This is a locational English surname, but ones whose roots may have been lost. It is well recorded in London from the mid 16th century, a period which saw great changes in the British countryside with the onset of the earliest industrial revolution. At this time following the Great Plagues there was a shortage of skilled farm workers, and the landowners seized the opportunity to convert lands to sheep farming. Some five thousand villages 'disappeared' between the year 1550 and 1750, and today only the surname remains to remind us of their existence. 'Barfield' may be one of them, although a hamlet so called does exist in the Lake District, near Ravensglass. Did the Barfields come from here? We are not sure, but it is sheep country, and the name is hardly recorded in Cumberland at all, and then not before the 19th century, long after surname formation. The meaning of the name is probably 'an area of land (feld) fenced for agriculture (bar), from the 8th century Anglo-Saxon. Examples of early recordings include Roger Baryfld, who married Anne Bennet at St Michael Bassishaw, London, on November 19th 1604, and Dorothie Barfield, who married Edmund Child at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on December 15th 1629. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Bowrefeild, which was dated November 17th 1566, married at St Pancras church, London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, known as '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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