This interesting and unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from some minor or unrecorded place, perhaps a "lost" village. There are an estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets that have now disappeared from Britain since the 12th Century; the prime cause of these "disappearances" was the enforced "clearing" and dispersal of the former inhabitants to make way for sheep pastures at the height of the wool-trade in the 15th Century, and natural causes such as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished. The original place is believed to have been situated in Gloucestershire, because of the large number of early recordings in that region. The component elements of the placename may be the Olde English pre 7th Century personal name "Bida" or "Bidda", with "maed", meadow; hence, "Bidda's meadow". In the modern idiom the surname can be found as Bitmead, Bydmead, Bidmead and Bidmed. Recordings of the surname from English Church Registers include: the marriage of Joan Bydmead and Thomas Stevens on October 4th 1604, at Elkstone, Gloucestershire; the marriage of Olliffe Bidmead and William Higham on October 10th 1665, at Cirencester, Gloucestershire; and the marriage of Martha Bidmead and Edward Harris at St. James', Duke's Place, London, on July 3rd 1690. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Christopher Bidmead, which was dated January 4th 1578, witness at the christening of his daughter, Jone, at Elkstone, Gloucestershire, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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