Chapters 1, 2 & 3 - ORIGINS

Chapter One

Thom and the Tax Collectors

For us at least it seems it all began with a Thom and his run in with the tax collectors in 1332. (Ref.1)

Lindfield was a village of around 150 people when two of the locals, John de Tytynghurst and Richard de Bokeselle came calling one day on Thomas at the Fayre Hale. What might have been a bad day for Thom was an auspicious one for his descendants, for the two were deputised tax collectors with a headache. There were nine Thom's in this part of Lyndefeld and each had to be individually identified for the records. The wealthy Thom, he was easy, they called him Thom de Werth, 4 shillings from him, Thom of the magic potions, well he'll be Thom de Saucerye but he's not doing very well since the Parson and the Canons, William and Richard, turned up to rebuild the church, so he only pays 8 pennies, and so in this manner our Thom scored the nome de plume of 'atte Fayrehale', neither very rich nor poor, 1 Shilling thanks Thom! “B..%@#$%..tards!!!”...... and the rest as they say is (our) history. Over the centuries our mob have tried out a few other variations, 

Fayrehale, Feyrhale, Veyrall, Feyrall, Ferrall, Fyrrall, Vyrrall, Ferrell, Furrall, Firrall, Virrall,and finally Verrall.

..............but despite this the Taxman still findth us!!!

What is a Fayrehale?

Fayrehale is a compound of fayre and hale, and preceeded by the preposition atte (at the), indicates that it was at the least a well known local location.

Taking them in reverse order, etymologically a hale is a :-
'topographic name for someone who lived in a nook or hollow, from Old English and Middle English hale, dative of h(e)alh ‘nook’, ‘hollow’. In south-eastern England it often referred to a patch of dry land in a fen' (Ref.9).

The years surrounding Thom's difficulty were very wet years with the nearby River Ouse experiencing a lot of flooding, A nice little piece of dry land for farming in the middle of this could be described as a fair 'hale / fayrehale.

A problem arises in trying to make the connection between hale and hall. Orthodox thinking makes the connection between hale and hall quite easily, but for most etymologists it is a diverse construct. Perhaps the answer lies within Middle English (abt. 1100-1500) grammar concerning the use of 'l' and 'll' and by courtesy of Encyclopedia .com is reproduced below

In MIDDLE ENGLISH, final l in monosyllables after a single vowel letter was often single (al, ful, wel) but except in recent coinages like nil, pal it is now doubled (all, bull, cell, fill,gull, hall, mill, pull, will). In long-established COMPOUNDS, however, such forms commonly have one l: almost, also, although, until, welcome BrE wilful. Contrast standard all right and non-standard but common alright. (2) Single l is usual when two vowel letters precede (fail, haul, peel, coal, foul, tool) or when e follows (pale, while, pole, rule). (3) Doubled ll usually signals a preceding short vowel: compare the related vale/valley.

Bardsley in his 'Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames' does manage to achieve the same jump but lacks authority in this case by making no reference to the substantive form of hale merely indicating hale and hall are one and the same, maybe he was familiar with ME grammar.

Trying to find a more grass roots connection between these two is about as hard as trying to find Puck's Hall (a fairies cottage), fortunately the existence of both can be found within the Sussex dialect as POOK'S-HALE (Ref.2). So we have the connection between hale and hall (in Sussex at least) and thus an additional explanation for the later arrival of the double 'll' as in Fayrehall, Ferrall and Verrall perhaps pertaining to a fair hall as in a pretty house or cottage.

From Fairies to Fayre is but a small step and perhaps rather fanciful, although past Sussex generations had a rather strong belief in the little ones. A Fairy Dell or Fairy Bower is a common locational term for a pretty little hollow surrounded by trees in the English speaking world, synonymous perhaps with a fayre hale in Sussex olden days. Or simply a fairies cottage.

Exploring a more prosaic meaning and courtesy of Wiktionary, fayre is defined as:-
  1. (archaic) fair (in the sense of both market and pretty).  2. (archaic) fare.

    Taking the first definition of an association with the local street market or fair (fayre).
    Although the church at Lindfield did not receive a charter to run a fair till 1343 (12 years later), this is not to say an unofficial one wasn't operating previously, then charted, during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) who is credited for re-establishing royal authority after his father's (Edward II) troubled reign. Could Thom's fayrehale be the Lindfield fair hall?
    According to Helena Hall in “Linfield Past and Present' (1960), the present day Tiger Inn/Church House, dating from these times, played an important role as the market hall. (Ref.10)

Another candidate, still standing, could be Humphrey's Bakery which is located adjacent to the section of street more suitable for a street market according to a historical report on Lindfield by Roland B Harris (Ref.11), doubting the suitability of the area adjacent to Tiger Inn. However some markets were held in churchyards, as at St. Michael-le-Belfrey, York and Lindfield from this report certainly had a very large church area adjoining The Tiger, enough at least for a market. (Ref.12)

The construction style of these buildings from the EUS Report appears to suit both for this type of activity. Whatever the truth, it is not unreasonable to assume a Fair and market would need a centre of operations i.e. a fair hall / fayrehall.

