This English medieval job descriptive surname, recorded in the spellings of Farmer, Farmar, Fermer and Fermor, is of Olde French pre 10th century origins. Most people are surprised to know that originally the surname had nothing to with actually tilling the soil. Based upon the word "fermier", the name describes an early financier or collector of tithes and taxes, one who specialised in "farming " land leases. These first farmers would act as brokers for the crown or the major landowners, selecting applicants to work the tenanted lands on the basis usually of who paid most. The "farmers" in time became rich in their own right, and then reversed the process by purchasing land themselves on which in the modern sense, they then "farmed". Amongst the earliest of all recordings is that of William Le Fermer, in the rolls known as the "Feet of Fines" for the county of Essex in the year 1238. This was not a hereditary surname and nor was that of William le Farmere of Cambridge in 1279. The first known recording of the hereditary surname may be that of Richard Fermor, in the Fees Rolls of the county of Devon, in 1293. This was during the reign King Edward 1st, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307.
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