Introduction chapter IV: names

Pages 34-43

Two Early London Subsidy Rolls. Originally published by [s.n.], [s.l.], 1951.

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The number of people mentioned in the Subsidy of 1292, inclusive of aldermen and a few persons referred to as father or late husband of a taxpayer, is 814. The number in the Subsidy of 1319 is 1852. Persons exempted are included.

In both rolls taxpayers are normally referred to by a font-name and a surname. In the Subsidy of 1292 the first name only is given of a few: Thonchelin Bish, Lionet, Raboc, Roger (valet of Marc le Draper) Dowg, Sire Bonruncyn, Ricard and Benoit compaingnuns Walbr, Sabine ke fu la femme phelippe le tailur Vintry. Sometimes a brother or a partner of a taxpayer is unnamed, as (Walter de Borham et) frater eius CripE, (Will. Tedmar et) socius eius Dowg.

In the Subsidy of 1319 may be noted Chiuellus Caligarius Regis Cheap 163 and Domina Bona ib. 167, Johannes quondam serviens Edm. Lambyn Bridge 43, (Maud Sterre et) filius eius Cand 19, Elicia que fuit vxor Andree aurifabri CripI 31, also Relicta Thome de Norhamptone, Relicta Willelmi le Cyrger, Relicta Johannis de Godesname FarrI 42, 62, 73.

1. Font-names.

A. The subsidy of 1292.

A few of the men's names are native English: Edmund (fn. 1) (6 exx.), Godwin, Sawale (OE Sæweald), Wolmer, found once each, possibly Swet, which may, however, be a woman's name. Some Italian names occur: Burgeys, Nute (both names of people of Italian origin), Thonchelin (all BishI), Donne (Lumbard), Jacolin (Hugelin) of Lucca (both Cordw), Bonruncyn (Walbr).

The remainder of male font-names are probably French, inclusive of Biblical names such as Adam, John, Luke, Matthew. Most were doubtless names introduced in early post-Conquest times by Normans. But Janin Monchaud (Cordw) was a Frenchman, and so were probably Raboc and Lionet (both Dowg).

Some people of foreign origin have font-names of the ordinary Norman type. Gerard Merbode was a German, and his name was really G Gerhard. John Winterman was likewise a German, and his name would be G Johann. There are doubtless other cases of this kind. Such names are included in the figures below. They are not sufficiently numerous to affect the statistics.

The most common names are John (once Jon) 143 exx., William 117, Robert 63, Richard 57, Thomas 43. These five names were borne by 423 out of the 814 people mentioned in the roll. Next follow Walter (Water) 36, Henry (also Hanry, Hary, Herri) 33, Adam 25, Roger 24, Stephen 19, Gilbert and Hugh (Hue, Hucohun) 17 each, Geoffrey 16, Ralph and Simon 12 each, Peter (Peres) 11. All the other names occur less than 10 times, Alan (Aleyn) and Nicholas 8, Alexander (Lisaundr') 7, Edmund, Reginald (Reinaud, Renaud) and Philip (Phelip) 6, Matthew (Maheu) 5, Andrew, Gerard, Laurence 4, A(u)ncel, Clement, David (Daui, Dawe), Eustace (Staci), Salomon thrice each, Bartholomew (Bartelmeu), Bennet (Benoit), Elias, Ernald (Arnaud), Fulk, Gregory, James (Jakes), Joyce (Joce), Jordan, Luke, Martin, Michael, Paul, Warin twice each. Once each occur: Baudry, Bernard, Christian, Daniel, Denis, Gervase, Giles (Egidius), Godwin, Guy, Hamon, Hubert, Ivo (Iue), Julian, Lambert, Mark, Pentecoste, Rickeman, Sawale, Silvester, (?) Swet, Vincent, Wolmer.

To these are to be added a few hypocoristic names: Jake (twice), Hankin, Henecoc (from John), Gilot (twice, from William), Boydin, Baudechoun (from Baldwin), Gateron (from Walter, perhaps a Frenchman), Colin (from Nicholas). Robin occurs by the side of Robert; Robert Hod Vintry 49 is called Robin Hod ib. 51. Rand' CripI 53 is probably for Rande, a short-form of Randolph.

