This surname was a locational name 'the dweller at the cliff' a precipitous rock, a headland. The name was derived from the Old English word 'clef'. The name is found in numerous places which have given rise to this surname. Its most common meaning seems to be 'slope' and not necessarily a steep one, maybe from residence beside the bank of a river. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Early records of the name mention Robert de la Clif who was recorded in the year 1273 in County Yorkshire. Thomas del Cliff of County Suffolk, was recorded in the same year. Johannes del Clife and Thomas del Clyf of Yorkshire, were listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Richard, son of Robert Cliffe was baptised at St. Jame's, Clerkenwell, London in the year 1566. John Cary and Judith Cliffe were married at the same church in the year 1639. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers was the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. This surname is particularly associated with the manors of Huxley and Styche. Stephen de Cliffe recorded in 1189 is an early ancestor. In about 1750 George Clive settled in Birmingham, and was the ancestors of a prolific family of gunmakers. The associated coat of arms are registered in Cos. York, Devon and Essex.
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