This very interesting surname has been recorded in Yorkshire from at least Elizabethan times (see below). It was also recorded in London in 1592, when on July 8th of that year John Brownbill was a witness at the christening of his daughter, Magdalen, at St. Margaret's, Westminster. The eminent Victorian etymologist Canon C. W. Bardsley considered that the name was a development of the term "brown bill", which described a medieval halberd, and hence, a soldier who used such a weapon. We believe this synopsis is correct, as the name is recorded widely, although never in great numbers, in many parts of England; an "occupational" rather than a locational origin seems logical. Early recordings include: Elizabeth Brombill, of Cheshire, in 1561; Nicholas Brownbill, of Roby, Cheshire, in 1608; whilst John Brownbill and his wife, Mary, were witnesses at the christening of their son, John, at Felkirk, Yorkshire, on November 22nd 1795. On December 21st 1826, Blagden Brownbill was christened at St. Peter's Church, Leeds, he was the son of Edward and Mary Brownbill, of Leeds. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Jana Brownsbyll, which was dated November 9th 1567, marriage to Hugo Cawpstake, at Sheffield, Yorkshire, 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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