Only 26 or 27 women are among taxpayers, representing 16 (17) different names, all of French origin, except Swet, if that is a woman's name. Alice occurs 4 times, Juliana (Gilian) and Katherine thrice each, Margery, Maud (Moude, Matild'), Roys twice each. Once only are found Agnes, Aweline, Avice, Isabel, Joan, Lavinia, Lettice (Leticia), Sabine, Sarah. A hypocoristic name is Gillecote (Dowg 61), probably from Juliana.

Some more information on the forms of font-names will be found on p. 27. An interesting form is Hanry for Henry, found CripI 7, 16.

B. The Subsidy of 1319.

The only men's names of native English origin are Edmund (10 exx.), Edward, Estmar, Godwin, Seman, Sewal. But Sewal de Godesname, the only bearer of this name, was of Essex origin. Osbert and Wymund may be English or Norman.

A few persons of Italian origin, on whom see further p. 48, had Italian (Lombard) font-names. The names are Bankin, Burnet, Cambin, Chiuel, Conel, Mone, Pelle, Ragace, all found once each. Herman le Skyppere was a German, and his font-name was G Hermann.

The Irish Patrick occurs once (P. le Ymager).

The vast majority of the names are French in origin, Biblical names being counted as French.

The most common name is John with 431 exx., followed by William 246, Richard 152 or 153, Robert 128, Thomas 110. These five names were borne by some 1070 persons or a good deal more than half the number of taxpayers. Next follow in order of frequency: Walter with 78 exx., Henry 61, Roger 57, Simon 46, Adam 45, Nicholas 40, Geoffrey 35, Hugh 28, Ralph and Stephen 25 each, Peter 23, Gilbert 19, Alexander, Philip and Reginald 13, Edmund and Elias 10, Alan and James 9, Andrew, Bartholomew and Laurence 8, Hamo 7, Michael 6, Martin 5. Thrice each occur Bennet (Benedict), David, Gerard, Godfrey, twice each Bernard (in one case the name of an Italian), Denis (Dionisius), Edward, Ernald, Estmar, Godwin, Gregory, Harvey, Ivo, Maurice, Nigel, Oliver, Osbert, Richer (?), Vincent, Warin. Once only are found 25 names: Aubin, Augustine, Creppin, Eudo, Eustace (Staci), Fulk, Gervase, Gosselin, Guy (Guido), Humphrey, Yter, Joyce, Luke, Matthew, Patrick, Paul, Randolph, Raymond, Reyner, Salomon (Saleman), Sampson, Seman, Sewal, Talifrid, (fn. 2) Wymond. The rare occurrence of some of these names is noteworthy.

There are further a few hypocoristic names: Guillot, found thrice, Hankyn and Janin (from John), Maikin (from Matthew), Notekyn (of doubful formation), Perkin (Petrekyn), Boydo, Donus (perhaps from Drogo, Drew), all found once each.

The 31 or 32 women's names are doubtless all French. The most frequently found are Alice with 14 exx., Agnes 12, Margaret and Margery (Latinized as Margareta or Margeria) 11 jointly, Christi(a)na and Maud 9 each. Maud is Latinized as Matill' 8 times, as Matild' once. Next follow Isabel with 4 exx., Dionysia 3, Anabel (Anabilla), Avice, Felicia, Helen (Elena), Juliana, Roesia (Rosya), Sabina, Salerna twice each. Once each occur Aubry. (sic in the text), Beatrice, Bona, Custance, Emma, Ida, Idonia, Imaigne, Katherine, Mabel (Mabilia), Malina, Parnel (Petronilla), Richolda. Hypocoristic are Dyota (from Dionysia; cf. Bardsley, Dyet), Elicia (from Elizabeth), both found once, and Mariota (from Mary), found twice. Mary does not occur in this form.

