THE MUDDLE FAMILIES
THE LINEAGE & HISTORY OF THE MUDDLE FAMILIES OF THE WORLD
INCLUDING VARIANTS MUDDEL, MUDDELL, MUDLE & MODDLE
ORIGIN OF THE MUDDLE NAME
It was only in the 13th century that ordinary people started to use hereditary surnames, and the first records that we have of people with the Muddle name are from the late 13th century. These records are fairly sparse, and from the late 14th century to the early 16th century not a single record of the name has so far been found. Then from about 1525 a rapidly increasing number of records are to be found with an increasing rate of survival of probate copies of wills, manorial court rolls, and criminal and civil court records. The introduction of parish registers in 1538 signals the start of the period when it becomes possible to construct meaningful family trees, though for many parishes their registers don’t survive from much before the early 17th century, and it can be the luck of the draw whether a family was living in a parish where the early registers survive.
I have used the very early records, that is those from before 1500, to try and define the name’s origins; they fall into two distinct groups, those from the West Midlands of England, and those from the South-East of England.
The West Midlands Group
1249-65 or 1291-1323 William de MUDLE, carpenter, land at Parson's Lane, Chester.
1252 William de MUDLE, Roll of foreigners of the Gild Merchant of Shrewsbury.
1268 William de MUDLE, cobbler, Roll of foreigners of the Gild Merchant of Shrewsbury.
1278 Robert de MUDLE, chaplain, made Rector – Ledbury, Herefordshire.
1278 John de MUDLE, son of Robert de MUDLE owned property at Shrewsbury.
1295 Roger de MUDLE, in Shrewsbury gaol, Shropshire, pardoned, killed in self-defence.
1297 Margery daughter of Robert de MUDLE charged with theft, died in gaol at Salop.
1303 Walter de MUDDEL, ordained deacon at Lichfield, Staffordshire.
1304 Walter de MUDLE, ordained priest at Lilleshall, Shropshire.
1309 Thomas de MUDLE, ordained subdeacon at Colwich, Staffordshire.
1322 Reginald de MUDLE, imprisoned in Shrewsbury gaol for death of Hugh le Carter.
1327 John de MUDLE, of Munslow paid 2s tax, also witnessed deeds.
1327 Ph'o de MUDLE, of Fennymere paid 2s tax.
1330 John de MUDDLE, ordained subdeacon at Munslow, Shropshire.
1346 Thomas de MUDLE, ordained deacon at Bromyard, Herefordshire.
1346 Stephen MUDLE, made acolyte at Ledbury, Herefordshire.
1349 Thomas de MUDLE, Rector of Moreton Corbet in 1349.
1364 Richard de MUDLE, monk of Shrewsbury made priest.
1372 John de MUDLE, Roll of foreigners of the Gild Merchant of Shrewsbury.
1378 William de MOUDLE, made deacon at Colwich, Staffordshire.
The following record is from London but seems to belong to the West Midlands Group, having the same preposition ‘de’, and there was a Thomas recorded in Herefordshire the following year.
1345 Thomas de MODLE, in gaol London, rolls relating to pleas from Ipswich to London.
All these West Midlands records have the preposition ‘de’ meaning ‘of’ or ‘from’ so it seems that this group is a locative or topographical name, possibly first used by someone from the village of Middle in that area. Alternatively the name may have somehow been connected with the title ‘Lord of Mudle’ that existed in Shropshire in the 14th century. No later records of the name have been found in this area, so it seems to have died out in the late-14th century; was it simply a lack of male heirs or was the family possibly decimated by the Black Death in the mid-14th century.
So this group was not the origin of the later Muddle and variants families.
The South-East Group
The records found are more varied but still fairly limited in number, and are as follows:
1294 Visitation to Wingham, Kent, Archaeologia Cantiana xxxii p.166
A visitation to Wingham Church on 20 May 1294 by brother Richard de Clyve, commissary of Canterbury, recorded Henry de Mudel as one of the parishioner of Wingham.
