Recorded in many spellings including Avann, Avenn, Avanne, Aven, Avon and possibly others, this interesting and unusual surname is early medieval English. It has at least two possible origins. The first is residential for a "dweller by a fen", with the derivation from the Olde English pre 7th century word "fenn", meaning a marsh or bog. The forms with the prefix consonant "v" are characteristic of south-western dialects of Middle English, whilst the "a" when it occurs is often from the fusion of the preposition "at"; hence, "at the fen". A second possible origin is also residential and described a dweller by one of the rivers called Avon, of which there are several examples. This was an Ancient British name which is identical with the Welsh Afon or the Irish Abhann, all meaning 'river'. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Richard ate Fanne is noted in the Ministers Accounts of the Earldom of Cornwall in 1297, and Henry atte Vanne is listed in the Nonarum Inquisitiones of Sussex in 1341. Recordings of the surname from English Church Registers include: the christening of Adrian, son of Richard Avann, at Iden, Sussex, on March 19th 1585; and the christening of Henry Avon at St Andrews Holborn, in the city of London on April 4th 1703. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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