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Before 1300, only four references have come to light, as follows: There would appear to be three basic reasons why, at this early date, a man should be called by a place-name.The first might be typified by the first reference above: a person moved from one place to another and, in the place where he settled, he was called by his place of origin to distinguish him from others of the same name.Later again, the owners of hall and land, the de Villers or de Villiers family, extended their profitable sheep-rearing operations at the expense of their tenants' little holdings.Sheep produce fat profits, but they are not labour-intensive, and Brooksby, like many another in Leicestershire, became a "deserted village".(This last however is the spelling used throughout this book, except where there is a particular reason against it.) It is a fascinating piece of detective work to pursue the "how" and "why" of a surname, as well as the "who" and "where" of its holders, and throughout this chapter the reader will be presented with a great deal of guesswork and more or less intelligent interpretations of insufficient facts.It should not be taken for granted that these are all the available facts, nor that the interpretations are correct.
The "by" ending, which occurs in many local village names, betrays its Danish origins.For many years it consisted of the hall, one farmhouse, and the church like a private chapel standing in the hall grounds, not a hundred yards from the front door.