1296 Subsidy, Sussex, SRS Vol 10.
On a membrane at the foot of the roll, with the note ‘They had writs of Supersedeas to stay the collection and levy of the assessed amounts till further notice’.
1321 Custumals of the Manors of Laughton, Willingdon & Goring, SRS Vol 60.
p45 Goring 10 January 1321, William le MODEL holds of the lord 5a 1r by scutage and by service of 14¼d, namely on St Thomas’ Day 7d, and at Midsummer 7¼d
[Scutage was the annual payment of money to a feudal lord to provide a military force in support of the crown, which had replaced the obligation of actual military service. This was 3¾ per acre at Goring when it was 40s for a whole knight’s fee.]
1327 Subsidy, Sussex, SRS Vol 10.
1332 Subsidy, Sussex, SRS Vol 10.
1349 Thomas MODEL, carried away goods at Greenwich, Kent with others, many of Rye.
1350 John MODEL of East Grinstead, with two others, owes queen Phillippa £100.
1353 Feet of Fines for County of Sussex 1307-1509, SRS Vol 23.
p133 26 Edward III [Edward III 1327-1377 so year 1353]
2123 John MODEL v John Cote of Maidestan [Maidstone, Kent] and Maud his wife: a messuage and 30 acres in Estgrenstede [East Grinstead, Sussex]: the messuage and 9 acres and reversion of 21 acres, held for life by John Fray of Estgrenstede, to John MODEL for 20 marks (File 63 No 35)
1363 Matilda widow of Henry MODEL recovered property at Wingham, Kent.
1373 John MODYL, witness to deed for property at Stone on the denne of Knock, Kent.
1379 Poll Tax, TNA E179/189/41/15.
Hurstpierpoint, Buttinghill Hundred, Lewes Rape, Sussex.
Willelmus Modil, carpenter, 12d.
1386 John MODELLE/MODEL, witness to documents for property at Wingham, Kent.
1392 John MODALE, and three others made king’s serjeant-at-arms to arrest Thomas Holme parson of Ryse [Rise, Yorkshire].
1392 Lathe Court Rolls and Views of Frankpledge in the Rape of Hastings 1387-1474, SRS Vol 37.
p119 Views of Frankpledge or Hundreds
Colspore [Golspurre Hundred]. View of Frankpledge held there on Thursday the morrow [blank] in the aforesaid year (Thursday after Michaelmas 1392)
John Eps, tithingman, with his tithing, presents the default of Roger MODYL, 3d, and his son, 3d. [with others]
1394 Thomas MODEL & wife Margery in case about property at Draycot Foliat, Wiltshire.
1396 John MODUL of East Grinstead charged with owing Thomas Mallyng £20.
For the South-East Group the preposition, where it occurs, is ‘le’ meaning ‘the’, which rules out this being a locative or topographical name, instead indicating that it was probably one describing the characteristics or occupation of the originator, and to have had a separate origin to the West Midlands Group. Also this group seems to have had a fairly consistent early spelling of MODEL.
The earliest record we have is from 1296 when a William MUDEL was a villani of Eustace atte Heche. (Villani or villeins were unfree tenants of manorial land under the feudal system, who held their land by providing agricultural service to their lord to work his demesne land. In the mid-12th century this service was generally commuted to a payment of money.) No location was given for the villani of Eustace atte Heche, but four of the others listed with William were also listed under the village of Brambletye (modern Forest Row) and then crossed out, and the final two names on the list with William are only to be found in the next two subsidies, of 1321 and 1327, at the nearby village of Sheffield (modern Fletching) in North-East Sussex. From this it seems that William was almost certainly resident in the area around Fletching and Forest Row.
