The Surname Royall and its variants

My research of the surname ROYALL began in Norfolk the county in which my family has its roots. I quickly realised that in the earlier registers the spelling RYAL(L) was as common as ROYAL(L). It was not long before I discovered other variant spellings of the name, not only in Norfolk, but elsewhere in the country.

At the present time I have 1300 entries in my Norfolk index. Using only those entries that are to be found in the I.G.I. as a sample I have found thirteen variants of the name within the county . The I.G.I. references number 624, of these 315 are what I would call RYAL(L)/RIAL(L) spellings and 309 are of the ROYAL(L) variety.

It is interesting to note that of the 315 RYAL/RIAL entries, only 39 occur after 1700. The evidence seems to suggest that, in the majority of cases, the spelling RYAL(L)/RIAL(L) developed into ROYAL(L) in Norfolk. However, not all ROYAL(L) spellings are a development for there are 60 examples of it before 1700: the earliest at Bacton in 1587.

The current telephone directories covering Norfolk yield 65 Royal(l)s and 3 Rial(l)/Ryal(l)s. There are also 8 Royles, a rare spelling in this part of England before modern times.

Elsewhere in England the situation is different. In some areas where Royall/Ryalls are to be found in any numbers Ryall did not develop into Royall. In Lincolnshire the I.G.I. provides 317 Riall/Ryall entries and 121 other spellings of the name, most of these are Royall or Royle. In this part of England the Ryall type of spelling held its own. The spelling Royle is not infrequent in Lincolnshire whilst the I.G.I. sample for Norfolk provides only four examples.

Surprisingly few examples of the surname are to be found in the adjoining county of Suffolk. The I.G.I. lists only 39 examples, all but 10 are Royalls and most of them in the border parishes. To the west neighbouring Cambridgeshire provides even fewer examples of the name.

At the present time I have a list of fifty three possible variants. By and large the variants or some of them, can be found wherever the name Royall/Ryall occurs. In some parts of the country a particular spelling predominates, but elsewhere it may occur much less frequently. In Lancashire, Cheshire and the North West Midlands, ROYLE is the most common form of the name; indeed in Lancashire/Cheshire it occurs to the almost total exclusion of all other spellings.

The spelling of the name with a final's' occurs frequently in the Sheffield area of South Yorkshire and in the northerly parts of the adjoining counties of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. In these districts Ryal(l)/Rial(l) are more common spellings than Royal(l) or Royle(l) and all these can be found with a final 's'.

The earliest examples known to me are of Royalls in Thorpe, Salvin, Yorkshire in 1676 and Royles in Hathersage, Derbyshire in the same year. 

As is well known the spelling of the name in registers and on documents in earlier times was largely dependent upon the competence, whim or perhaps the hearing of the Parish Priest or Clerk concerned; the vagaries of local dialects and the idiosyncrasy of individuals will no doubt have added to the number of variant spellings. In any case exactitude in spelling was not highly valued or particularly sought after even in the 18th century. The diaries of those who would be considered to be educated people yield a variety of spellings of what might be considered to be common words.

In passing it might be worth noting the following spellings. Gerards "Herball" published in 1597 contains the following "The White Lily (which in beauty and braverie excelled Solomon in his greatest roaltie)" In Shakespeare we have "This royall throne of Kings" and "A Royall train beleeve me" Richard Crawshaw(1613-1649) writes of "Rich Royall food". A gold coin first issued by Edward 1V in 1465 could be either a Riall or Ryall . The Acts of the Privy Council for the period 1552-54 referring to Royal plate (Treasure from Spain) give examples of Royal , used as an adjective, being spelt both as Ryall and Riall.

The actual change in the spelling of a name can sometimes be clearly seen in a single page of parish registers. The Acle, Norfolk registers show that Thomas and Mary who are Ryall in 1672 have become Roiall in entries made in 1678 and 1681 and Royal in 1682. The variant Roiall originates as far as I can tell at Acle but is also found at nearby Ludham. This variant would seem to have a phonetic origin and did not continue for long; however I am informed that the spelling Roiall is to be found in the earliest census in Western Canada where the enumerators spelt phonetically.

In the registers of Trimmingham, Norfolk we find the spellings Royal, Royall, Royell, Rial and Ryall. Such a variety of spellings within a short space of time can be found in registers elsewhere in the country.

The county of Dorset together with parts of Somerset and Devon is another area in which the surname is frequently found; in this part of England it is the RYALL spelling which predominates. Here as elsewhere the spellings Ryall and Royall are used for different entries relating to the same person.

Royall/Ryalls can also be found in significant numbers in Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. The name Roile is found at Barton-under Needwood, Staffs in 1596, Royle at Tamworth, Staffs in 1549, whilst Royell appears at Hartysthorpe, Derbyshire in 1466.

