Peel


Select Peel Surname Genealogy

The Peel surname may have had Norman origins, deriving from the French word pel meaning a “boundary marker.”  The name Radulphus Pele occurred in Normandy in 1180 and Robert, son of Robert le Pele, gave lands in Monk Bretton, York, to the abbey there around that time.

However the name can also be topographical and describe somebody who lived inside a palisade or piel.  From this origin developed the concept of the Peel tower, a tall defensive structure which was a relatively common feature of the countryside in the Border country between England and Scotland
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Mention should also be made of the term "peel" being used for the long-handled paddle that was used to remove loaves from deep-bread ovens.   The Baker's Peel in London was the site of early Quaker meetings there in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Select Peel Ancestry

EnglandPeel is very much a name of northern England. 

Although Peel towers are associated with the border with Scotland, not that many Peels came from the counties there.  One family that did was the Peel yeoman family of Caldbeck in Cumberland, including John Peel, the huntsman of D’ye ken John Peel fame.  
The Peel name also existed in the Newcastle area, the most famous holder being Dolly Peel, the fishwife and smuggler of the early 1800’s. 

Instead, the main Peel numbers have been in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

George Peele, the Elizabethan dramatist and contemporary of Shakespeare, was born in London, although some think that his family originated in Devon. 

The family of Sir Robert Peel, the great Victorian statesman, was also originally Peele.

“William del Peele was the first to take the name of Peele in the late 1300’s; and Thomas Peele was said to have fought at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.  Peeles settled in west Yorkshire near Skipton.”

These Peeles were subsequently to be found at Hole House and Peele Fold near Blackburn in Lancashire.  They became Peels by the late 1600’s. They were a family of yeomen farmers of middling status who, like others in the Lancashire hills, combined farming and domestic textile production, at any rate from the mid-1600’s onwards.  Sir Robert's grandfather, known as Parsley Peel, still hawked his goods about the countryside and only moved into the town of Blackburn in 1750.


This Robert Peel established a calico printing firm in Blackburn in 1764.  His eldest son Robert became a wealthy cotton merchant.  And his son Sir Robert Peel was the famous statesman.


Subsequent Peel lines were active in many directions: 
  • many became politicians, like Sir Robert.  His eldest son Robert served as Lord of the Admiralty, his second son Frederick as railway commissioner, and his youngest son Arthur as Speaker of the House of Commons.  His third son William meanwhile had been a Royal naval officer who was awarded the Victoria Cross during the Crimean War. 
  • from Sir Robert’s brother Edmund came the wealthy Peel cotton merchants of Egypt, based in Alexandria.  Sir Teddie Peel of this family was well-known for his sporting activities.   
  • while Sir Robert’s cousin Thomas, as a promoter of the Swan River Colony, was an early settler in 1829 in Western Australia.
Ireland.  There were Peels in Ulster, presumably of English origin, from the 1700’s onwards.  The main line appears to have been along the Antrim/Down border.  Many Down Peels were to be found in Lisburn and the nearby townland of Ravernet.  Some early Peels in Armagh were Quakers.  Hannah Peel, a young Irish singer/songwriter, originates from Armagh.

AmericaThere are roughly equal numbers of Peeles and Peels in America today.  

Peeles.  The forebear of most American Peeles seems to have been Lawrence Peelle, origin in England unknown, who came to Jamestown, Virginia on the Margaret and John in 1621 and survived the Indian massacre a year later. There followed four generations of Robert Peelles in Virginia who farmed at the Sleepy Hole plantation in Nansemond county.  Sometime in the 1670’s these Peelles became Quakers.  

The fourth of the Robert Peelles came to North Carolina in the 1740’s.  The spelling here soon became Peele. Robert and Mary Peele started the family cemetery at Laurinburg, North Carolina in 1856.  A later descendant, William Walter Peele, was made head of the Methodist church in 1938.  

North Carolina today has the largest concentration of Peeles in America.  A Peele Quaker branch has continued in Ohio
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Peels.  Many of the Peels in America seem to have had Irish origins.

Thomas Peel from county Down came to Pennsylvania and fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War.  Afterwards he and his family migrated to Virginia and Tennessee before settling in Independence county, Arkansas in 1815. 

Samuel Peel, a descendant, was a Civil War veteran who, at the end of the war,
had risen to the rank of colonel but was rendered penniless.  He later prospered as a lawyer and politician in Arkansas and was able in 1875 to build himself a fine mansion in Bentonville, now known as the Peel Mansion Museum. 

Other Peels who came to America from Ireland included: 
  • Richard Peel, his wife Mary and son William, also from county Down, who arrived with other settlers on the Brittania in Rev. George Galphin’s party to Savannah in 1772.  On arrival they all trekked around a hundred miles to virgin land on the banks of the upper Ogeechee.  William later moved to Georgia. 
  • and Allen Peel from Belfast came to Pennsylvania in 1831 and settled with his wife Margret much later, in 1856, in Iowa. 
Hunter Peel’s origins are uncertain.  But he was to be found in Bedford county before the Revolutionary War.  His son Volney migrated south to Mississippi where, around 1840, he started a cotton plantation at Hickory Park near Galena.  Volney’s daughter Mary married in 1846 at the young age of sixteen.  Her husband died in a hunting accident before the year was out and she was recorded as insane in 1850 and died a year later.  His son Albert was killed during the Civil War.  Another son Robert became a doctor. 

Some Pihls of Swedish ancestry may have become Peels. 

Australia
.  Jonathan Peel from county Armagh came out to Australia in the 1850’s at the time of the Victoria gold rush.  He ran a store there which made enough money for him to return to Ireland and build himself a home where Belfast airport now stands
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Select Peel Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


Select Peel Names

John Peel was the legendary huntsman in Cumberland in the early 19th century who maintained his own pack for over fifty years.
Sir Robert Peel
was the British 19th century Prime Minister and statesman who earlier founded the Metropolitan Police.

Bobby Peel
 was an English cricketer, primarily a left-arm spin bowler, who played for Yorkshire and England in the 1880’s and 1890’s.
John Peel
, born Robert Ravenscroft, has been the longest-serving BBC Radio One disc jockey, broadcasting regularly from 1967 until his death in 2004
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Select Peels Today
  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in North Carolina) 
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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