Not a few of the names found in the earlier subsidy are absent in that of 1319: Auncel, Baudry, Christian, Clement, Giles, Hubert, Jordan, Julian, Lambert, Mark, Pentecoste, Rickeman, Silvester; Aweline, Joan, Lavinia, Leticia, Sarah. The absence of a number of names found in the roll for 1319 from the earlier roll is no matter for surprise in view of the much smaller number of persons recorded.

II. Surnames.

A. The Subsidy of 1292.

Some 15 surnames are unexplained or of doubtful etymology, most of them probably nicknames, as Beck, Dagge, Gubbe, Hikebid, and a few allow of more than one explanation. The figures below for the various name-types are therefore round ones.

The largest group is formed by local surnames, those derived from place-names. Out of some 800 taxpayers no less than about 350 have names of this type, and if names such as Fraunceys, Irish are added the figure rises to about 365.

A little more than 40 have surnames derived from foreign places or countries. These will be found on pp. 43 ff.

Somewhat over 30 surnames are taken from districts or localities in London itself, from wards or streets, as de Bissoppesgate, de Crepelgate, de Rederesgate, de Bredstrate, parishes or churches, as de Arcubus, de Garchirche, de Sancto Cristoforo, de Wolcherhawe, or other localities, as de Hundesdich, de Ponte. Here belong names such as atte Gate (referring to one of the City gates), de la Cornere, in the Hyrne, atte Lanend, de Venella, atte Selde, atte Virge, perhaps atte More.

The majority of local surnames are derived from places outside London, but in England and Wales. There are three instances of Scot and one of Irish (Hirreys). Some 300 taxpayers have surnames of this kind. On these names see further pp. 49 ff.

Next in frequency come occupational surnames, like le Barber, le Draper; about 200 persons have such names. Here are included also cases where the surname did not indicate the actual occupation, but was an inherited one, as la Aylere 'garlicmonger', borne by a stockfishmonger's widow, or le Tailor, used as the surname of a vintner. Clerk, Marshal are included, though many persons with these surnames had other occupations than those of a clerk or a farrier. Surnames of office are sometimes difficult to distinguish from surnames of occupation and may be added here. They are few. We may mention Canun, Frere, Persun, Priur, le Botiller, le Chaumberleng. Some of them were very likely in reality nicknames.

Many examples of occupational surnames are collected in Chap. III.

Surnames of relationship derived from font-names number about 65, but some are more or less uncertain. Nearly all consist simply of a font-name, as (Reinaud) Abel, (Robert) Baudri, (William) Reyner. The only exceptions are (John) le fiz Michel, (William) fil. Marie. The last is the only indubitable case of a surname having been derived from a woman's name, but a possible case is (Katherine) Swote. Most of these surnames, were probably patronymic or inherited. But it was common in early London for apprentices to take their master's surname, or sometimes his font-name, for a surname. A certain case of the latter kind is (Ralph) Miles (Bridge), but probable ones are (Walter) Milis, (Richard) Pentecoste (Bridge), (Geoffrey) Fouq' (Walbr), (Richard) Wolmer (Bill).

The remaining surnames are mostly by-names or nicknames. About 130 persons have such names. There are a number of personal appellations, as the English Barn, Brother, Langman, Molling, Shailard, the French Bacheler, Cosin, le Fount, Galopin, Palmere, the German Winterman, perhaps Junkur; names of animals, English such as Bulloc, Hog; Bunding, Pecoc; Burbat, Hering; Fros; the French Louet, Motun; Hairon, Partrys; various concrete words such as the English Fot (possibly a font-name), Gut, Heued; Cope, Hod, Punge; Box; Cros, Horn, Knotte; the French Oingnon, Pointel; abstract words, as possibly Leyk, May.

A good many surnames are derived from adjectives, mostly English, as Brun, Dreye, Dun, Flinthard, Gode, Grete, (le) Long (Lung), le Rede, Saly, Scharp, Skelfol, pwrgode, le Wyte, but some French, as (le) Blund, Curteys, le Gay, Hauteyn, la Jouene, le Megre, le Rous, le Simple, Sotel. Bahuvrihi formations are the English Godchep, Hauekeseye, Langpurce, Lythfot, perhaps Capriht, Trigold, the French Deusmars, Trenmars. Skipop is a formation of the type Shakespeare.

