There are several English surnames which are well known world-wide and yet whose origins are shrouded in mystery. One is Shakespeare and another is Bunyan. What is known is that as early as the beginning of the 13th century the name was hereditary in the Bedford and Ampthill region of the county of Bedfordshire. Even at that date the spelling was uncertain with Buingon, Buinon, Buignon, and Bungnon being examples of the genre. The famous John Bunyan was christened in 1628, and is recorded as being the "sonne of Thomas Bonnioun" the cleric concerned apparently having failed to spot that he had registered the father and "sonne" in different spellings! These "errors"` continued through Bunyan's life in that he signed himself as both Bunyan and Bunyon, whilst his pardon from jail referred to him as "Bunnion." None of the spelling forms answer the question of origin, however the style certainly suggests a Norman French origin. Research over the past two centuries points to the name being occupational and deriving from the pre 12th century Olde French "bugnon" a nickname for a maker of small patties or round loaves. There is a possibility of a development from the Anglo Saxon "Bun(n)ing," a tribal name, but no proven evidence has been found. Examples of early recordings include Simon Bonyon of Bedford in the Subsidy Rolls of 1309, Richard Bunyng, christened at the church of St Margaret Pattens, London on April 14th 1577,Ann Bunyon who married John Olyver by civil licence in London on June 17th 1624, and Arthur Bunyan, a witness at St Gabriels, Fenchurch Street, London on June 24th 1692. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Henry Buniun, which was dated 1204, in the Curia Regis Rolls of Bedfordshire, during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland," 1199 - 1216. 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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