This interesting name is of early medieval English origin, and is a topographical surname given in the first instance to someone living on land which had been cleared of forest, but not yet brought into cultivation. The name derives from the Middle English "att(e)", at, fused with "field", field, a development of the Old English pre 7th Century "feld", pasture, open country. This term was used of open land as opposed to "aecer", cultivated soil, enclosed land, or to "weald", wooded land, uncleared forest. 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. Other surnames with the fused preposition "atte" include Attwood, Attwell and Atthill. Recordings of the name At(t)field in London include that of the marriage of Mary Atfield and John Owen in 1599, and the christening of William Attfield in Southwark on June 1699. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Stephen Attefeld, which was dated 1262, The Essex Feet of Fines, during the reign of King Henry 111, "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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