This unusual name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational surname deriving from the place called 'Hinchcliff' near Holmfirth, in West Yorkshire. The placename means '(settlement at) the steep cliff', derived from the Old English pre 7th Century 'henge', steep with 'clif', cliff, rock, steep descent. Locational surnames were usually acquired by those former inhabitants of a place who had moved to another area, and thereafter were best identified by the name of their birthplace. The modern surname from this source can be found in a variety of forms: Hinchcliff(e), Hinchliff(e), Henchcliff(e) and Hinchsliff, and the surname development includes: John Hyncheclyffe (1441, Yorkshire), William Hynseclif (1485, ibid.), Henry Henseclyf (1552, ibid.) and John Hinchliffe (1633, ibid.). The marriage of John Hinchcliffe and Margaret Longbottom was recorded in Halifax, Yorkshire, on April 14th 1588. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John de Hengeclif, which was dated 1324, in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield, Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 11, known as 'Edward of Caernafon', 1307-1327. 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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