Along similar lines, the second definition has an association with travel as in farewell and with food and drink. From 'Cambridgeshire History On The Net' concerning the City of Ely comes the quote:-

“& includes amongst other interesting buildings the ' Fare Hall,' which, in the reign of Edward III. was used as a place of entertainment.”

From this we can reasonably extrapolate that in Sussex, a Fayrehale of the 1330's, was a travellers inn or public house which also dovetails very neatly with the history of Lindfield's Tiger Inn/Church House and churches do have a history of providing food for travellers.

To sum up a Fayrehale could be:-
  1. an pretty little island in the middle of a Fen / Swamp
  2. a pretty house or cottage
  3. a fairy dell/bower or cottage
  4. a hall used in the operation of a fair / markets – Tiger Inn, Humphrey's Bakery
  5. an eating/drinking hall for travelers and locals – Tiger Inn

Presently, the most plausible origin for the name in Lindfield is the still standing Humphrey' Bakery as it ticks all the boxes in terms of age, location, and a living area for a family plus an area for a commercial enterprise. If the age of The Tiger could be established to pre 1330 or thereabouts then it would be the most likely as its history would swing the argument in its favour.

It is intriguing to think there might be a present day tangible link to Thom from nearly 700 years ago.


Chapter Two

In the Footsteps of the Duke

Was Thom the first? George Verrell rector of the Church of Ixning (Exning) in Suffolk 1229 may have something to say about that. (the connection with Battle Abbey in Sussex is interesting)

BATTLE or DE BELLO (Abbey of). Richard, the abbot, and convent of Battle notify that Thomas, bp. of Norwich, has granted and confirmed to the said abbey the church of Ixning in his diocese, to be appropriated to the use of the abbey after the death of George Verrell, rector, and Wydo, vicar of the said church, saving to the vicar 25 marks. Dated at Battle, 1229, 5 Ides November. Sussex Charters, 77. Richard, the abbot, and convent of Battle recite - the appropriation of the church of Ixning, Norwich diocese, and the ordination of the vicarage, the salary of the vicar being fixed at six marks, with a house &c. Dated 5 Ides November, 1229. Ch. 78.

So, it's back to square one. Where to begin? Oral history within the family lines is strong on a French origin either Huguenot or Norman so we begin our search on the continent, with locations,

Asso- Veral = a village in northern Spain Rio Veral = a river at the same location

Le Veral = a village in northern France (Ref.2)
Family names such as Verrelle, Verel (Fr), & Verralle, Verrillo (It.) are not uncommon also. Those found in Italy are most likely immigrants connected with the Catholic church, trade or even the Normans, but from where? France seems to be the central location.

Exploring the phonetics of the name, through a search of the 2011 French White Pages for....

Verrall results in hits for Verrall,Verral, and Verhalle

Verrill results in hits for Verrill and Verhille

Verroll results in hits for Verrolle, Verrolles and Verholle

This search throws up several intriguing issues- firstly the introduction of the “h” into the variant grouping, if this was transposed across the channel we have another possible origin source for Verrall from Verhalle, the LDS site reveals an Elizabath Verhall christened in Lewes in 1683.

Verhille becomes Verrill. Intriguingly Verrill/Ferrill exists almost exclusively in Yorkshire whereas Verrall/Verroll almost exclusively in Sussex plus a lack of evidence of domestic migration between these two areas (for the name) suggests a different origin for each. (pre C20 records)

Verhalle, Verholle and Verrole(s) becomes Verrall or Verroll. Any Verhalle or Verholle(s) entering into Sussex would have been merged into the Verrall/Verroll name. A direct relationship exists between Verrall and Verroll. having it's roots in the Sussex dialect,

“a before double l is pronounced like o; fallow and tallow become foller and toller.” (Ref.3)

The Verrall /Verrill and their variants exist close to the coast in England and in areas that has always had close trade ties with northern Europe. Also close family ties were common through the ages with families on both sides of the Channel hosting each others children for educational and language purposes. Combining this proximity of the predominate locations of Verhalle, Verholle, and Verhille in N.E. France, Flanders and Netherlands, with areas of Huguenot and William of Orange connections, opportunities abound for migration.

