This interesting surname is a habitational name from a number of places called "Thornhill", in Derbyshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, and Yorkshire, so called from the old English pre 7th Century word "thorn", thornbush, and "hyll", a hill, hence a hill overgrown with thorn bushes. Thornhill in Derbyshire was recorded as "Thornhull", (in the 1320 Pipe Rolls) while in Dorset, near Stalbridge it was called "Thornhulle" (in the 1377 Feet of Fines), and near Wimborne it was "Tornehelle" (in the Domesday Book of 1086), whereas, in Wiltshire the Taxatio ecclesiastia of 1291 called it "Thornhulle". The surname itself first appears at the beginning of the 13th Century (see below). Water de Thornhulle was recorded in the Subsidy Rolls of Somerset in 1327. Walter de Thornhulle was listed in Kirby's quest for Somerset in 1328. The Poll Tax returns of Yorkshire mention a John Thornhill in 1375. Sir James Thornhill was a painter employed by Queen Anne on important works at Hampton Court, Greenwich and Windsor and also painted portraits of Sir Isaac Newton, Steele and Bently. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John de Tornhill, which was dated 1212, The Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire, during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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