This is an English locational surname of Anglo-Saxon origin, from any one of the places in Lancashire and in north and west Yorkshire called "Rawcliffe". In Lancashire there are two villages called "Out Rawcliffe" and "Upper Rawcliffe" recorded in 1324 at "Outroutheclif" and "Uproucheclive" respectively, while the place in North Yorkshire is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Roudeclif", and that in the West of the county as "Routheclif" in 1070. The places share the same meaning, which is "the red cliff" and the same derivation from the originally Old English pre 7th Century "read", red, later Scandinavianised as "rauthr", with the Old English "clif", cliff, slope or riverbank. The modern surname can be found as Rawcliffe, Rawcliff and Rawlcliffe. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Elsi de Routecliva, which was dated 1170, in the Yorkshire Pipe Rolls, 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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