This interesting name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational surname deriving from either of the places called Rockcliff, in Cumberland, or Roccliffe in West Yorkshire. The place in Cumberland is recorded as "Roudecliua" in the 1185 Pipe Rolls of the county, and as "Routheclive" and "Radeclive" in 1203, and means "(place at) the red cliff", derived from the Old English pre 7th Century "reade", red, or the Old Norse "rauthr", with Old English "clif", slope. The place in West Yorkshire is named with the same elements, as are the places called Rawcliffe in Lancashire and Yorkshire, which have retained the original "a" of the first element. The modern surname has a variety of forms, ranging from Rockcliffe, Rockcliff, and Rockliffe to Rocclifff and Rowcliffe. One Alice Rockliffe was married to George Whittaker at Burnley in Lancashire on May 11th 1643. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Elsi de Routecliua, 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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