At first glance this early medieval English surname is what it seems, one who dwells by the gate to the wood. However this is not so. The name is locational for a former resident of a place called "Woodgate" of which there are several village examples in England. The complication is increased by the fact that "gate" in Norse-Viking pre 8th century terminology does not refer to a means of closing a gap, but to the road itself, so the probable meaning is "the road through the wood". The earliest spelling form as shown below gives it as "Wodgate" and this is clearly a village and probably that of Woodgate in Norfolk although this is not proven, as the name is an early recording in several localities.The locational surname was usually created either by being the Lord of the Manor, or conversely by being expelled by the same Lord or at least on his order. The Enclosure Acts took away the common grazing rights and tenants were then disposed. Oddly they then took as their surname that of their late home. Early recordings include Richard Woodgate of Aldenham, Hertfordshire, on September 21st 1571, and what appears to be the same person although now spelt as "Wodgate" who married Alic Howe on September 9th 1577, also at Aldenham. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert atte Wodgate, which was dated 1273, in the Patent Rolls in the Tower of London, 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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