for ward of Dover Castle.  Richard de Lucy was Justiciar[4] of England under King Henry II and he died in 1179. Richard de Lucy's daughter Maud married Walter Fitz Robert (De Clare), and the allegiance of the Uvedale family passed to the De Clare family.    Walter Fitz-Robert and Maud de Lucy's son, Robert Fitz Walter, was leader of the Baron's opposition to King John and a Magna Carta Surety[5].  Robert also went on the fifth crusade. The Uvedale, or Ovedale, family held a manor in Tacolneston for a good number of generations, continuing to hold it even after they moved south of London.

Some of the family, including John de Uvedale, the head of the elder branch of the family at that time, moved to a manor called Tychesey (Titsey) just south of London late in the 13th century. Part of the family remained in Norfolk, including one of his sons, Hugh de Uvedale, a knight and a Carmelite[6] Friar.

The Sir John de Uvedale who relocated south, in 1304/05 was the first member of the family to be made a Knight of the Bath. He is mentioned in the records[7] of the trial of Bishop Walter Langton, and he accompanied King Edward I on several occasions to northern England and Scotland in the late 13th and early 14th century to battle the Scots.  He was a retainer of Gilbert de Clare at the time of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where Gilbert was killed. In 1316 John is recorded as lord, or joint lord, of Lythington in Cambridge shire; Tacolneston, Galgaim and Forncett in Norfolk; Titsey in Surrey; Laughton Ripe, Chiddingley and Hoadley in Sussex. The manors in Tacolneston, Lythington and Camberwell were all called Dovedale manor. John is also mentioned in an inquisition[8] taken at Bletchingly in the 28th of May 1306, on the death of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, the father of the Gilbert who died at Bannockburn.  John was summoned to the coronation of King Edward II as John de Ovedale. There are other records that spell his name as Johannes de Unedale[9], John Dovedale, Dovdale, Donnedale and Douvedale. John died and a writ of ad Diem suum clausit estremum[10] was tested at Pontefract Castle on 22nd of March 1322.  This is coincidental with the battle of Boroughbridge the fight between King Edward II and Thomas of Lancaster, and the resulting death of Lancaster.  

The allegiance of John's heir, Peter de Uvedale, and his brother Thomas passed to Hugh de Audley, who married one of Gilbert de Clare's daughters and then to Ralph Stafford in 1347. Peter de Uvedale was made a Baron[11] (parliamentary peerage) by writ of summons in 1332. He was granted Royal Protection on 12th January 1324 before going to Gascony where he still was in October 1325. In 1328 he was appointed to array the men of Devon and Cornwall to service against rebels.  He married Margaret Hydon and held Hemyock Castle in Devon. Peter was summoned against the Scots in 1336 and died before 2 May 1336.  Sir Thomas Uvedale, his younger brother, followed as head of the family. Alice Uvedale, daughter of Thomas Uvedale married Sir Ralph Shelton, who was born in approximately 1330.

Ralph Stafford and his retainers fought with King Edward III in Flanders in 1338 to 1340, in 1346 at the battles of Crecy, and in the siege of Calais the next year. Sir Thomas Uvedale Kt., younger brother to Sir Peter de Uvedale Kt. serviced under Ralph Stafford and is reported to have spent a considerable time in France, partly as a diplomat.  Ralph Stafford was directly involved in the negotiations of the Treaty of Bretigny. Following the agreement, on 15 November 1361 Thomas was asked to proclaim the Treaty in Surrey. On 15 November 1361 Thomas Uvedale was informed by letter, as one of the commissioners for the Peace of Bretigny, to see that the conditions as agreed by the French were fully carried out and that the places agreed to be surrendered were handed over.   Again on 23 September 1362, by letter from King Edward III, Thomas was authorized, along with William de Winchester and Simon de Ely, to prolong the peace.   Thomas was knight of the shire for Surrey in 1361. He was also involved in a diplomatic trip to try to arrange the marriage of Edmund Earl of Cambridge, son of King Edward III, with Margaret of Flanders.                             

Thomas's son John was the first of numerous members of the family to be Sheriff of one of the shires, being in the first instance Surrey and Sussex in 1402. He was also an Esquire[12] in the 1369 expedition to France during the One-Hundred Year war. Subsequent members of the family were Sheriff of Surrey and Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset. John's seal from 1370 spells the name as Uuedale. In addition the seal illustrates the arms of the family as “argent a cross Moline gules”.  The very nature of this coat of arms suggests there is another yet untold story.  John married Sibilla Scures and moved to Wickham Hampshire.  

