This long-established surname is of English locational origin from the county thus called, spelt as "Cantium" in 51 B.C., and as "Cantia", circa 730 in Bede's "Historia Ecclesiastica". The name is believed to derive from the Celtic "canto" (Welsh "cant"), meaning "rim" or "border"; hence, "border land" or "coastal district". The surname from this source is first recorded in the latter half of the 12th Century (see below), and other early recordings include: William Kent, who appeared in the 1296 Subsidy Rolls of Sussex, and John a (of) Kent, recorded in the Subsidy Rolls of Suffolk, dated 1524. An early namebearer to settle in the New World Colonies was Nicholas Kent, who embarked from London on the ship "Plaine Joan" bound for Virginea in May 1635. An interesting namebearer, recorded in the "Dictionary of National Biography", was William Kent (1684 - 1748), a painter, sculptor and architect; he built Devonshire House, Piccadilly, and executed the Statue of Shakespeare at Poet's Corner. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Nicholas de Kent, which was dated 1185, in the "Knights' Templars Records of Warwickshire", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. 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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