This interesting and unusual surname is a metonymic occupational name applied to a coin maker or used as a byname for a wealthy man. The name derives from the Middle English word 'besant' which was used for a gold coin varying in value between a sovereign or half sovereign. It was so called on account of its first being minted at Byzantium. The surname had clearly emerged in England by the middle of the 12th Century (see below). One Robert Besant is recorded in the 'Cartulary of St. Mary's Records', Clerkenwell (1186).He is possibly the same person to be mentioned as sheriff of London in 1194. As the spelling of the surname developed it was to give rise to variant forms including Besant, Bessent, Beszant. An early registration in London church registers was for the marriage of Lucy Beasant to Thomas Ruddle on April 15th 1697 at St. James's, Dukes Place. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Lefwin Besant, 'moneyer', which was dated 1147, London, Bartholemew's Hospital Records, during the reign of King Stephen, 'Count of Blois', 1135-1154. 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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