This interesting and unusual surname is of early medieval English origin, and is a locational name from some minor or unrecorded place, perhaps a "lost" village. There are an estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets that have now disappeared from Britain since the 12th Century; the prime cause of these "disappearances" was the enforced clearing and dispersal of the former inhabitants to make way for sheep pastures at the height of the wool-trade in the 15th Century, and natural causes such as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished. The original place is believed to have been situated in Sussex, because of the large number of early recordings in that region, and the component elements of the placename are most likely to be the Old Norse personal name "Scarthi" (a nickname meaning "hare-lipped"), and the Olde English pre 7th Century "feld", field, open country, land free from wood; hence, "Scarthi's field". In the modern idiom the surname can be found as Scardefield, Scardifeild, Scardafield, Scartifield and Scardifield. Recordings of the surname from Sussex Church Registers include: the christening of Ruth, daughter of Nicholas and Jane Scardefield, on November 4th 1660, at Poling; the christening of Alice, daughter of Richard and Mary Scardifeild, at Hartin, on November 3rd 1662; and the christening of Mary, daughter of Thomas and Deborah Scardifield, at Westbourne, on December 20th 1696. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Charles Scardefield, which was dated March 10th 1656, marriage to Mary Grach, at Steyning, Sussex, during the reign of Oliver Cromwell, known as "The Great Protector", 1649 - 1658. 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.