[ Preface ] [ Ch1 Historical ] [ Ch2 - Noteable English Family ] [ Ch 3 16th Century Bicknells ] [ Family Characteristics ]
Thomas Williams Bicknell's 1913 genealogy
Book Chapter I
CONCERNING THE BICKNELL NAME
About eight miles southeast from the city of Taunton, Somer-
setshire, England, and five miles northwest from Ilminster, is a
projecting hill, sombre, forest-clad, conspicuous from Taunton.
This hill, rising 820 feet above the sea, is popularly known as
Beacon Hill, and the country it seems to guard is the ancient
Anglo Saxon manor af Bykenhulle. The Exon Domesday calls
the place Bichehalda, and the great-Exchequer one says:
"William holds of the Earl, Bichehalle; Aluric held it in the time
of King Edward" ( 1004-1006}. These words, Bichehalle and
Bichehalda are corruptions by Norman scribes, of the Saxon
name of the manor, and the hill which marks it, Bykenhulle.
The derivation is clear : Anglo Saxon Bycn or Bykene, a beacon
and Hulle or Hyll, a hill.
The manor of Bykenhulle included about 1,500 acres of land
with its manorial buildings, having the hill, which gave it its
name, as the high point, from which signal fires, flags or other
devices carried news to watchers of other beacons in other parts
Aluric, a Saxon, was the first holder of the manor, of whom
we have record. On the accession of William, the Conqueror,
in 1066, the King gave to his half brother, Robert, Earl of Corn-
wall, seven hundred and ninety-seven manorial estates, forty-
nine of which were in Dorset and Somerset Counties, Byken-
hulle manor being one. Robert accepted the tenure of William
de l'Estra, whose heirs came into possession of the manor by
forfeiture and legally holding the lands directly from the King,
till about the year 1260, A. D., when Johanne, daughter of
William de lEstra, married Robert de Pavilly, of Normandy (Eng-
lish, Paveley), bringing the estate of Bykenhulle to him as he
The Paveleys were a baronial family of Pavilly, a town twelve
miles northwest from Rouen, in France, where the Lord Amal-
bert de Pavilly had founded a monastery in 664, A. D. Some of
the family crossed over from France with the Conquerer and
soon became a powerful race in England, established in at least
twelve counties. Reginald de Pavely joined in the first crusade
and fell in battle at Acre, 1104; we find Ralph de Pavely, witness-
ing a charter of William, Earl of Surrey, in the reign of Henry
I.; and Henry III, in 1241, sent money to Thomas de Pavely for
his journey to join him at Anjou. Another Reginald de Pavely
was summoned as baron in 1260, to attend the King in Council;
John de Pavely was rector of Hooke, near Beaminster, in 1312;
Richard de Paveley and Sir John, who died 1361, were priors
of the Hospital of St, John of Jerusalem; lastly Sir Walter de
Paveley was one of the founders of the Knights of the Garter,
the highest order of Knighthood in Great Britain.
In 1281, John, son of Robert and Johanne (de lEstra) de
Paveley, died, seized of the manor of Bykenhulle, his heir being
his son John. Prior to his death he had exchanged his French
baronial name, Paveley, for the name of the manor, and was
known as John de Bykenhulle. In feudal times such changes of
names were common and as the Paveley family had come to Eng-
land to make a permanent home it was in accord with usual
custom for a member to adopt the name of the castle or manor
where he lived, or any other which flattered his fancy or ambition.
In this instance John de Paveley chose to give up the surname, de
Paveley and became John de Bykenhulle, our first ancestor of
thc Bicknell name. It was a Norman fashion, for two or three
generations after the Conquest (1066), to distinguish themselves
by the title of the lands they held in fief- "dc Bykenhulle," but by
the fourth generation they had dropped the French designation,
"de." The date when the descendants of Robert de Paveley and
his wife Johanne de 1'Estra became Bicknells was about 1260
A. D. Before that date, Bykenhulle or Bicknell was a place name
only, in England. After that it became a family name from
which our family received its surname, Bicknell. The changes in
spelling from 1260 A. D., to the present time are shown in the
following table :
SURNAME OF OWNER.
Bykenhulle, 1260, A. D. John de Paveley,
1297. John de Bykenhulle, 1275
1316. John de Bykenhulle, 1302.
1368. Bickernoll, 1351
1411. Bykenell, 1425
1443. Biconyll, 1443
1475. Byconyll, 1451.
1523. Biknell, 1523.
1547. Bycknell, 1544.
1597. Bicknell, 1585.
1912. Bicknell, 1912.
There are at least forty-seven different spellings of Bicknell
as stated by Mr. A. Sidney Bicknell, of London, England, who
spent many years of his life in studies and researches of the
Bicknell family. We are indebted to him for our exact knowledge
of the origin of the family name, and reference is made to an
able and scholarly address of Mr. Bicknell, on "A Forgotten
Chancellor and Canon," read by him before the Somersetshire
Archaeological and Natural History Society, 1894, and pub-
lished in the proceedings of that Society, that year, New Series,
Vol. XX. It may be stated that ail forms of Bignall, Bignell, Big-
nold and Bucknell, are in no way connected with Bicknell, and
all spellings are corruptions that do not appear as B-i-c-k-n-e-l-l.
The above well established facts set at rest the race origin
and name of our family. The Bicknells are of Teutonic blood.
They crossed the Rhine, invading France before the Christian
era. The advance guard occupied Normandy and were known
as Normans or Northmen. The Pavilly family, of Norman
blood, founded the town of that name and established its baronial
character by founding a monastery through the wealth and in-
fluence of Lord Amalbert de Pavilly. On the conquest of Eng-
land in 1066, William the Conqueror, being a Norman, distrib-
uted the manorial estates of England to Normans of high rank,
or to those who had rendered valuable military service. The mar-
riage of the Paveleys with the lEstras gave a pure Norman blood
to the original John de (Paveley) Bykenhulle. To what extent the
Norman blood of the Paveley-Bicknells was changed from 1300
to 1600, we cannot state, but it is probable that Anglo Saxon
and other strains had entered the vital stream in the veins of
Zachary and John Bicknell, who settled at Weymouth, Mass.,
We have thus blazed the way for the future genealogist
historian of the family, from Lord Amalbert de Pavilly, of
Pavilly, France, 664. A. D., to Zachary Bicknell, 1590, a period
of 926 years. To him I assign the privilege of setting up the
guide posts of the generations that lie between.