Recorded in several forms including Down, Downs, Downes, Downse, Downing, and possibly others, this is an English surname. It is topgraphical and describes 'one who lives on (or by) the downs', the rolls hills which cover much of southern England. The derivation is from the pre 7th century word 'dun' which meant down or hill, and in place names usually signified anything from a hill to a slight rise in the ground. The surname is ancient and the development has included John atte Doune of Sussex in 1296, William Bythedoune of Somerset in 1327, and Reginald del Downes of Cheshire in 1407. There is some possibility that a proportion of name bearers descend from holders of the Old English personal name 'Dun'. Amongst the important name holders was the regicide John Downes who was the M P for Arundel in the Long Parliament of 1642 to 1650, and was one of the fifty three members who signed the death-warrant of Charles 1st in 1648. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas de la Duna. This was dated 1170, in the registers known as the 'Middle English Local Names', for the county of Sussex during the reign of King Henry IInd, 1154 -1189. 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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