Records show phonetically similar names already existed in England and France prior to the religious wars in Europe and after the advent of surnames and in an era of high illiteracy by the general populace. So understandably the morphing and recording of similar European names would have been immediate and all evidence lost in the English Channel. A similar situation has occurred in Australia with foreign immigrants due to wars and various other assimilation pressures.

The present day Tilly-sur-Suelles in France is an intriguing ancient locative source for the name.

In his book “Historical Memoirs of the House of Russell from the time of the Norman Conquest” Volume 1, Jeremiah Holmes Wiffen makes mention of a Roger de Tilley of Verroles whose son Arnald was “at the conquest of England” (P.119). One would presume Arnald would have taken a few Verroles (men from his district) as his contribution to the invasion force, or slightly later, in Onfroi de Tilly's entourage when he became Captain of the castle at Hastings in 1098.

This family of Tilleys came from the dual localities of Tilly and Verroles on the Suelles River which date back to Gallo-Roman times. Today these have conjoined to become Tilly Seulles (Tilly-sur- 217 Suelles) with the associated hamlet of St Peter (St. Pierre) being the ancient site of Vederolae Verolae, then becoming Berolle Verrolles (where the trees are growing used to make brooms: birch and gorse) [from the web page of Tilly sur Suelles, (2011)].

The village is located within spitting distance of Caen, famous for its pure quality of limestone and introduced into England by the Normans. It was used as a building material for many castles and abbeys throughout, with large quantities being imported by the Barons de Braose through their ports in the Rape of Bramber, Sussex [The Barons de Braose by Lynda Stoner (2011)]. This local cross channel trade provides a convenient opportunity for migration during post conquest times, given that Normandy was part of England for several hundred years thereafter as well. Also, this activity was being carried out during the advent of surnames and would be a period favourable for an early Verrolle/Verrall arrival.

This area has obviously lent its name to humanity with Chevaliers Richard Verroles and his son Thomas appearing in French records of the Caen region in 1221. A Coat of Arms also for a Francois Verroles futher indicates a noble heritage.

The author of the 1874 text 'The Norman People and their existing Descendants in British Dominions and the USA' cites Richard and Baldwin Verol, Normandy, 1180-95, as evidence of the Norman heritage of Verrall, Verral, Verrell, and Verrill family group. Although stating M A Lower's text Patronymica Britannica as a key reference source, he chooses to differ on this name. (Ref.4)

The new and complete dictionary of the English Language” by John Ash (1775) bridges the gap through the derivation of an old english word,“Verrel” (a ferrule = metal ring) from the french word “Verrole”. Interestingly crossbow bolts in the time of Henry VIII, with metal rings attached, presumably for balance, were called “vyrrall bolts”, another early variant of our name (Ref.5). George Verrell, we may have found your ancestry. Perhaps Gilbert Verall, frenchman mentioned in the Sussex Rolls of 1524 was Gilbert Verroles with family origins in this area, (with the application of the Sussex Dialect) or alternatively from the hamlet of Le Veral , if it existed back then.

The village of Firle is listed in the Doomsday book (1086) as Ferle, pronounced furrel in Sussex dialect and also recorded as fierel and fierol in its connection with oak trees. While M.A.Lower first considered then rejected Firle village as a possible locative origin he may not have considered the de Ferle family thereby dashing the hopes of those favouring a more aristocratic origin.

A family of de Ferles is found in Sussex following the Norman invasion. The first of note in this area was Robert de Ferles mentioned in the essoigns on the 28 may 1199, possibly the son of a Gerald de Ferles. A John Ferle, is recorded as a Sheriff of Sussex in 1296 and a branch disappears into obscurity with a John de Ferles and wife Maud at Twineham Manor in 1260 (Ref.6,7). Twineham is located around 10km as the crow flies from Lindfield where Thom gets caught by the taxman.
Intriguingly a family named Ferhall raises its head in 1664 in this area, BDM records seem to show that name mutating to Fairehall. (Ref.8)
The aristocratic French family of Du Virel maybe the origin for Lewes Virell born in Normandy mentioned by Peter Verralls. Does his christian name hint at a connection with Sussex?
This work in part expands on that done by Michael S Verrall, et al and yet others before them. Perhaps still others will continue in a similar vein on a name that has many origins and maybe find the smoking gun that directly links a Verrall with a Norman aristocrat as oral history demands.

