Many theories abound as to the English origin of our Haskell surname but due to the loss and deterioration of many ancient documents, we may never know for sure. The thrill of the hunt for that elusive detail to back up our pet theory is the fun part of genealogy! Is the English origin from Hucca or Housecarle? Is the Haskell surname of Anglo, Saxon, Norman, Norse or even Welsh origin? How do the Hurscarls of Bruton in Somerset, England fit in? Were those named Hucca originally found at Le Hoc which is now called Hook Farm near Wardour Castle in Wiltshire, England? Or did the name originate with the king's bodyguards, the Housecarles? Confused?
What we know...
1.1086 Domesday Book, Somerset : "Huscarle ten una v. trae qua ipsement teneb. T.R.E. In Estrope. Ibi. Ht. Dimid:car. Valet XL. Denar." Translated it means that Huscarle held 1 virgate land (about sixty acres) at Eastrip , half a plough, worth forty pence. Eastrip was near Bruton. In 1329, Ralph Hurscarl, was at nearby Cherlton Mucegros (Charlton Musgrove) for an inquisition into the taxes on Bruton Priory.
2. Onwards, the records show numerous entries of the surname and its variants concentrated on a small radius of about ten miles around Shaston, now Shaftesbury in Dorset, England. This area touched on Bruton, Charlton Musgrove, the Donheads in Wiltshire and south to Fontmell Magna and Melbury.
3. Written spellings depended on spoken sounds. In early records the spelling often varied for the same person, siblings, parents, etc. Misinterpretations of old handwriting styles led to substitution of letters in transcriptions and indexes. Claims that particular pronunciations and spellings exclude/include certain family lines is extremely courageous and prone to error. More validity may be claimed where an 'alias' is included for the same individual in early records. Aliases demonstrated the gradual spelling progression of Hurscarl, Huckylll and Huckehull to Huscarl, Hascoll(e), Haskoll, etc. Thus we do know 'c' was often sounded 's' as in 'city'.
Housecarls existed as household troops, personal warriors and equivalent to a bodyguard to Scandinavian lords and kings. The anglicized term is claimed to begin at the Old Norse term huskarl or huscarl (literally, 'house man', i.e., armed man (churl in the service of a specific house). Also called hirth ('household') that referred to household troops. The term came to cover armed soldiers of the household. Often the only professional soldiers in the kingdom, the rest of the army being made up of militia called the fyrd and occasionally mercenaries. Huscarls are recorded as proficient in a variety of weapons, including the one-handed sword and the throwing axe. Particularly renown for their unique use of the long-bearded axe. Records do not mention archers in Huscarl ranks. They fought on foot and rode to battle. Later Hascoll soldiers are listed as archers and/or Billmen. A Bill was a long handled blade. The term entered the English language when Canute the Great (Cnut) conquered and occupied Anglo-Saxon England. Cnut re-organised his army in 1018 and proclaimed that only those 'who its own rules of justice and discipline, answerable directly to the King (or later some of the more powerful Earls retained Huscarls). Most of the Huscarls lived at court and served him directly. By the time of Edward the Confessor some Huscarls had been given estates by the king. The royal entourage had then moved on to Shaftesbury, another pilgrimage site, and a large one, too. It was here that St Edward the Martyr, Aethelred’s murdered brother, lay buried. And it was here that Cnut died on 12 November 1035. He was about thirty-eight years old.’
O’Brien, Harriet; Queen Emma and the Vikings - Bloomsbury, London; 2005
First found in Monmouthshire (Welsh: Sir Fynwy), anciently the Kingdom of Gwent, a much disputed border region of Southeast Wales. It was an English county since 1536 until 1974, where the family was seated in very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings. (Origin Welsh) Derivation: hasg, a place of rushes, or sedgy place, and hall or hayle, a moor. Asgall, in the Gaelic, signifies a sheltered place, a retreat... the addition of the aspirate 'H,' might make the name. An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names With an Essay on their Derivation and Import; Arthur, William, M.A.; New York, NY: Sheldon, Blake, Bleeker and CO., 1857.
Haskells may be of Saxon origin, free-holders of property,
but closely attached to Shaftesbury Abbey. Small farmers
in control of their own income. Perhaps Hockel, Huckul are
an early form. Many surnames began in relation to a site.
Le Hok (now Hook Farm) is in Semley parish, Wiltshire near
Shaftesbury. Le Hok was listed in early court records: "....for
stealing the abbess of Wilton's corn in sheaf at la Hok".
Whitsun 33 Edward I (31 May 1305)
Robert Hascolle around 1598 held a lease by inheritance
from his father Thomas Hascolle on Hook Farm, a large asset
formerly attached to the Wardour Estate in the Donheads.
Hook farmhouse was built in the 17th century and is associated
with Hook Manor, to the east of it. Hook Manor was built
in 1636-7 by the Arundell family of nearby Wardour Castle.
It passed by marriage to Sir Cecil Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore,
who married Anne, the daughter of the Earl of Arundell around
1625. It is also known as Baltimore House from this owner,
who founded the city of Baltimore from colonists on the
ships, 'Ark' and 'Dove' that went to Maryland in 1633. It
is a small limestone manor house, built of local Tisbury
stone, and I imagine that the farmhouse is of similar stone.
The farm would have been worked as the manor farm and in the 20th century the manor house became known locally as Hook Farm. The name 'Hook' comes from a projection of land, shaped like a hook, and is first mentioned in 1541. The Saxon chiefs of King Arthur had sons and followers named after them. Hoc, Hocca, or Hucca was one of these chiefs. Huckel, Huckell and Huckle would apply to a son. Was a Saxon Chief rather than a Scandinavian Housecarle our ancestor?
Evidence suggests a continuous presence in the Dorset-Wiltshire border country since 1327 onwards of Hoskel, Huckul, Huscol, Huscole, Hoskale, Hascole, Hascoll and Haskell surnames. Several other records indicate that the progression of the spelling to Haskell was almost standardised by the mid 18th century. Haskoll and Hascall are the two most frequent current variants.
Norse TheoryClaims its origins in the settlement of northern and eastern counties of England by Scandinavian people, mostly during the 8th Century. The modern surname Haskell can also be found as Ashkettle, Askel, Axtell, and Astell, among other forms, is attributed to the personal name 'Asketill', which is composed of the elements 'oss' or 'ass', meaning 'god' and 'ketill', meaning a kettle or sacrificial cauldron, the latter being a common element. 'Arkle' or 'Arkell' are attributed to 'Arnkell', 'arn' being 'eagle', added to 'ketill' as above. The most common theory of the origin of this family is that this was the 'Askell' family using the name Askill and Achetell before and after the arrival of the Normans. However, the latter variations like "Hauscall and "Hurscarl" smack of Norse origins like "Hauskarl".
The surname of HASKELL was a baptismal name meaning 'the son of Anskettle'. The name was brought into England in the wake of the Invasion by William the Conqueror. The earliest of the name on record appears to be ASKELL. He was listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086, ordered by William the Conqueror. The Norman Conquest changed personal nomenclature. The old English name system was gradually broken up and often superceded by new continental ones. Most of the early documents recount the history of the upper classes who realised that an additional name added prestige and practical advantage. The name of a peasant rarely appeared. The Domesday Book contains details of his land settlements, and the name of the owners of such. Robert ASKETIL of County Somerset was documented during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). Simon ASKETEL, was the rector of Boyton, County Norfolk in the year 1361, and Roger ASKETIL was the rector of Randworth, Norfolk in 1391.