Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. VI, (January 1910 to October 1911), p. 112.
J. Y. A. Morshead
Prepared by Michael Steer
Ball, originally Balle, is a surname with multiple origins, depending on location. Ball most likely developed as a nickname, either for a bald person or for a short fat person. The name could have been topographical, for someone who lived near a knoll or rounded hill. The old Norse name Balle might have given rise to the surname; while some have even suggested that Ball was a diminutive of Baldwin. A Ball family in Devon was first recorded with Nicholas Ball at Chudleigh in the mid-15th century. His great grandson Thomas was said to have been 100 on his death in 1620. The line at Mamhead Park included Sir Peter Ball, Attorney General to Queen Henrietta Maria, and his two astronomer sons. Later Balls of this family were merchants to Ireland, Italy and the Levant, the last of their line being Thomas Ball who died in 1749. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.
Note 115. BALL (VI., par. 80, p. 92). - In this parish (Salcombe Regis) one-half of the Chelston district was defined in 1541 "as between Ball East" (Ordnance Map, 127) "and Ball West" (154), two rounded hills. Another field is called "Football," because so played on, they say, but it is too steep and remote for that to be likely.
Bulverton, in Sidmouth and Harpford, was in 1300 spelled Bol-vor-ton, which I suggest is the ' ton in front of the Ball, the steep copse forming the south side of Sidmouth Gap. The Blue-ball public house in Sidford was, circa 1650, owned by the Balle family, but their arms are a bomb sable, and I should fancy the Inn's sign was a mere allusion to skittles, a game much played there. J. Y. A. Morshead.