This unusual name has two possible origins, the first of which is English and of Anglo-Saxon derivation a locational surname from either of the places called "Cowling" in North and West Yorkshire. The place in North Yorkshire has an interesting history, it is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Torneton" and in 1202 as "Thornton Colling", which by 1400 it has lost the "Thornton" and become simply "Collyng" which was a personal name, later "Cowling", denoting an early owner of the property. "Cowling" in West Yorkshire is "Collinghe" in the Domesday Book and means "the place by Coll hill", where the hill is named "Coll" from the Old English pre 7th Century modern surname is from the Olde Norse personal name "kollingr", anglicized to "Cowling". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Mathew de Couling, witness, which was dated 1260, in the "Assize Rolls of Cambridgeshire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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