This interesting and unusual surname is of Norman (French) origin, introduced into England after the Conquest of 1066. In most cases the modern surname is a diminutive variant of the topographical name "Roach", for someone who lived by a rocky crag or outcrop of rock. The derivation is from the Middle English and Old French word "roche", which was later superseded in England by the alternative Norman from "roque", o give the modern "rock". Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Some examples of the surname may be locational in origin from various places in Normandy, such as "Les Roches" in Seine-Maritime, or "La Rochelle" in Poitou. Locational surnames 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. The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 12th Century (see below) and can also be found as Rochelle, Rockall and Rockell. Philip de la Rochelle is noted in the 1207 Feet of Fines of Essex. On September 26th 1666, John, son of John and Agnes Rotchell, was christened at St. Botolph without Aldgate, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Rokella, which was dated 1175, in the "Pipe Rolls of Bedfordshire", 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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