This interesting name is of early medieval English origin, and is a metonymic occupational surname for someone employed as a servant in the pantry of a great house or monastery, or possibly the person in charge of the pantry, or buttery. The term derives from the Middle English word "spense", meaning "larder, storeroom", itself a contracted form of the Old French word "despense", from the Latin "dispendere", to weigh out, dispense. In Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales", the glutton in the Sumner's Tale is described as "all vinolent as botel in the spense".The modern surname can be found as Spence, the Scottish form Spens, Spencer, Spenser and Despenser. The "List of the Living in Virginia", compiled on February 16th 1623, shows one William Spence, his wife, and their child, as living at James' island, in the Virginia colony. A Coat of Arms depicting a black boar's head erased between two red bars on a silver shield, with the Motto "Patior ut Potiar" (I endure as I enjoy), was granted to a family of the name at Berryholl in Fife, Scotland. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Simon del Spens, which was dated 1300, in the "Charters of Guisburn Priory", Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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.
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