This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a topographical name for a "dweller by a fort". The derivation of the name is from the Middle English "atten", at the, with the Olde English pre 7th Century "burg, burh", a fortified place, fort. In late Olde English and early Middle English, "burh" denoted a fortified manor house, and the surname was used for someone who lived near a manor house. The word also came to denote a fortified town, and from this sense developed the modern English word "borough". Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 13th Century (see below), and can also be found as Attenbarrow, Attenborow, Attenbrough, Attenbrow and Attenburrow. John Atte-bury is noted in the 1306 Writs of Parliament. Recordings of the surname from English Church Registers include: the marriage of James Attenborough and Sarah Hichcock, on October 19th 1718, at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, London; the christening of William, son of Johnathan and Margaret Attenborough, on May 2nd 1730, at Long Bennington, Lincolnshire; and the marriage of Peter Attenborough and Sarah Hodgson, on April 17th 1748, at Holy Trinity, Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter Attebure, which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Kent", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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