Last name: Watford

The town of Watford in Hertfordshire has an ancient history. Its origins are 9th century Norse-Viking from the word 'vao' meaning a ford, to which was then added or vice versa the English form 'forda' - again meaning ford! This doubling up or surmounting is rare but not unusual, in fact Pendel Hill in Lancashire represents no less than three surmounts, with 'pen' meaning hill, 'dyl' meaning hill and 'hyll' meaning hill! In the 1086 Domesday Book 'Watford' appears in that spelling and in that respect is probably unique in retaining its original form for over nine hundred years. In 1239 however the rolls of Hertfordshire have the spelling temporarily as 'Wathford' and it is possible that the rare surname form as 'Whatford' derives from this spelling error. What is certain is that the name from the town has a long history and early examples include Walter de Wateford of London in 1273, and Robert Watford, who married Ellen Ruddeforde in London in 1621. Other recordings are those of John Whatford, christened at St Giles Cripplegate, on July 28th 1723, and Thomas Wains who married Martha Watford at St Georges Chapel, Mayfair, on June 4th 1748. The coat of arms has the blazon of a red field, a gold chief charged with a label of three blue points, and a crest of two arms in armour holding a sword. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Eustace de Watforde, which was dated 1273, in the Hundred Rolls of Northamptonshire, 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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