This interesting surname found in Northern England and Northern Ireland is a dialectal variant of "Cowden", a place in Kent, Northumberland and Yorkshire. The place in Kent, appearing as "Cudena" in Textus Roffensis (circa 1100) derives from the Old English pre 7th Century words "cu", cow, and "Colden" in the Charter Rolls (1286), means "valley where charcoal was burnt, from the elements "col", the old English word for (char)coal" and "denu", valley. The last place in Yorkshire, called "Col(e)dun" in the Domesday Book (1086), comes from the elements "col", charcoal, and "dun", hill, "the hill where charcoal was burnt".The Yorkshire Church Registers record the marriage of Agnes Cowndon to Thomas Beane at Leake, on November 21st 1583. The London Church register's earliest recording of the name is the marriage of Anne Cownden to one John Parsons at St. Saviour, Southwark on September 26th 1617. Fabian Cowndon married Thomas Brasier at St. Benet Paul wharf, London on June 24th 1625 and James, son of Richard an Elizabeth Cownden was christened at St. Ann Blackfriars, London on April 24th 1663. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Elizabeth Cownden, married John Webster, which was dated September 25th 1575, at Leake, Yorkshire, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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