This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is locational from any of the numerous places, thus called, for example, Bentley in Essex, Suffolk, Hampshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire. The name was recorded respectively as "Benedledge, Benetlea" and "Benedlage" in the Domesday Book of 1086 for Derbyshire, Essex and Yorkshire, and it derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "beonet" meaning bent-grass, reeds, rushes, plus "leah", a clearing; hence, "a clearing overgrown with bent-grass". Locational surname were usually acquired by a local landowner, or by the lord of the manor, and especially by those former inhabitants of a place who had moved to another area, usually in search of work, and were thereafter best identified by the name of their birthplace. The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 12th Century (see below), and other early recordings include: one John Benteley, who appears in the 1388 Fine Court Rolls of Surrey, and an Edward Bentley, of Warwickshire, recorded in the Oxford University Register, dated 1580. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Benetlega, which was dated 1176, in the "Pipe Rolls of Derbyshire", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 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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