This unusual surname is of Olde English pre 7th century origins. It derives from the words 'bell hus', and describes either somebody who lived by a watchtower fitted with a bell, or more likely one who was responsible for manning the tower and operating the bell. The name is first recorded in Norfolk, see below, suggesting that at least in that very flat region, which in medieval times and earlier, was mainly low lying islands between the fens, the tower may have been a form of early light house as well as a watch tower.What is certain is that all the early recordings come from counties with both strong seafaring traditions, and long memories. It was those areas of the East Coast which were usually the first to be attacked by the Vikings and other pirates of a rapacious nature, who roamed the seas in the 'dark ages'. The early recordings include such examples as Richard de Bellus, in the 1206 Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire, and Richard de Bellehus of Essex, in the Pipe Rolls of that county for the year 1230. Walter atte Belhous was recorded in Cambridge in 1266, and Richard de Belhouse, in Norfolk in 1368, in the reign of Edward 111 (1327 - 1377). Richard Belhowse was recorded at St James church, Clerkenwell, London, in 1590, whilst in 1771 John Bellhouse married Jane Butson at St Georges church, Hanover Square, London. It is believed that the spelling as 'Bellowes' is also a variant of Bellus, John Bellowes aged 12, being a passenger on the ship 'Hopewell of London' on June 15th 1635, bound for New England. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ernald Belhus, which was dated 1167, the pipe rolls of the county of Norfolk, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as 'The church builder', 1154 - 1189. 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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