This interesting and unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is from a nickname, derived from the Northern Middle English (1200 - 1500) "fair", lovely, from the Olde English pre 7th Century "faeger", fair, lovely, and the Middle English "bairn", child. This is an example of that sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. The nicknames were given in the first instance with reference to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or disposition, or to habits of dress, and occupation. The surname was first recorded in the late 13th Century, and one Robert Fayrebarne was recorded in the 1379 Yorkshire Poll Tax Returns. An interesting namebearer was Sir Peter Fairbairn (1799 - 1861), an engineer and inventor, who improved flax-spinning machinery by modifications of the roving-frame, and the introduction of screw and rotary gills. He established a foundry for manufacture of war materials and was mayor of Leeds in 1857 - 1858 and 1858 - 1859. A Coat of Arms granted to a Fairbairn family is a red shield, with an eagle wings endorsed gold, a bordure ermine, the Crest being a griffin passant black. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Augustin Fayrbarn, which was dated 1297, in the "Subsidy Rolls of Yorkshire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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