The spellings of this surname range from Belham, Bellam, Bilham, and Bollom, to Bolam and Belhomme. It is the latter form which gives the clue as to the origin. The name is pre medieval French, and was probably introduced by William The Conqueror, in 1066, or shortly thereafter. It derives from the expression 'Bel homme', meaning "The good man", and as such was a nickname, and hopefully one given to an honest person, or perhaps someone who performed good deeds. However it must also be pointed out that medieval humour was extremely robust, as will be appreciated by any reader of the famous 'Canterbury Tales', and therefore the opposite meaning could apply! The peope of the medieval time did not seem to take the meaning of their surname seriously, and it was only later with the coming of the Reformation and the growth of Puritanism, that such sensibilities came to the fore. The fact that this surname has survived indicates its popularity. Examples of the early recordings include William Belhom of Cambridge in the 1279 Hundred Rolls of that county, whilst Robert Bilham married Isabella Hooper at the famous church of St Mary le Bone, London, on July 13th 1680. Another Isabella, this time Isabella Bolam married John Newell at Christ Church, Spitalfields, London, on July 23rd 1789, whilst Maria Bollam married Edward Ludlam at St Matthews, Bethnal Green, on April 10th 1802. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Reginald Belhome, which was dated 1180, in the Pipe Rolls of the county of Sussex, in England, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as 'The church builder', 1154 - 1189.
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