This interesting and unusual surname, with variant spellings Belch, Ba(u)lch and Boakes, has two distinct possible origins, the first deriving from the Old English pre 7th Century "balca", (Medieval English "balch", "belch" or "belk"), meaning "beam, ridge or bank", and originally given as a topographical name to a dweller by a bank or ridge. One, Henry del Belk was noted in the 1252, "Calendar of Inquisitions" for Nottinghamshire. The word may also have been used metaphorically for a man of stout, heavy build. The second possibility is that the name originated as a nickname from the Medieval English "balche" or "belche", literally meaning "swelling pride" or arrogance. Early recordings include William le Belch, (Essex, 1295) and Robert Balch, (Somerset, 1327). In August 1635, one, Thomas Belk, aged 37, embarked from London on the ship "Safety" bound for Virginia. He was one of the earliest recorded namebearers to settle in America. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Belch, which was dated 1185, The Knights Templars Records of Oxfordshire, during the reign of King Henry 11, "The Builder of Churches", 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.