This apparently simple surname has very complex origins. It maybe English locational and derive from the village of Leeford in North Devon, or it may equally be French and derive from the Huguenot French "Le Forte." It is known that the English village was cleared under the 16th century Enclosure Acts, and the inhabitants driven off, however at almost exactly the same time, the French whipped up into religious fervour, were doing exactly the same thing. The nett result was that "the name" arrived in London, from two directions, and confusion has reigned ever since.In so far as it is possible to chart the development, Le Forte became anglicised to firstly Lefort and then Laford or Leford and finally Leeford or Lafford, whilst Leeford either remained the same or it transposed to Laford and Lafford from the mid 17th century. The name is rare in Devon, the earliest recording being Thomas Leeford recorded in Paignton on February 11th 1698. Very much earlier in London is the recording of Seth Leeford who married Joane Nynan at St Stephans Church, on February 15th 1589, and Robert Laford, christened at St Olaves, Southwark, on December 26th 1640. On May 2nd 1782 Edward Lafford, the son of Edward and Sarah Lafford, was christened at St Saviours Church, Southwark. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Mary Le Forte, which was dated December 26th 1570, at La Patente Huguenot Church, London, 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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