This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 26th July 2004, reproduced by kind permission of the author, the late Desmond Holden.

The “What's in a Name” series was a regular feature in the Advertiser over the period 1993‑2004, taking a refreshing look at the derivation of some typically Derbyshire surnames.

Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames, and do not indicate any particular interest on Desmond's part in the genealogy, descent, or family history of individuals bearing the surnames featured.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

“In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves.”

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called SAVILLE?
Variations: Savil, Savile, Seville etc.

The number of variations in the spelling of this surname is considerable but with one exception, none is significant. That exception is "Saffell" which is of Scandinavial origin. It represents the word "Saefugul" which can be transliterated as "sea fowl" and refers to the cormorant. It is listed in the local directory and historical records show a concentration in the eastern counties, particularly Essex and Suffolk. This is consistent with the fact that the eastern areas of the country were settled with Scandinavian invaders. As a personal name it was found even before Domesday (1086) and appears as a surname as early as 1182 (Willelmus Filius Safugel of Bury St. Edmunds). Probably the influence of the surname "Saville" brought about the modification of the spelling.

The form "Saville" has taken forefront, but historically it seems that " Savile" is to be favoured. No doubt familiarity with the French word "ville" and possibly that of the Spanish city of "Seville" fostered the revised spelling. Certainly the adoption of "Saville" is reflected in the fact that there are some 20 listings in the local directory. The correct form is preserved in the neighbourhood name "Saviletown" in Dewsbury (West Riding) inaugurated in 1863 and taking its name from the old established county family named "Savile". Speaking broadly, the "Savile" version has strong associations within the West Riding whereas "Saville" prevails in Lancashire.

The name originated in France and several sites are suggested. Early forms in the Norman-French are not easily verified but if it were "Sauville" that indicates a location (now indeterminate) either in Ardennes or Vosges. Another site has the advantage of still being identified under the name "Sainville". It is in the Province of Eure et Loire (formerly part of Normandy) and about 40 miles south-west of Paris and 18 miles east of Chartres. The prefix "Sa-" in these place names points somewhat tentatively to the word "saisne" which is of Germanic origin and is related to another word presumed to be "sachsen" - also Germanic and understood to mean "Dagger". Germanic terms were not alien to the Normans who originated amongst Germanic people - ("Normandy" signifies "the land occupied by the north men"). The other unit, "Ville" means "a settlement". It appears in countless place names and requires no comment.

Contrary to a popular notion not all the followers of William I were puissant Lords hoping the Conqueror would bestow upon them extensive estates. Many of their warriors came from more humble walks of life and were hoping for a small property from which they might make a living. The earliest mention of the name of such a settler occurs in 1246 and refers to a John de Sayvill. It is a Land Transfer document for property in the County of York (West Riding?). A similar transaction dated 1277 mentions a Stephen de Savile. Whether they were related (as seems possible is a matter for genealogists to investigate.

The Savilles certainly prospered and became considerably wealthy and owned large estates. Titles proliferated: Lordships of Halifax, Pontefract, Mexborough and Scarborough fell to them as well as Rufford in Nottingham.

Being such extensive landowners they would have employed countless servants in their households as well as numerous officials and workers to manage their estates. Many such servants and workers adopted their employers' names as a form of identity.

In the National Biographies the name "Savile" stands high and there are about a dozen personalities listed. Mention may be made of Sir Henry Savile (1549-1622) who was a distinguished scholar and one of the Commissioners appointed in the translation of the Bible by James I. He worked on "Acts" and "Revelation". Curiously enough, that great focus of men's tailoring, "Savile Row" takes its name from a lady - Dorothy Savile.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 26th July 2004.

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