This distinguished surname, having no less than seven Coats of Arms, and several notable entries in the "Dictionary of National Biography", is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from the parish of Gresham, south west of Cromer in Norfolk. Recorded various as "Gersam" and "Gressam" in the Domesday Book of 1086; as "Grasham" in the 1194 Pipe Rolls of that county, and as "Gresseham" in 1254, the place was so called from the Olde English pre 7th Century "gaers-ham(m)", grazing-pasture. The original eaning of "ham(m)" is held to mean enclosure, but in placenames the meaning is often "flat low-lying meadow on a stream". One Thomas Gresham, witness, was noted in the 1446 Assize Court Rolls of Lancashire, and on June 9th 1555, Maria, daughter of Willmi Gresham, was christened at Thorpe Market, Norfolk. Sir Richard Gresham, sheriff of London and Middlesex, 1531, became lord mayor of London in 1537, and Sir John Gresham, lord mayor of London, 1547, was the founder of Holt Grammar School, Norfolk. In 1568, the Royal Exchange in London was founded at the expense of the English financier, Sir Thomas Gresham. One of the earliest Coats of Arms granted to the Gresham family of Norfolk from whom descended Sir Thomas Gresham (above) is a silver shield with a chevron ermines between three mullets pierced sable, the Crest being a gold grasshopper on a green mount. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Gresham, which was dated 1199, in "Pleas before the King or his Justices", Norfolk, during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "Richard the Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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