This most interesting English surname, is recorded in the spellings of Best, Beste, Bester, and Bestar. It is usually job descriptive and derives from the pre 7th century 'beste' - meaning a 'beast', and hence refers to a cow-herd or cattle dealer. Sometimes, in the robust fashion of the Middle Ages, it was a nickname for a 'brutal person', and as such probably applied to Wilkin le Best, in the 1260 Assize Rolls of Cheshire. Whatever its original meaning, the surname holders have been prominent in British History. The name is recorded eight times in the National Biography, and it was Captain Thomas Best (1570-1638) who, in the year 1612, broke the power of Portugal in the East. He was later Master of Trinity House, whilst W.D. Best (1767-1845) was the Lord Chief Justice and the first Baron Wynford. As a point of social history, Thomas Best was 'convicted' as a Monmouth rebel by 'Bloody Judge Jefferies' in 1685, and sentenced to ten years hard labour in Barbadoes. The earliest recordings include John le Bestare, who was a farmer, recorded in the 1279 Hundred Rolls of Huntingdonshire, whilst Richard Bestar was a witness at Colchester Court in the year 1311. The earliest coat of arms associated with the name is believed to have the blazon of a black shield, thereon two gold cross crosslets fitchee in chief, and a gold cinquefoil pierced, in base. The crest being, out of a mural coronet a demi ostrich, holding in it's beak a cross crosslet fitchee of the first. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Best, which was dated 1201, a witness at the Somerset Assize Court, Taunton, during the reign of King John of England, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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