This uncommon and interesting name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is either a locational surname deriving from the place called Dungate near Sittingbourne in Kent, or a topographical surname peculiar to the south-eastern counties of England, chiefly Kent and Sussex. The placename, which refers to a locality rather than to a settlement, is derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century "dun", hill, down, with "geat, gaet", ate, gap, here used to mean a natural gap in the North Downs of Kent. Locational surnames were used particularly as a means of identification by those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere. As a topographical surname, Dungate and its variant forms Downgate, Dengate and Dingate, were used to refer to someone who lived in or by such a gap in the downs. The surname development has included the following examples: William Downgate (1546, Sussex); Joane Dongate (1553, Kent); Agnes Dongett (1559, Sussex); Edward Dungat (1560, ibid.); and Daniel Dingett (1580, Devonshire). Among the recordings of the name in Sussex Church Registers are those of the marriage of Elizabeth Dungate and Alexander Wynter on December 10th 1587, in Mayfield, and the marriage of Stephen Dungate and Mercy Pepper at East Grinstead, on June 19th 1649. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Downgat, which was dated December 12th 1543, witness to the christening of his daughter, Margarett, in Horsham, Sussex, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Bluff King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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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