Origin of Surname
Durell is an old Norman (specifically Manche) surname derived from dur for hard or strong, probably signifying a man of strong character.
Vavasseur was a vassal or the vassal of a vassal, a man who held land, not directly from the King, but from a Seigneur or from one of his vassals. However Payne's Armorial (see below) suggests that the name was applied to someone altogether grander.
The name of Peter Vavasour, Chaplain of the King`s Castle, is found in the Assize Roll of 1309 and the Jersey Chantry Certificate of 1550 contains one Le Vavasseur.
The names of William Durell (of Guernsey), Richard (Provost of Sark) and Nicolas Durel, the latter being a priest, appear in the 1309 Assize Roll
There are at least two distinct families of the name Durell in Jersey. The first had become, in the 16th century Le Vavasseur dit Durell and the second family originated with a 16th century French immigrant named Durel, and subsequently changed the spelling to Durell. To further complicate research, there were three other Le Vavasseur families. These were Le Vavasseur, to which was added dit Noel, dit Dubois and dit Martinier.
Payne's Armorial of Jersey
Among others, the name of this family presents relics of a custom peculiar to the Channel Islands — that of having an additional surname affixed to the original patronymic. From notes appended to a pedigree of the family compiled in 1765, it appears that the ancient name was Le Vavasseur only, which is an old word of feudal jurisprudence, of which the derivation is far from certain. Camden states that in England it was a dignity ranking immediately after Barons ; and it is classed by Bracton, before Knights. Some derive the word 'a ralvis—quasi obligatus sit adstare ad ralvas domini, rel dignus sit eas intrare'. Menage, quoting Cujas, says that the word comes from the Latin vasstts—formed from 'gesse,' an ancient Gallic word signifying a companion-at-arms. Du Cange remarks that there are two kinds of Vavassours; the greater, called Valvassores, created by the King, as Earls and Barons; and the lesser, called Valvassini, created by these last."
"The family of Vavassour of England came into that country with the Conqueror and those settled in Jersey have been located there nearly as long a time, for the name appears in the Extente of 1331. It appears that about the commencement of the sixteenth century, the name of Durell was added to that of Le Vavasseur, possibly for distinction, as the family had at that time several branches, and undoubtedly on account of some alliance with that of Durell, and which is of French origin."
The family of Le Vavasseur-dit-Durell, as from that time it was called, and which in some branches still bears both names, ordinarily used but the last, until Thomas Durell, of the eldest branch of the family, having omitted by error to style himself Le Vavasseur in his first patent of Vicomte (High-Sheriff) of Jersey in 1742, his family has since entirely discontinued the use of the former.
Among the many eminent members of this family, Dr John Durell, or Durel, as he spelt his name, stands very prominent.
Of this family, also, was Dr David Durell, who was born in 1728.
Several of the family distinguished themselves in the profession of arms. Among them may be noticed Captain Thomas Durell, RN, who died in 1741; Captain John Durell, RN, who died in 1748; Captain George Durell; and Rear-Admiral Philip Durell, who assisted in Wolfe's glorious capture of Quebec in the Princess Amelia, 80, and who died at Halifax in 1766.
Solomon Durell was Gentleman of the Horse and Equerry to the Princess of Wales in 1743. He appears also as one of the esquires, and has his arms recorded as such, of the Earl of Leicester, created KB in 1725.
Prominent among the talented Jerseymen of the present century, stands the Rev Edward Durell, MA, sometime Rector of St Saviour.
From G R Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey
- "The Durells are not, as the Armorial states, part of the old Jersey family of Le Vavasseur dit Durell. In 1531 a French slater, named Juin Durel, was working on repairs to Mont Orgueil. He settled in St Saviour. His eldest son Juin carried on his father's trade as a slater, but his second son Nicolas rapidly came to the front. Difficulties were raised when he was elected Centenier of St Helier, because he was son of an alien: but testimony was produced to his character and loyalty, and he was allowed to take the oath. In 1597 he became Constable of St Helier and in 1602 Treasurer of the States
- His son Jean bought the Fief Collette des Augres (the land around the present Upper Halkett Place) in 1617, and the Fief es Payn (which included the present Halkett Place, King Street and Hilgrove Street) in 1622. He became an Advocate in 1616, Greffier in 1625 and a Jurat in 1631.
