Recorded as Brake, Brach, Bratch, the diminutives Brachell, Bratchell, Britchell, the prejoritive Bracher, Bratcher, and others, this interesting surname is of Old English pre 7th century origins. It was topographical for someone who lived or worked on or by a piece of land that was newly cultivated, or perhaps in contradiction, a place which was well established with protective fencing or woods! The derivation in either case is from the word 'braec', a derivative of 'brecan', which means 'to break'. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since features in the landscape provided easily recognisable reference points for distinguishing people in the small communities of medieval England. The early records include a wide variety of spelling examples such as Peter de la Brece of Suffolk, Peter de Brach of Surrey and Robert le Brachere of Oxford all in the Subsidy Rolls of 1248, whilst John de Brake appears in the Hundred Rolls of landowners of Norfolk in 1275. The coat of arms associated with the surname has the blazon of a silver field, a chevron between three black knights spurs, with a crest of a cup containing three roses. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Alan de la Brake. This was dated 1176, in the Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire, during the reign of King Henry 11nd, and known as "The church builder", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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