Chapter Three

The Ferrall Verrall(s) of Eastbourne

The best evidence so far, is that our line starts in Lindfield with the aforementioned Thom and the Tax Collectors. He and his descendants then manage to dodge the taxman (in true entrepeneural spirit) for another 79 years, or more likely the Black Death of 1348-50 caused a hiatus in the record keeping. The next appearance of the name occurs just down the road at Cuckfield (Cokefeld) involving a land sale (Ref.13)

  • Land grant - From John Cobbe of Sussex to Thomas Fayrhale of Cuckfield (9/11/1411)
    50a. of arable, meadow, pasture and wood, and half a barn with all its appurtenances lying separately in Lindfield which were once Robert Hunts

and 33 years after that, a court case,

  • 23 Henry VI. (1444) (Sussex Fines 1308 – 1509) 3072. John Feyrhale v. Robert Lachemer and Joan his wife; 30 acres in Cokefeld; to John. (File 89. No. 18.)

then 34 years later in 1478 the first transposition between the “f” and “v” occurs and our story starts to gain momentum from generational continuity to family continuity with another land dispute.

  • 21 Henry VII. (1478) (Sussex Fines 1308 – 1509) 3378. John Michell and Richard Mascall v. John Veyrall and Agnes his wife; 40 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow, 10 acres of pasture, 6d. rent in Wyuesfeld and Pepoundeshurst; to John Michell, etc.

As in modern life it is often the woman, the wife, the mother, the grandmother that binds families together, in this case the link between the Eastbourne and the Cuckfield branches. God bless grandmother Agnes.

Apparently, John and Agnes had a son William who moved to Eastbourne sometime around the early C16. William Feyrall paid 6 Pounds in the 1524-25 Lay Subsidy Roll at Estborne (more Tax).

Evidence of the move and connection comes in the form of a Cuckfield land sale to a Nicholas and Joan Pryour in 1543 (Ref.14) with his address given as Eastbourne. His life in Eastbourne was rather eventful with him being charged with trespassing and theft (Ref.15) and is recorded as doing a number on the vicar of Eastbourne Sir William Hoo in 1536 (Ref.16). A will dated 18/5/1544 is held in the East Sussex Record Office (Ref.17). He died in 1547.

This family appears to have established itself in Eastbourne as a John Ferrall of Eastbourne, in keeping with the family hobby of litigation, sues the above Nicholas Pryor of Cuckfield around 1556 over wrongful occupation of land, listing himself as the heir and grandson of Agnes Ferrall. This one action thus proving the early connection and separation of the name and family between Cuckfield and Eastbourne. (Ref.18)

A consistent but disconnected presence for the family in Eastbourne and its surrounds is established from this time to the present , albeit via variants, with Verrall becoming the majority by 1700.
1521 - John Ferrall married to Elizabeth Prymer (Probate of will) (John above?)(Ref.19)
10/2/1563 – Elizabeth Vyrrall m. John Denyse, Eastbourne
14/10/1576 - John Ferrell m. Annis Hoade in Hailsham (6 miles from Eastbourne)
2/6/1588 - Richard Furrell – Bap., - Father Thomas
*2/11/1589 – John Virrall m. Elizabeth Mabb, Eastbourne
*14/6/1590 – John Virrall – Bap. - Father John
*5/12/1591 – Johanne Verrall – Bap.- Father John
*9/11/1595 - Dyna Firrall – Bap.- Father John
*20/10/1599 – John Virrall – Bap.- Father John
**30/5/1602 – John Virrall m .Elizabeth Ellis, Eastbourne
**8/4/1604 – Richard Virrall – Bap.- Father John
21/10/1655 – Thomas Verral, laborer, m. Mary Rowe, Hailsham
1708 – William Verrall died Hailsham, approx. 1708, Uncle to Richard Norton.

N.B. Although there is a well established connection between the Fairhall/Fairall and Verrall names around Nth Sussex, no such interchange exists for our line. However it appears it may have split between Ferrall/Ferrell and Verrall/Verrell.

N.B. The Verralls, with the additional 's' probably denotes ' son of ' as in other parts of Britian.  