Some original nicknames may be old French family names, as Carbonel, Peuerel, Russel.

B. The Subsidy of 1319.

Also in this Subsidy a number of surnames are of unknown or more or less doubtful etymology. The figures below are therefore provisional.

The largest group is formed by local surnames, with which are classed national adjectives or nouns like Deueneys 'of Devon', le Frensche, Pycard. About 950 persons have local surnames, that is more than half the number. Not a few who in the roll have occupational surnames appear with a local surname in other sources.

Some 50 persons have surnames derived from places or countries abroad. They will be found on pp. 46 ff.

About 80 persons have surnames taken from London itself or places in London, wards or streets, as de Alegate, de Crepulgate, de Bredstrate, de Ebbegate, de Honylane, de Oteswiche, atte Ryol, a parish (ate Bowe), various localities, as de Brugge, de Hundesdiche, ate Conduyt, de Londonstone, buildings, as atte Briggehous, atte Halle (the Guildhall), atte Belhous. Of special interest are names apparently taken from houses with a signboard, as ate Cocke, atte Ramme, atte Rose, atte Swan, perhaps atte Vigne (common), atte Bascat. To this group belong names like atte Gate (common), in the Lane, perhaps also such as ate Grene, atte Hegge, atte Stone.

About 800 persons have surnames derived from places in England outside London, the few Scottish names being included. On these names see further pp. 55 ff.

Next in frequency come occupational surnames; altogether some 450 taxpayers have surnames of this kind. Numerous examples of this type of surname will be found in Chap. III.

There are some 40 surnames of office or social position, which are sometimes difficult to distinguish from occupational surnames. Many of them were in reality nicknames, when applied to London citizens, as (le) Kyng, Barun, le Moigne, Pope, Priour, whereas others refer to a definite position, as le Hethereue, Prentiz, le Seriaunt, le Waite, or are inherited surnames, as le Botiller.

A considerable group is formed by surnames of relationship. About 150 or 160 persons have surnames of this kind. Only rarely do we find names of the types Fitz Richard, filius Roberti, the only instances being filz Richard, filz Roberd (once each), filius Roberti (once), filius Rogeri (twice). Especially rare are names in the genitive form: Danyeles, Robes (once each), but it is possible that a few more occur, since an abbreviation-mark may occasionally represent an ending -es. Robes is interesting as being formed from a shortname. As a rule the surname is identical in form with the font-name from which it is derived.

It is noteworthy that not a few of these surnames are formed from English or ultimately Scandinavian names, most of which are not found as font-names in the rolls. The same is the case with the Subsidy of 1292, and examples from the latter are given here as well.

From the roll of 1292 may be noted: Broning, Burward, Derman, Eylmer, Oseberne, Sawale, Semman, Sport (?), Swote (?), Touy, Wade, Wolmer, from that of 1319: Brongor, Brouning, But (?), Cole, Dereman, Dode, Edmund, Edward, Estmar, Gille, Godwyn, Hereward, Hosard (?), Norman, Pake, Rolf, Seman, Semer, Syward, Swetyng, Swote (?), Touy.

Several among the surnames are derived from French font-names that are not found in the rolls as font-names, in the Subsidy of 1292, for instance, Abel, Ace, Godard, Grayland, Lambin, Miles, Perceval, Walran, in that of 1319 Albon, Brice, Gyffart, Jeryn, Lambyn, Madefrey, Otewy, Payn, Persiual, Ruffyn, Turgys, Vyuian, Walram.

On the whole very common names are rarely used as surnames. There is no instance of John, Richard, William and only one of Robert as a surname, while there are more instances than one of Albon, Baudry, Danyel, Geruays, Heruy, Huberd, Payn, Reyner.

Some surnames are derived from women's names: Annore, Batecote, Florrye, Mabbely, Muriel, Pauy, perhaps Sigilly, Swote.

