Recorded in a number of spelling forms including Rhodes, Roades, Rodes and the rare Rhodef, (see below), this is an English surname of great aniquity. Originally found chiefly in the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire, it is of pre 7th century Anglo-Saxon origin. It may be either a topographical name for someone who lived by a clearing in woodland, from the Olde English "rod", meaning a clearing, or a locational name from any of the places named with this word. These include: Rhodes near Middleton in Lancashire; Rhodes (Hill), north of Ashton-under-Lyne; Rhodes (Bank) near Oldham; and Rhodes (Green), north of Wakefield in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Topographical features, whether natural or man-made, provided obvious and convenient means of identification in the small communities of the Middle Ages, and consequently gave rise to several surnames. Locational names were developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, usually to seek work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace. This quickly lead to the development of bizarre variants including Rhodef, which may derive from the German Rodef, but is more likely the result of a simple spelling error of misreading an 's' for an 'f' in the days when they were all but identical. Early examples of the surname include: Alexander de la Rode of Norfolk in 1277; John atte Rode in Bedfordshire in 1294); and Robert del Rodes of Lancashire in 1332. Cecil Rhodes (1853 - 1902) was a British colonial financier and statesman in South Africa. As Prime Minister of the Cape Colony (1890 - 1896), he helped to extend British territory almost throughout Africa. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Hugh de Rodes. This was dated 1219, in the "Assize Court Rolls" of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Henry 111rd, 1216 - 1272. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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