Origins of the Stowell name

It is generally recognised, within the branch of the Stowell famly to which this author belongs, that the Stowell name has its tracable origins in the Isle of Man. A. W. Moore, in his 1889 manuscript “Manx Families” says:

This name was formerly Stole, and the name of their property Ballastole. Both have now become Stowell. The family of this name was found at Ballastole in Maughold at the end of the 17th century. None of them were men of any mark till we come to one Thomas, who was chiefly notorious for having had 16 children (1 daughter and 15 sons) by his second wife Ann Browne (born 1739, died 1783), the eldest and only daughter of Robert Brown, father of the Revd. Robert Brown, afterwards Vicar of Braddan. By his first and third wives, he had no issue.

A footnote by Joyce Oates says that in fact Robert Brown and his wife Ann Cosnahan had 9 children, 5 of whom were daughters. This is also supported by the parish records as included in the International Genealogical Index (IGI), which show that Ann was in fact the oldest of nine children.

Having said that the Stowells come from the Isle of Man, it seems possible that the name originates earlier, somewhere in the west of England, and that at some stage a branch of the family moved to Man. There are places called Stowell in Somerset and in Gloucestershire, and a Stowell Park in Gloucestershire. There is also a Stowell Park in Wiltshire, near the village of West Stowell. But investigating these possible links is something for the future.

In his note on Manx Surnames which appears in the Manx Note Book, vol iii of 1887, A. W. Moore mentions the name Stole occurring in 1649, and McStole in 1511. Moore was of the opinion that the name originated outside the island, because there is no Celtic or Scandinavian etymology. On the other hand he says that its earliest occurrence with the prefix Mac is an argument in favour of it being of Manx origin. Basically, nobody has documentary information linking Stowells of Somerset or Gloucestershire with the Stowells of the Isle of Man.

The earliest baptismal records for the Island are those of Ballaugh, which start in 1607. Maughold, where the Ballastowell referred to by Moore was located, has baptismal records from 1647. (The earliest recorded Stowell christening at Maughold was in 1648, and was that of an Ellen Stole, daughter of John). There are many Stowells (or Stoles) in the baptismal and marriage records for the parishes of the Isle of Man noted in the IGI, and for the time being I am not trying to sort out whether the line of descent of my particular ancestors can be identified further back than described in the main Stowell page.

The first Stowell named in connection with Ballastole in Maughold is a John Stole who was entered for the farm in the Manorial Rolls for 1597. The earliest surviving Manorial Rolls for the Isle of Man are those for 1511, in which a Donald McStoile and a William McStoil are entered for a tenement and a quarter in the treen of Cardall, which is also in Maughold.

Ballastowell in Maughold is not shown on modern Ordnance Survey maps, but is shown on earlier maps. There is another Ballastowell, in Braddan, and there are those who argue that this is the Ballastowell from which my ancestors came. In particular this was the opinion of my late (5th) cousin John Arthur Stowell () who ran a one-name study and collected many documents which I have not yet had the opporutnity of seeing.


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© John Stowell 2004

      Last updated 10 Oct 2006