The next record we have is from 1321 of William le MODEL holding land at Goring, which is about 20 miles south-west of Fletching on the south coast of Sussex, and is now part of the town of Worthing. This record seems to be a bit of an oddity as no other records of the name have been found for the area around Goring. The next records we have are back at Sheffield (Fletching), of William le MODEL in 1327 and William & Roger le MODEL in 1332, and then in 1350 and 1353 of John MODEL at nearby East Grinstead. These records, though few, seem to strongly indicate that the origin of the MUDDLE name is from the Ashdown Forest area of Sussex. From the middle of the century the name seems to start spreading out with records from Rye on the south coast in the far east of Sussex and farther east and north in several parts of Kent.
One of the last of the 14th-century records that we have of this group is of a Thomas MODEL & wife Margery in north Wiltshire in 1394, which could be an indication that the name moved west from Sussex as well as moving east, and could be the origin of the Muddle families found later in Dorset.
By the end of the century the name was retaining a strong presence in its origin area with records from the Court of Common Pleas for 1399 recording a case against both John MODULL senior and junior of East Grinstead for stealing goods from John Scarlet and John Staunton, and in another case that year John MODULL senior pouching a servant from John Staunton.
This group seems to almost certainly be the origin of all later Muddle and variants families, and ties in well with the later distribution of the name.
A website that gives much general backgound information on the origin area of the Muddles is The Weald. Here you will find information on Ashdown Forest, the villages in the area and the people who lived in them.
 The Chartulary or Register of the Abbey of St Werburgh Chester, Chetham Society, lxxxii p.345.
 The Merchant Gild of Shrewsbury, Shropshire Archaeological Society, 2nd ser. xii page 254.
 The Merchant Gild of Shrewsbury, Shropshire Archaeological Society, 2nd ser. xii page 261.
 HRO Register of Bishop Thomas Cantilupe of Hereford f55.
 The Provosts and Bailiffs of Shrewsbury, Shropshire Archaeological Society, 3rd ser. i page 309.
 TNA Patent Roll 23 Edward I m.16.
 Proceedings before the Coroners of Salop, Shropshire Archaeological Society, 3rd ser. v page 153.
 LRO B/A/1/1 f97v, Register of Bishop Walter Langton of Coventry & Lichfield.
 LRO B/A/1/1 f98v, Register of Bishop Walter Langton of Coventry & Lichfield.
 LRO B/A/1/1 f106v, Register of Bishop Walter Langton of Coventry & Lichfield.
 Calendar of the Close Rolls in the Public Record Office, 15 Edward II, m20, Hereford 31 Jan 1322.
 Shropshire Lay Subsidy Roll of 1327, Shropshire Archaeological Society, 2nd ser. iv page 338.
 Shropshire Lay Subsidy Roll of 1327, Shropshire Archaeological Society, 3rd ser. v page 66.
 HRO Register of Bishop Thomas de Charlton of Hereford.
 HRO Register of Bishop John de Trillek of Hereford.
 HRO Register of Bishop John de Trillek of Hereford.
 Notes on Shropshire Churches, Shropshire Archaeological Society, xvii page 315.
 LRO B/A/1/5 f89r, Register of Bishop Robert Stretton of Coventry & Lichfield.
 Gild Merchant Roll of 1372, Shropshire Archaeological Society, 3rd ser. iv page 233.
 LRO B/A/1/5 f119r, Register of Bishop Robert Stretton of Coventry & Lichfield.
 TNA Patent Roll 19 Edward III i m.26.
 TNA Patent Roll 23 Edward III i m.31d.
 TNA Close Roll 24 Edward III i m.10d.
 TNA Rotulorum Originalium in Curia Scaccarii Abbreviatio ii 15: Edward III r.36 Reddisseisine.
 Harvard Law School, English Deeds 328.
 Carolyn C Fenwick, The Poll Taxes of 1377, 1379 and 1381, Part 2, 2001, Oxford, p609.
 TNA Close Roll 10 Richard II m.40d.
 TNA Patent Roll 15 Richard II ii m.16d.
 TNA CP 25(1) 256/57/11 Pedes Finium 17 Richard II.
 TNA CP 40/541a Court of Common Pleas Easter 19 Richard II.
 TNA CP 40/555 Court of Common Pleas Michaelmas 1 Henry IV.