Some are derived from hypocoristic names, as Asselyn, Batecote (just mentioned), Cotekyn (if from Constantin), Eliot, Lambyn, Launce, Louekyn, Maikyn (from Maheu, a form of Matthew), Potyn, Thomasyn (the last Italian).

It is probable that some among these surnames were inherited names, not directly patronymic, but many were very likely derived from the father or mother of the bearer in 1319. Certain instances are Nicholas Godwyn, John Saleman, William Mabbely, whose father or mother are known to have been called Godwin, Saleman and Mabbely (Mabel) respectively.

Isabella Estmar was the widow of one Estmar and had his fontname as her surname.

There are instances of apprentices getting a surname derived from their master's font-name. A certain case in point is William Edmond (BreadSt), and probable ones are Walter Baudry (CripE), Richard Denys (Cordw).

Cristofre (BroadSt 31) is a shortening of a local surname. Thomas Cristofre was a son of William de Sancto Cristoforo 1292 S [Broad St 31].

Not a few surnames are to be classed as nicknames. The taxpayers with such surnames number about 200. Here belong personal appellations as the English Brother, Fader, Neue, Godfelawe, Panyfadre, the French Cosyn, le Faunt, Bastard, Belamy, Munamy, le Palmere, Prodhom, Turk; names of animals, as the English le Bole, Bullok, le Ram, Schep, Tethynglombe, le Wolf; Brid, le Coo, Crane, Gandre, Meau, Pecok; Fresfyssh, Heryng; Frosh; Flye; the French Motoun, Talpe; Chauntecler, Pyioun; Goioun. There are smaller groups of names derived from plant-names or the like, as the English Bussh, Darnole, Knapwedd, Rys; from articles of clothing or the like, as the English Cappe, Hoode, Ponge, Sok, Bokskyn, the French Skarlet; names of food-stuffs, as the English Piggesfles, the French Bacun, Wastel; names of various objects, as the English Horn, Pany, Crosse, the French Haunsard, Poyntel. Some surnames are derived from abstract words, as the English Bale (possibly an adjective), Frost, Gamene, Thedam, Cristemasse, Friday, the French Barette, Drury (perhaps 'beloved person'), Pecche (probably an old Norman family name), Vauntage. From habitual expressions are derived Godesname, Pardieu.

A considerable sub-group is formed by surnames derived from adjectives, as the English Bigge, Blake (and Blak inthe mouthe), Brit ('bright'), le Hende, le Hore, le Litel, le Longe (common), Sely, Sket, Smart, Thurgod, le White, le Wyght, le Youngg, and the French Faiti, Fraunk, Gay, Gentil, le Graas, le Gros, Hardy, Myniot, Rus, Sauuage, Trenchaunt, Vigerous. Faiti is an old London family name.

With these may be grouped bahuvrihi-formations, like Cafot, Clenhond, Fayrher, Proudefote, Rofot, Fairhod, Godale, Godchep, all English, Belebouche, Maucouenant, Deumars, all French, further formations of the type Shakespeare, the English Peltebem, Pynfuel, Pulsak, and the French Counsedieu, Passemer, Sayleben.


  • 1. Names still in use are given in the modern form, others being italicized. A number of MS. forms are added between brackets.
  • 2. The name (Talifrido) is carefully written, and an error for Galfrido is out of the question. Talifrid has a counterpart in Taylfre 1278 QW: one Taylfre de Wyncestr' was a tenant in Harlow half-hundred (Ess) or possibly in the adjoining part of Herts. The date given by Bardsley (20 Edw 1) is erroneous. It is unlikely, though not impossible, that Taylfre de Wyncestr' was identical with Talifrid de Wyntonia in the Subsidy, but the latter might have been a relative of his. Bardsley's suggestion (under Telfer) that Taylfre is a form of Norman Taillefer is very likely correct. Taillefer appears as a surname in London in the forms Talifer and Taylefer (1299-1300 Mayors 60 f.). Taylfre may be an inexact spelling for Taylfer or for Taylfrey, the latter due to association with Geoffrey and the like. Talifridus would be a Latinized form of Taylfrey or Taylfer.