Recorded in the spellings of Layman, Leyman, Lyman, and possibly Leman, this surname is of pre 7th century Anglo-Saxon origin. It is topographical and describes a person who lived and worked a farm of meadows or grazing lands. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "leah", meaning a glade, plus "mann", a status title which implied the person responsible. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages.Early examples of the base surname include: Ailric de la Leie of Nottinghamshire in the year 1148 and Turgod de la Lea of Warwickshire in 1193, whilst Philip de Lye is recorded in Wiltshire in 1198. The addition of the suffix appears in the early 14th Century (see below), and these were particularly common in the county of Sussex at the beginning of the 14th Century, and to a lesser extent in the neighbouring counties of Kent, Surrey, Essex and Hampshire. Examples of recordings include William Leyman in the Subsidy Rolls of Sussex in 1327, and later John Layman of Suffolk, in the Subsidy Rolls of that county in 1524. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Reiner Leman, and dated 1185 in the rolls of the Knights Templar for the county of Essex. This was during the reign of King Henry 11nd of England, known as "The church builder", 1154 - 1189. 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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