In the reign of Edward IV another Sir Thomas Uvedale Kt. of Titsey in Surrey and Wickham in Hampshire, was Sheriff of Sussex and Surrey 1437/38 and 1464; MP for Sussex and/or Surrey 1450/51, MP for Hampshire in 1437, 1445/46, 1455/56; Sheriff of Hampshire 1438/39, 1447, 1451, 1451, and 1463. He was also a keeper of Porchester Castle, and on numerous Commissions of Array and Peace.  He was knighted on the occasion of Elizabeth Woodville's coronation and his wife was one of the queen's ladies-in-waiting. Both Thomas and his brother William fought at the battle of Towton.  

Sir William Uvedale Kt., son of Sir Thomas[13] and Margaret Kingeston, had a similar career to his father's in many respects. Richard III attainted[14] William in January 1484 because of his alleged involvement in the October 1483 rebellion by Buckingham. King Richard III subsequently pardoned him in early 1485. William was a Squire of the Body during the reign of Henry VII and was knighted on the creation of Arthur Prince of Wales on the 29th November 1489.  He was the Controller and Steward for Prince Arthur Tudor and was with him at Ludlow Castle when he died.  William took a prominent role in the funeral procession from Ludlow to Worchester Cathedral and in the burial ceremony in the Cathedral in 1502. In these records he is referred to as Sir William Ovedale. William's first son was born in 1502 and he named him Arthur. To some degree the fortunes of the family began a decline in the lifetime of Arthur.  He sold various estates, including Titsey in Surrey to the Gresham family in 1534. 

A significant branch of the family, founded by Henry Uvedale, Constable of Corfe Castle and Sheriff of Dorset and Somerset in 1504, settled in Dorset. Henry was a grandson[15] of William Uvedale, a brother of Sir Thomas who married Margaret Kingeston. Henry VIII granted Bagshot Park, a large park that hosted the monarch on several occasions, to Henry Uvedale. Henry was a Squire of the Body and of the Privy Chamber of King Henry VII. His son, another Sir William, was a Sewer[16] to King Henry VIII, a prominent person in his own right and lived in More Crichell. Henry's grandson, Sir Edmund Uvedale, was involved in the conflict in the Low Countries in the late 16th century and has a monument still extant in Wimborne Minster. Part of this family lived at Corfe, and the house of John Udall is still extant, located just beside the Bankes Hotel on the town square. John Udall was a notorious smuggler in his day.

Edmund Uvedale, Captain of Flushing, Wimborne Minster

The Heralds in their visitations[17] of the shires recorded the family as Udall, Uvedale, Vuedall and Vidal.

There were several members of the family who were prominent during the reign of Henry VIII. There is an interesting story[18] where Sir William Uvedale Kt., head of the family at the time, met in conference at the battle of Flodden in 1513 with the Commissariat officer for the battle, one John Uvedale and agreed: 

 “that the saide Sir William didde descende of the seconde brother and the saide Jon Uuedale didde of the thirde brother, and truthe is the saide Sir William Uuedale and John Uuedale were soo like in favor and compositione of making, that a man wolde have judged them brothers and so saide Henry VII” 

The aforementioned John Uuedale (Udall) was secretary on the Council of the North established by Henry VII, as well as secretary to Henry Fitzroy and the Duke of Norfolk. Another member of the family in the middle portion of the 16th century was Nicolas Udall who was provost of Eton College, Headmaster of Westminster School and also wrote the earliest known English comedy[19] in act and scene format. He taught Mary daughter of Henry VIII, and wrote the verses for Anne Boleyn's coronation procession through London. A little later in the 16th century another John Udall, was associated with the Martin Marprelate controversy[20]. He was charged with treason, thrown in the Marshallsea prison and died there in 1592. John is included in the records as a Protestant martyr.  

Sir William Uvedale Kt., a grandson of the last mentioned Sir Thomas Uvedale Kt., was married to Dorothy Troyes and had sons Arthur, John, William, Richard and Frances, as well as three daughters Agnes, Elizabeth and Anne.  In 1555/56 Richard, along with John Throckmorton, was charged in the Dudley affair was declared guilty, executed and his head was displayed on London Bridge.  His older brother William is the person that is the progenitor of the Staffordshire branch of the family.  His name is to be found on the 15th of May 1549 Commission[21] for the Survey of Colleges and Chantries in Staffordshire. He is subsequently referred to as William Uvedale from Hymley Staffordshire. The Staffordshire branch of the family would seem to have been aligned with the reformation movement, as opposed to the Hampshire family who, along with their “cousins” the Howards, were labeled as recusants over the coming years. 

