Recorded in a number of spellings including Chese, Cheese, Chess, Chesse, and Cheeseman, this is an English medieval surname. It is occupational and describes a cheese maker. In the case of Cheeseman it refers to the foreman of a cheese making process, whilst the other spellings refer to the big Cheese himself! The origin is the Olde English pre 7th century word "ches" and it is very similar to the Saxon form of "cyse", so the subsequent surname could be from either source. What is beyond argument is that the name is one of the earliest surnames on record, and the occupation, one of the most important of the medieval trades. A coat of arms was granted to the Cheese nameholders of Huntington, Hereford, being a gold lion rampant on a blue field. This is an extremely noble blazon, suggesting close royal associations. The examples of the name recording commence with the mid 12th century and include Willelmus cum Frumento, (William, the cheese maker) in the pipe rolls of Yorkshire in 1176, John Chese of Huntingdon in the Hundred Rolls of the county in 1279, and Walter le Cheser in Hereford in 1366. Later examples in Shakespearean times include Mary Cheese christened at the church of St Mary Bredin, Canterbury, Kent, on December 19th 1572, and Mary, the daughter of Thomas Chess, christened at Christ Church Spitalfields, in the city of London, on April 19th 1749. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ailwin Chese. This was dated 1150, in the rolls of members of St Bartholomews Hospital, London, during the reign of King Henry 111rd of England, 1216 - 1272. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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