This is a surname of English medieval origins, although one that has been recorded in other parts of the British Isles, including Ireland and Scotland. It is locational from a place called Bentham in the former West Riding of Yorkshire, about ten miles from the market town of Settle. Locational surnames were either those of the local lord of the manor and his descendants, but more often were "from" names. That is to say names given to people as easy identification, after they had left their former homes and moved somewhere else. Spelling over the centuries being at best erratic and local dialects very thick, often lead to the development of "sounds like" spellings, although this does not appear to be the case with this name. The place name probably means "the settlement amongst the reeds" from the Olde English pre 7th century "beonet" meaning bent grass or reed, and "ham", a settlement or perhaps a single farm. There is also a possibility that the name means a reed meadow, as "ham" can have the alternative meaning of a meadow or area cleared for agriculture. Reeds played a major role in the life style of the medieval period being used both as a roof material and a floor covering. Early examples of the surname recording are to be found in the Poll Tax rolls of Yorkshire in 1379, with Johannes de Bentham, Ricardus de Bentham, and Thomas de Bentham, all appearing as tax payers in the county.
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