This surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is either a locational name from a place named with the Olde English pre 7th Century "clif", slope, bank, cliff, or a topographical name from the same word used independently. These places include Bishops Cleeve, Gloucestershire, recorded as "aet Clife" in the "Saxon Chartulary", dated 769; Cleeve in Somerset, appearing as "Clive" in the Domesday Book, and Cleeve Prior, Worcestershire. Locational surnames were developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, usually to seek work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace.Topographical features, whether natural or man-made, provided obvious and convenient means of identification, and consequently gave rise to many surnames. One, Gilbert de la Clive was recorded in the 1273 Hundred Rolls of Devonshire, and an Alecok del Clif in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield, Yorkshire, dated 1274. Bourchier Cleeve (1715-1760), a London pewterer and writer on finance, bought Foots Cray Place, Kent, circa 1755, and published a scheme for reducing the national debt in 1756. A Coat of Arms granted to the Cleeve family is silver, on a fesse between three black foxes heads erased as many gold mullets. A black fox's head erased is on the crest. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gislebertus de Cliua, which was dated 1086, in the Geld Roll of Wiltshire (part of the Domesday Book), during the reign of King William 1, known as "William the Conqueror", 1066 - 1087. 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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