Crest [22]  

MOTTO: TANT QUE JE PUIS (As long as I can)

The next member of the family from Staffordshire for which there are numerous records is William Udall[23] a spy or “informer” in the time of Queen Elizabeth and King James.  William was in service to the Earl of Kildare, and then in 1599 he entered the service of the Earl of Essex. In the summer of 1599 he was sent to Ireland to warn the Earl of Essex, to an unsuccessful end, that he was out of favour with the Queen. This same William is reported to have informed Cecil about the Gunpowder Plot a number of months before it occurred. In any event it is obvious from reading the letters that William wrote to the Earl of Salisbury (Cecil) and others that William lived a difficult life walking a fine line between “being of service” and stepping on the wrong peoples' toes during this time when there was significant effort put into building espionage rings. He constantly had to seek financial assistance from the nobility to keep his family fed and housed. On one occasion he was thrown in the Marshallsea prison for a three-year period and his wife and four of this children died. His wife was a Geraldine from Ireland.  Making a living was obviously more difficult for the offspring of the 4th son of a knight.  

The head of the family (Wickham) in the middle of the 17th century was Sir William Udall (Uvedale). He was married to Anne daughter of Sir Edmund Carey, third son of Henry, Lord Hunsdon. Secondly he married Victoria, the second daughter of Sir Henry Carey, Controller of the King's household, Knight of the Bath and Viscount Falkland. William Uvedale, amongst an array of duties, was Treasurer of the Privy Chamber in the time of Elizabeth, James I and Charles I, and Constable of Porchester Castle.  There was living contemporaneously with this William from Wickham, another Sir William Udall in Horton, Dorset who was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1618, a Privy Councilor in 1629 and Paymaster of the Royal Forces during the Civil War.  

In the parliamentary records William of Wickham name is spelt as both William Udall and William Uvedale.  He was granted the Forest Bere and manor and Porchester Castle in 1632. The castle remained in the hands of his descendants for many years. William of Wickham had two daughters, Victoria and Elizabeth, by his second wife Victoria.  William's wife Victoria died in 1694 and was buried in the church of St. James, Westminster, on the 4th of May.  The burial register has this entry. ” May 4th, 1694. Lady Victory Udall”.

William and Victoria's daughter Victoria married Sir Richard Corbet of Longnor county Salop, Bart.  The second daughter Elizabeth married firstly Sir William Berkeley, Kt., Vice-Admiral of the White who was killed in a naval engagement with the Dutch in 1666; and secondly, Edward (Howard) Viscount Morpeth and Earl of Carlisle. She died in 1696 and with her ended the elder branch of the family. Her son Charles Howard built Castle Howard in Yorkshire and her grandson was the “Coronel” of the Green Howard Regiment in the middle of the 18th century. 

Granville Leveson Gower prepared a book[24] in 1865 on the family and noted he had done so because “not only does the place of their birth and abode now know the Uvedale name no more, but even that name is no longer to be found upon the roll of English gentry” and “With Elizabeth, Countess of Carlisle, expired the elder branch of the house of Uvedale, and not long after her death the ancient family estates were dispersed.” Incidentally Granville Leveson Gower is the person after whom Granville Street in Vancouver, BC is named.

 Irrespective of the last paragraph, both over the centuries and in the late 17th century there were younger sons who had raised families and who lived in the traditional areas in which the family lived. For example the family continued to grow in Staffordshire.  The first record of my particular branch of the family living in Ellastone, Staffordshire is the marriage[25] of John Udall to Elizabeth Bull in December of 1640.  It is interesting to note that Ellastone is a small village in the Dovedale valley beside the river Dove. His direct descendant Mathew was born[26] in the middle of the 18th century and he joined the Green Howard regiment in approximately 1760.  After 14 years of service with the Green Howard's he subsequently joined the 26th or Cameronian Regiment and embarked for Canada in the 1780's.  The spelling of the name didn't change to Udell until the early 1800's. The first record with the name spelt in that fashion is a petition for land made by Mathew and dated at Montreal, 10th of January 1802. His descendants have since spread across North America.  This is not the only example of such a change. There were several other members of the family who moved to North America in the early years: one Phillip Udall who was one of the earlier settlers in the area that is now Queens in New York City; the second is Lionel Udall from Exeter who arrived in New England in the early 1700's. Lionel had 5 sons, of these the descendants of one spell their name Udell. 

