Long before William the Conqueror fought his way across England, the personal name of "Bill" or "Billa" was popular with the Olde English. The name would seem to be a form of "bel", meaning "fire", and it may originally have been given as a descriptive nickname to one who cleared his land by burning. In the 1086 Domesday Book the hamlet of "Bilnei" which translates as, "the place of Bill", was recorded in the county of Warwick. In the Curia Regis Rolls of 1189, in the first year of Richard 1, the Lionheart, a transposition took place, the spelling being recorded as "Binlea", a form which has been effectively maintained ever since. The surname is much later and probably resulted from the clearance of the village in the 16th Century, when the inhabitants were dispossessed of their common land, under the Elizabethan Enclosure Acts, and forced to take to the road. Having no other surname, they "adopted" that of their former village, perhaps in memory of better times. The first recordings are in London as Benley and Bennleigh, however, in 1612, there are the recordings of Robert Binley of Mancetter, Warwickshire, who married Lettis Remington on October 14th of that year, and later, in 1768, Zephaniah Binley, who married Sarah Stretton at Monks Kirby, Warwickshire, on September 20th. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Margaret Benley, which was dated October 4th 1548, christened at St. Benet Fink, London, during the reign of King Edward V11, known as "The Boy King", 1547 - 1554. 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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