This is a medieval English locational surname. It originates from the villages known as High and Low Bentham in the West Riding of Yorkshire. First recorded as Benetain in the famous Domesday Book of 1086 and as "duae Bentham" (The two Benthams) in the Coucher Book of Furness Abbey in 1204, the name derives from the pre 7th Century word "beonet" meaning bent grass or reeds, plus -ham, a house, and hence the house by the bent grass. The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 14th Century, (see below), and other examples taken from surviving church registers of West Yorkshire include Gracia Bentham. She christened at Halifax Parish Church on October 18th 1539, whilst on July 3rd 1557, Elizabeth the daughter of Thomas Bentham, was christened at Horton in Ribblesdale. An interesting namebearer was Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1832), M. A. Oxford 1766, whose advanced work "An Introduction to the principles of Morals and Legislation", has since been applied to amendments of the adminstration of Justice Acts. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Johannes de Bentham. This was dated 1379, in the Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Richard IInd, 1307 - 1327. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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