This most interesting and unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a topographical name for someone who lived on a bank above an expanse of water, from the Olde English pre 7th Century "bufan", Middle English "buven", meaning "above", and the second element the Olde English "waeter", Middle English "water", water. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, as both man-made and natural features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. The name is widespread in Staffordshire. Early recordings include the marriage of Thomas Bowater and Jane Ley at Tamworth, Staffordshire, on June 15th 1589; and the christening of Margaret, daughter of John Bowater, on November 18th 1604, at St. Lawrence Jewry, London. An interesting namebearer was Sir Edward Bowater (1787 - 1861), who served in the Peninsula and Waterloo campaigns, 1808 - 1815, and was groom-in-waiting to the Queen in 1846; he rose to the rank of lieutenant-general in the British Army. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Bowater, which was dated June 15th 1589, marriage to Jane Ley, at Tamworth, Staffordshire, 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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