Recorded in several spellings including Birdwhistle, Birdwistle, Birdwhistell, Birtwhistle, Burtwhistle, and others, this is an English surname. It is locational from any or perhaps all, the now "lost" medieval villages called Birtwisle, near the town of Padiham in Lancashire, or Briestwistle near Dewsbury in Yorkshire, or Breretwisel near Wath-upon-Dearne, also in Yorkshire. The meaning of the name has been given as a fork or junction on a river where birds nest, from the pre 7th century "bridd - twissel".However we would suggest that in this context "bridd" does not mean bird, but bridge, or more likely causeway, as in those days birds nested almost anywhere, whilst bridges were very rare and hence recorded. The surname development over the centuries has included examples such as John Brittwissill of Lancashire in the year 1397, and Thomas Birtwisill, given as being a freeman of the city of York in 1460. The first recorded spelling of the family name may be that of John de Briddestwysill. This was dated 1285, in the Assize Court rolls of Lancashire, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England and known to history as The Hammer of the Scots, 1272 - 1307. 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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