Recorded as Richford and Richfield, this is an English medieval surname. It is one of those surnames that suggests that it may be popular, but in fact is quite rare. The name almost certainly originates from a now "lost" medieval village called "Risforda" or similar and meaning the ford with rushes. Some five thousand surnames of the Brisish Isles are known to originate from lost villages, so whilst still rare this is not an unusual situation. The surviving church registers show a developed spelling from Richford to Richfield, suggesting that it very unlikely that there was ever a place called Richfield. This is logical as fields growing rushes were everywhere in ancient times, but as the agricultural systems required a continual change of product, it would not have made much sense to call a place after a single plant. In addition over the centuries dialects were very thick and eduction at best minimal for most people, meaning that only twenty percent of the population could read or write their own name. In this case the early recordings seem to be almost exclusively in the area of Greater London and includes Thomas Recheford at St James Clerkenwell in 1573, William Richford, christened at St. Mary Whitechapel in 1634, and Simon Retchford who married Mary Martin at St. Benets, Pauls Wharf, London in 1729. 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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