This most interesting surname, of Old Scandinavian origin, appears widespread in the Lake District of England, and is a topographical name, for "a dweller by the bank or ridge of a ravine", from the Old Norse word "gil", a ravine, narrow valley, common in the north-west in names of valleys, with the second element, the Old Danish "banke", Old Norse "bakke", bank, ridge. Topographical surnames were among the earliest reated, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. The surname is widespread in Cumberland, Yorkshire and Lancashire as is shown by the early recordings of the name in these regions. Thomas, son of Gawen Gylbanke, was christened on June 27th 1563 at Crosthwaite, Cumberland, and Katharina Gylbanke married Thomas Boloke on November 19th 1564, also at Crosthwaite. Amy Gillbank was christened on May 10th 1717 at Wandsworth, London. A Coat of Arms was granted to a Gillbanks family at Whitefield House, in Cumberland, which depicts five gold hearts in saltire, on a silver chief a red rose between two green trefoils slipped, on a silver shield, with the Motto "Honore et Virtute" (With Honour and Virtue). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Alice Gilbank, which was dated January 24th 1561, marriage to John Dawson, at Greystoke, Cumberland, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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