What is interesting is to review the distribution of the Udall and Udell surnames in England. If you study the family 500 years ago you will know that the family lived in the Hampshire/Dorset area, and also the Staffordshire/Warwickshire area, with some family in London. The distribution of families with the surname Uvedale has disappeared in any number, except as reflected in place names, however the greatest concentration of Udall and Udell families is still largely focused in these same areas of England where the family lived hundreds of years earlier.

In a roll reportedly found in Croxton Abbey and published by Hugh Cotgrave in 1562, and referring to the family name it states, in part, “this name hathe bene marveloselie changide bi what meanes I knowe not nor can finde owt, except as I  conjecture bi corrupcione of the common people in pronownsing shorte the names of things…”.  Just looking at the spelling in that quotation should answer people's questions about how spelling of names changes over time. I have also seen instances from the 16th century where a person's name will be spelt in more than one way in the same letter written by one individual!  We should call to mind that the first English dictionary was published in the 18th century.  It should also be noted for the majority of the first half of the millennium U and V were interchangeable.

So as illustrated the spelling of the family name has evolved over the past millennium. However, while the spelling of the Udall family name has evolved I believe the pronunciation has evolved less and in subtle ways. I believe this may be summarized as the pronunciation changing from ooh-dale or ooh-dall to U-dale or U-dall. I understand that the greater the length of the time a dialect has been spoken the greater the likelihood that things are pronounced in the back of the mouth as opposed to the front. This may also have an influence for example the shift from Udall, spoken in the back of the mouth, to Udell spoken in the front.

My Great-Great-Grandfather, John Udell Grandson of Mathew Udell and his grandson

My father Gordon Udell, Luneberg Germany World War II, Carrying on the Tradition


[1] The Norman People: Published by Henry S. King and co., page 427.

[2] Red book of the Exchequer.

[3] The amount of money and/or military service a fief was necessary to pay to support one knight.

[4] The head of the royal judicial system and the king's viceroy or regent when absent from the country, sometimes  compared to a current day Prime Minister.

[5] A Baron responsible for ensuring the enforcement of the Magna Carta.

[6] The Medieval Carmelite Priory at Norwich; A Chronology, by Richard Copsey.  

[7] Records of the Trial of Walter Langeton, 1307-1312, Camden Fourth Series, 6.

[8] Inquisition 35 Edward I No. 50.

[9] Madox, Form. Angl. Page 231.

[10] One of four types of writ used to call an inquisition in order to keep track of the King's rights and lands. 

[11] English Historical Review – Edward III and the New Nobility Largesse and Limitation in 14th Century England; Page 1135.

[12] Indentured Retinues and English Expedition to France, 1369-1380: J.W. Sherborne, English Historical Review 1964, page 722.

[13] A great grandson of the Sir Thomas from the 14th century.

[14] Richard III – A study in service by Rosemary Horrox, page 179. In this book William is referred to as William Ovedale.

[15] Notes & Queries for Somerset and Dorset Volume XIX, part CLIV, The Uvedale family of Dorset by E.A. Fry.

[16] An ancient office whose duties were to service the king on bended knee when he dined in public.

[17] Visitations of Norfolk, Surrey, Hampshire.

[18] Collectanea Topograghica & Genealogica 1838; Volume V, page 242. 

[19] Ralph Roister Doister.

[20] An Elizabethan religious and literary argument stemming from strict censorship policies enforced by Archbishop Whitgift. Books, pamphlets and tracts were forbidden, unless authorized by Whitgift or the Bishop of London. Various Puritan tracts were published under the pseudonym of Martin Marprelate.

[21] Memorandum Record, 37 Henry VIII. Trinity Rot. 53. 

[22] From History of by permission of Richard Hayton.  

[23] Recusant History: Volume 8 No. 4, January 1966. The Reports of William Udall, Informer, 1605-1612 by P.R. Harris.

[24] Notices of the Uvedale family of Titsey, Surrey and Wickham Hampshire; Granville Leveson Gower, 1865. 

[25] Ellastone, Staffordshire St Peter's Church Records.

[26] Ellastone, Staffordshire St Peter's Church Records.