This interesting surname of Anglo-Saxon origin is of English locational origin from one of the estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets that have now disappeared from the maps in Britain. 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 14th Century. Natural causes such as the Black Death of 1348 also contributed to the lost village phenomenon. The original place is believed to have been in Yorkshire, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th Century "brun" meaning "brown" plus "hrycg", "ridge". It may also be a dialectal variant of Brownrigg in Cumberland. The surname dates back to the late 16th Century, (see below). Church Records include Margaret Brownerigg who was buried at St. Jame's Church, Clerkenwell, London, in 1639, George Brownbridge who was christened in St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, on March 5th 1782, and William Brownbridge who married Christian Wilkinsor in St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, London, on October 2nd 1796. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Helen, daughter of Peter Brownrigge (death), which was dated 1589 - St. James, Clerkenwell, London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, 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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