This interesting surname is of English locational origin from places in Dorset, Norfolk and Kent, so called from the Old English pre 7th Century "Gythlingaham" and translating as "the homestead, (Old English "ham"), of the people of Gythla". Gythla is a personal name of great antiquity, containing the element "gyth", battle, but ultimately going back to "Geatas", the Scandinavian people to whom Beowulf belonged. The first mentioned place appeared as "Gillingaham" in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle relating to Dorset, dated 1016, whereas the Norfolk placename was initially recorded as Gelingeham in Ancient Charters of that County, dated 1107-1118. Gillingham in Kent was noted as Gelingeham in the Domesday book of 1086. The surname first appears on record in the latter part of the 13th Century, (see below). Other early recordings include Gild de Gillingham, (Dorset, 1274) and Richard de Gillyngham, (Somerset, 1327). A coat of arms granted to the Gillingham family depicts a gold central band between three silver swans on a blue shield. A right arm, clothed in black with a silver cuff, and holding up a sword "enfiled with a leopard's face" is on the crest. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert de Gyllingham, which was dated 1273, "the Hundred Rolls of Norfolk", during the reign of King Edward 1, "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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