- Jean's son Thomas was Greffier under Lydcot and was imprisoned by Sir George Carteret, and only regained freedom by paying a fine of 8,000 livres tournois. He had three sons, Thomas, who became Constable of St Helier (1667-69), Jean, who became Jurat in 1682, and Lieut-Bailiff (1694-1708), and Nicolas, who was Secretary to Lord Lansdowne, British Ambassador in Spain, and became Solicitor-General in 1684. This latter office remained in the family for four generations."
Payne's assertion that Captain Thomas Durell, Captain George Charles Durell and Vice-Admiral Philip Durell were members of the Le Vavasseur dit Durell family is incorrect. They were descendants of Juin Durel, as identified by George Balleine. Captain John Durell, the fourth naval officer mentioned by Payne as being related to these three, was probably the Captain Durell who was commander of HMS Centurion in 1736, but there is no further information to connect him to either of Jersey's Durell families.
There are suggestions from some family research that Juin Durel was not the first member of the family to arrive in Jersey. Art historian Charles Harrison-Wallace, who has written extensively about the Durell family, suggests that references in the early Extentes to Durels in the 13th century are of the same family.
He refers to Raoul Durel, unjustly imprisoned; Mathieu Durel, killed in a raid; and Nicholas (probably Nicolas) Durel, a priest, all in 1272, and to Richard Durel, made Provost of Sark; and William (probably Guillaume) Durel, acquitted of theft, both in 1298.
It should be remembered, however, that Jersey was for centuries an integral, though off-shore, part of Normandy. Its people, its language, its law, customs and surnames were Norman. Many of its surnames that appear in Island records of the 12th and 13th centuries later became extinct, only to be re-introduced in later centuries. Unless proof can be provided to the contrary, it is hard to credit claims of continuous settlement, in the face of 250 years` absence from records.
- Le Vavasseur, 1331
- Le Vavasseur dit Durell, 1577
- dit du Boys
- dit Noel, 1668
- dit Martinier 1668
- Vavassor 1349
- Le Vavasour
- Vassal 1309
- Descendants of Jean Le Vavasseur dit Durell (1497)
- Descendants of Nicholas Le Vavasseur dit Durell
- Descendants of Moyse Le Vavasseur dit Durell
- Descendants of Edward Le Vavasseur dit Durell NEW
- Descendants of Juin Durel
- Durell baptisms in Jersey
- Durell marriages in Jersey (groom)
- Durell marriages in Jersey (bride)
- Durell burials in Jersey
- Dr John Durel
- David Durell
- Edouard Durell
- The Rev Edward Durell
- Henry Edward Le Vavasseur dit Durell, Advocate, politician and Attorney-General
- Jean Le Vavasseur dit Durell, Dean of Windsor and translator of Prayer Book into French
- Vice-Admiral Philip Durell
- Thomas Durell, Captain RN
- George Charles Durell, Captain RN
- Thomas Philip Durell, Captain RN
- Philippe Le Vavasseur dit Durell:Winner of controversial election for Jurat in 1821
Great War service
Notes on our list, abbreviations used etc
- Ernest John Le Vavasseur dit Durell (1872-1918) son of Edward Francis and Susan Julia, Private, South African Infantry, died in South Africa
- Laurence Edward Horsnell Le Vavasseur dit Durell (1896-1918) (London) son of Edward Charles and Julia Maud, nee Horsnell, Shipwright RN, HMS Cator, died
- Arthur Durell (1896- ) son of Charles and Mary, of Gorey, Rifleman, Royal Irish Rifles, wounded twice
- Archibald Durell (1884- ) (St H) son of Francis Edward and Alice Anne Filleul, Private, Australian Infantry, wounded
- Bertram Le Vavasseur dit Durell (St H), Private, RASC
- Clarence William Dupre Le Vavasseur dit Durell (St H) Driver, RFA
- William Edward Le Vavasseur dit Durell (1888- ) (St H) son of William Dupre and Adele Renouf, OV, Captain RMIJ
- 16 New Street
- Beau Desert, St Saviour
Henry Edward Le Vavasseur dit Durell, born in Jersey in 1845
Click on any image to see a larger version. See the Jerripedia gravestone image collection page for more information about our gravestone photographs
A memorial stone in Bath Abbey. This was Jean Durell, Solicitor-General from 1726 until his death. His father, also Jean, was Solicitor-General from 1701-1726
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