This is an English surname with two distinct possible origins. Firstly, it may be an Anglo-Saxon habitational name from any one of the numerous places so called, for example Barnet in North London. The placename itself derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "baernet", which means an area of ground cleared by burning, from "baernam", meaning to burn. The second origin for the name is from the medieval personal names "Bernard" or "Beraud", the former a French personal name composed of the Germanic elements "ber(n)", bear, and "wald", to rule, while the latter is a Germanic personal name composed of "ber(n)", bear and "hard", strong, brave. These names were popular in medieval England. William atte Bernette appears in the Subsidy Rolls of Sussex in 1296. John Barnet (died 1373) was appointed Bishop of Worcester in 1362, and Treasurer of England from 1363 to 1370. A Coat of Arms was granted to Charles Barnett, Esq., of Stratton Park, Bedfordshire, which consists of a black saltire, with a black leopard's, head in chief, on a gold shield. John Barnett (1802 - 1890) was a musical composer who opened the St. James Theatre for English Opera. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Brictnod de la Bernet which was dated circa 1200, in the "Studies on Medieval English Local Surnames", Sussex, during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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