Recorded in several forms including Birchfield, Birdfield, Burchfield, Burkesfield and Burtfield, this is an English surname. It is locational from one of the villages called Birchfield in the counties of Derbyshire or Warwickshire, or possibly from a now 'lost' medieval village believed to have been in the county of Sussex. 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, along with natural causes such as the Black Death of 1348, led to the lost village phenomenon, which in itself lead to the creation of about three thousand such names.The component elements of the place name are believed to be the Old English pre 7th century word "birrce" meaning birch and "-feld". Here the original meaning was not an enclosed field, but open country cleared for grazing, although in this case it was probably an open area surrounded by birch trees. It is unclear as to when the name was first recorded. It is found in the early surviving church registers of the city of London in 1630 when Mathew Burchfield was a witness at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, whilst in Sussex we have the earlier recording of Abraham Birdfield on February 10th 1610, and that of Jone Burtfield who married a William Batcheler at Wisborough, on June 1st 1692. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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