This interesting surname, of Anglo-Saxon origin, is either a locational name from any of the three places in Western Yorkshire called Sutcliffe, or a topographical name for a dweller by the south cliff, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th Century "sueth" meaning "south", plus "clif", riverbank, slope or cliff. Locational surnames were usually acquired by a local landowner, or by the lord of the manor, and especially by those former inhabitants of a place who had moved to another area, usually in search or work, and were thereafter best identified by the name of their birthplace.The surname dates back to the late 13th Century (see below), and further recordings include one Willelmus Sothclyff (1379), in the Poll Tax Records of Yorkshire. Variations in the idiom of the spelling include Sutcliff, Sutliff and Sutlieff. Recordings from London Church Registers include: the christening of Ann, daughter of Mathew Sutcliff, in 1577, at Chelsea; the christening of Samuell, son of Humphry and Ann Sutcliffe, on June 1st 1701, at the Church of St. Stephan, Coleman Street; and the christening of Sarah, daughter of Thomas and Sarah Sutcliffe, on November 28th 1701, at the Church of St. Giles, Cripplegate. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hugo de Suthclif, which was dated 1275, in the "Wakefield Rolls of Yorkshire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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