This unusual and intriguing name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a good example of the many surnames that were gradually created during the early Middle Ages from the habitual use of a nickname. These nicknames were given in the first instance with reference to a variety of characteristics; to a person's physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or disposition, habits of dress or equipment, or occupation. The nickname "Greathead", derived from the Old English pre 7th Century "great", large, with "heafod", head, in Middle English "great heved", would have been given to someone with a conspicuously large head. The surname development includes Thomas Gretehed (1351, Yorkshire), and Hugo Grethed (1379, ibid.), and the modern surname can be found as Greathead, Greathed and Greated. Among the recordings of the name in London is that of the christening of one John Greathead, at St. Katherine by the Tower, on February 19th 1615. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Gretheved, which was dated 1278, in the "Calendar of Letter Books of the City of London", 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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