In addition to the areas already mentioned the surname occurs frequently in Worcestershire and to a more limited extent in Hampshire, Sussex, Northumberland, Durham and Gloucestershire.

London, as one would expect, provides the largest number of Royall/Ryall etc entries in parish registers. All the main variants are included from an early date. Riall 1549, Ryall 1544, Royall 1589 and Royle 1592. Earlier a Richard Rylle was a Juror at a possessory assizes in 1406 and a William Ryell was Rector of St. Andrews, Hubbard in 1394.

Surnames are often derived from place names, indeed place names themselves are used as surnames and a very high proportion of English surnames have such an origin. There is no doubt at all in my mind that in a number of instances Royall/RYALL is derived from a particular place name.

In Worcestershire the manor of RYALL was Ruyhale in 1182, Ryhale or Rihale in 1239, Ryall in 1456. In the 16th century it is variously Royall, Royalles and Ryolles Court. In 1249 the Bishop of Worcester oave land in Ryall to John de Ruyhole; in 1332 the 'de' has been dropped and we have a Joan RUYHALE. A farm named Ryalls Court still exists.

RYAL in Northumberland forms part of the moorland parish of Stamfordham and in the 13th century there are references to William of RYAL and Dame Joan de RIAL. In a Hearth Tax document of 1675 the reference is to ROYALL TOWN. 

RYALL in the Dorset parish of Whitechurch Canonicorum was Rinhul in 1240 and late variations were Rohul and Ryle.

RYHALL a parish on the Lincolnshire border, between the 7th and 16th centuries produced the variants Rihale, Riehale, Ryale, Real, Ryhall, Ryall and Riall.

All these place names are probably derived from 'Rye-Hill' from the Old English ryge and hyll and the name refers to, a corner of a field or hill where rye was grown. There would seem to be good reasons for thinking that the origin of the surname is linked with places where rye was grown.

The examples given do not exhaust the list of Ryall/Royall place names, others can be found in different parts of the country. RYALL a hamlet or farm at Bradworth, N. Devon; RYHILL a hamlet in the parish of Burstwich in Yorkshire and RIEHULL Pepperharrow in Surrey called at different times RIHELL, RUYHILLE and RYALLS.

It is thought that the names RYLE and ROYLE, common in Cheshire and Lancashire are a local derivation from RUYHULL a hamlet in the village of Erchells in Northenden parish. This hamlet/manor was held in 1318 by Richard le Ruyhull. 

In the City of London there was at one time a ROYAL Lane traceable to RIHILLE referred to in a document of 1484. There is also a reference to LA RIOLLE later referred to as The RYALL, which is the present day College Hill. 

It has been suggested that another possible derivation of the name is from La Rie, meaning, I am told a grassy bank, a common place name in some localities in Normandy. A certain Hubert de Rie was Casteller of Norwich Castle in 1110

One thing that cannot be established on present evidence, is the notion or hope, fondly held by some, of a connection, even if only through service, with the Royal Household or the Monarch. It has been suggested by the compilers of some pedigrees that some members of the Royal Household were for services rendered, allowed to take Royal as a surname, but, by Kingly decree they were required to spell the name differently, hence the second 'L'.

If the most likely or common derivation of the surname is from places associated with the growing of Rye, then it is not surprising that it is found in many parts of the country. Vegetation is a characteristic feature in the origin of place names and Rye was a common crop.

The existence of the surname in some parts of the country today is due to the movement of individuals and families in the last century. There was a great deal more social mobility in the early 19th century than many people realise. Not all of this population movement was due to farm labourers moving from the countryside into the new industrial centres within reach of their old homes. The name Royal is not uncommon around Sunderland and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. One line of ROYALS in that locality owes its origin to a Royal who moved from Brandon on the Norfolk/Suffolk border to Northumberland to work as a plate layer on the North British Railway. Brandon is very close to Northwold and Methwold in Norfolk the parish registers of which contain a sizeable number of ROYAL reference from 1718 onwards. Service in the Army and Navy could result in a discharged soldier or sailor settling down in his place of discharge instead of returning to his native heath.

In July 1622 Joseph ROYALL aged 20 arrived in Virginia aboard the ship "Charitie" and in 1629 a William RYALL or ROYALL settled at Salem, New England. The compiler of a substantial genealogy of the descendants of Joseph writes, "As you may have observed the name "ROYAL" as passed down to our generation, has been spelled and recorded in various records as, Royal, Royall, Royalls, Royle, Ryals and Ryall"

David Mills of the Department of English at Queen Mary College, University of London, a specialist on English Place Names wrote on 12 November 1984, "It is certainly possible for any of the Royall/Ryall/Riall etc surnames to have originated in any of the place names called Ryall/Ryle/Ryhill etc which like Ryall in Dorset usually means 'hill where rye was grown', (it's quite a common place name type)

Arthur Royall August 1990

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