1) Sussex Sudsidy Roll 1332, Villat' de Lyndefeld - British History Online
2) original name: Le Veral geographical location: Boulogne-sur-Mer, Pas-de-Calais, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, Europe geographical coordinates: 50° 42' 0" North, 1° 58' 0" East 
3) A Dictionary of the Sussex Dialect by WD Parish 1874
4) Original ref. M.R.S. 'Magn. Rotul. Scaccarii Normannise in the M^moires de la Soci^t^ des Antiquaires de la Normandie, 1.16-17.
5) In Henry VIII's palace of Hunsdon in 1539, there were two crossbows, complete with fourteen forked arrows and two 'vyrrall bolts', arrows which were clearly designed for the huntsman. Title: hunting, hawking and the Early Tudor Gentleman ,  By: Williams, James, History Today
6) The Earls Warenne subsequently held a manor of Rottingdean in demesne. A hide of land there was released in 1235 by Ralph son of Richard to William, Earl Warenne, (fn. 20) and in 1260 John de Ferles and Maud his wife gave a carucate of land in Rottingdean to John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, in exchange for the manor of Twineham. (fn. 21)) - (Parishes: Rottingdean', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7: The rape of Lewes (1940), pp. 232-238. URL:
7) Ferle ….From “A dictionary of place-names giving their derivations” FORT, a stronghold ; from the h2i\..fortis, strong — akin to the Irish Loiigphorth (a fortress), and the French La Ferle\ abridged from ferjiiete — v. p. 79 ; e.g. Rochefort (the rock fortress) ;
8) Mary Ferhall gender:Female baptism/christening date:12 Feb 1664 place:Twineham, Sussex, England father's name: John Ferhall mother's name:Anne indexing project (batch) number:C15381-2system origin:England-ODMsource film number:1068527
9) Hale Name Meaning (Ancestry .com) English (also well established in South Wales): topographic name for someone who lived in a nook or hollow, from Old English and Middle English hale, dative of h(e)alh ‘nook’, ‘hollow’. In northern England the word often has a specialised meaning, denoting a piece of flat alluvial land by the side of a river, typically one deposited in a bend. In south-eastern England it often referred to a patch of dry land in a fen. In some cases the surname may be a habitational name from any of the several places in England named with this fossilised inflected form, which would originally have been preceded by a preposition, e.g. in the hale or at the hale. English: from a Middle English personal name derived from either of two Old English bynames, Hæle ‘hero’ or Hægel, which is probably akin to Germanic Hagano ‘hawthorn’ (see Hain 2).
10) Helena Hall Lindfield Past and Present (1960) and 'Linfield Village an English Classic '
11) Linfield Character Assessment Report a part of the Sussex Extensive Urban Survey (EUS) by Roland B Harris
12) “and in the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Micklegate. Irregular markets were sometimes held, however, as when in the early 15th century the churchyard of St. Michael-le-Belfrey became a public market-place on Sundays and feast days.” …............City of York British, History Online
13) West Sussex Record Office - Document Add Mss 33,427 9/11/1411
14) Feoffment from (a) William Ferrall of Eastbourne to (b) Nicholas Pryour and Joan, his wife. SERGISON/1/45 24 July 1543
Contents: Tenement called Butlers, with lands belonging, in Cuckfield, formerly of William Michel, and in occupation of (a).
Memorandum of livery of seisin endorsed. Witnesses: John Kyng, William Mitchell, John Tyltman, William Byrt, and others.
15) Documents from Medieval and Early Modern England from the National Archives in London ( 4657f Sussex, Trespass: taking from Thomas Thacher, Accused - Fenell, John, of Estbourne, yoeman; Banaster, Philip of Estbourne,yoeman; Feyrall, William, of Estbourne, yoeman
16) Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell by R. B. Merriman
William Ferrall, of Eastbourne in Sussex, deposed before Sir John Gage on August 14, 1536, that Sir William Hoo, vicar of Eastbourne, and suffragan of the diocese of Chichester, walking with him in the churchyard, said that 'they that rule ….....
17) William Fyrrall of the Parishe of Estborne.........and my body to be buried at the church porch doore on the south syde 18 May 1544 No P.A. A.C.L. Vol.A.L. Fol.151b
18) Item reference C 1/1427/33-36 Short title: Ferrall v Pryor.
Plaintiffs: John FERRALL of Eastbourne, husbandman, grandson and heir of Agnes Ferrall.
Defendants: Nicholas PRYOR.
Subject: Wrongful occupation of a messuage and land in Cuckfield by means of deeds obtained by Stephen Borde and others.
Covering dates 1556-1558 Held by The National Archives, Kew Legal status Public Record(s)
19) Full text of "Notes of post mortem inquisitions taken in Sussex. 1 Henry VII, to 1649 and after.
Abstracted and translated by F.W.T. Attree"
RICHARD PRYMER. Vol. 67, No. 125. Battle, 8 Nov. 34 Hen. VIII. Died last Jan. 30 Hen. VIII. (1521)
Heir, daughter Elizabeth, aged 30 and more, and married to John Ferrall. Lands called " Hoggesland," " le Werke," " Spenserswyshe " and " Ocbornes " in Warding.