This very unusual surname recorded in the spellings of Bunch, Bunche and Bunce, is believed to be of Middle English pre 14th century origins. However it derives from the word 'bunche', itself a development of the German 'bunz', meaning a barrel. As such the name was probably a medieval nickname for a portly or rotund person, one who resembled a barrel, although it is also possible the name is occupational for a maker or user of a particular type of barrel, perhaps one associated with German wines which were becoming popular at that time.In defining the precise meaning of early surnames, one must be cautious about applying twentieth century translations to 13th century words, and it maybe that the original 'meaning' was quite different in context to today. What is certain is that names which had unpleasant connotations rarely became hereditary, whilst this surname is not only one of the earliest on record, as shown below, but has remained basically unchanged since. Early examples of the surname recording include William Bunche in the Subsidy Rolls of the county of Cambridge in 1327, whilst one of the first English settlers to the new colonies of the West Indies and Virginia was Joseph Bunce, who embarked from Gravesend, on the ship 'Peter Bonaventure of London', bound for Barbados. His subsequent fate is not known. A coat of arms also granted in Kent has the blazon of a blue field, on a fess between three silver boars, three blue eagles. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Geoffrey Bunch, which was dated 1195, the Pipe Rolls of the county of Northampton, during the reign of King Richard 1, known as 'The lionheart', 1189 - 1199. 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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