The surname of BACKHAM is of the locational group of surnames meaning 'one who came from Balcombe' a spot in County Sussex. The name was derived from the Old English form BEAULCUMBE. The earliest of the name on record appears to be BALECUMBA (without surname) who was recorded in Sussex in 1121, and BELECUMBE (without surname) was documented in 1279. Surnames derived from placenames are divided into two broad categories; topographic names and habitation names. Topographic names are derived from general descriptive references to someone who lived near a physical feature such as an oak tree, a hill, stream or a church. Habitation names are derived from pre-existing names denoting towns, villages and farmsteads. Other classes of local names include those derived from the names of rivers, individual houses with signs on them, regions and whole countries. Later instances of the name mention William BAUCOMBE who was recorded in County Somerset, during the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) and William BALCOMB of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Many factors contributed to the establishment of a surname system. For generations after the Norman Conquest of 1066 a very few dynasts and magnates passed on hereditary surnames, but most of the population, with a wide choice of first-names out of Celtic, Old English, Norman and Latin, avoided ambiguity without the need for a second name. As society became more stabilized, there was property to leave in wills, the towns and villages grew and the labels that had served to distinguish a handful of folk in a friendly village were not adequate for a teeming slum where perhaps most of the householders were engaged in the same monotonous trade, so not even their occupations could distinguish them, and some first names were gaining a tiresome popularity, especially Thomas after 1170. The hereditary principle in surnames gained currency first in the South, and the poorer folk were slower to apply it. By the 14th century however, most of the population had acquired a second name.
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