This unusual and interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is locational from some minor place in Devonshire, where the surname is most prevalent. The derivation is from the Old English pre 7th Century 'balca', beam, with 'wiell(a)', spring and stream, and probably refers to a primitive foot bridge made by a tree trunk across the stream. The name may also be topographical for a dweller by the footbridge. In the modern idiom the variant forms include, Balkwell, Balkwall and Balkwel. During the Middle Ages, when it became usual for people to move away from the birthplace, often to seek work, they would often adopt the placename as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. An infant, Marcus Balkwill, was christened on January 30th 1625 at Ashburton, Devonshire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Agnet Balkwill (marriage to Thomas Fabyn), which was dated April 1592, Wolborough and Newton Abbey, Devonshire, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, 'Good Queen Bess', 1558 - 1603. 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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