This is a medieval English surname. It is locational from the villages now known as High or Low Bentham in the former West Riding of Yorkshire. Recorded as 'Benetain' in the famous Domesday Book of 1086, and as 'Duae Bentham' in the Coucher Book of Furness Abbey in the year 1204, the derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th century word 'beonet' meaning bent grass or reeds. The suffix 'ham' generally describes a homestead or settlement, but it may have the alternative meaning of a meadow, to give the reed meadow or similar. Locational surnames were usually given either to the local lord of the manor and his descendants as may be the case here, or to former villagers who had left their homes to move somewhere else. The easiest way to identify such people was to call him, or sometimes her, by the name of the placefrom whence they came. In this case early examples of the surname recording in early surviving church registers of Yorkshire include Gracia Bentham, who was christened in Halifax on October 14th 1539, whilst on July 3rd 1557 Elizabeth, the daughter of Thomas Bentham, was christened at Horton in Ribblesdale. An interesting namebearer was Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1832), whose work called 'An Introduction to principles of morals and legislation', has since been widely used in the development of the modern justice systems. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Johannes de Bentham. This was dated 1379, in the Poll Tax returns of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Richard IInd of England, 1378 - 1399.
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