This interesting surname is one of a group which can be described as medieval place descriptive. In ancient times certain elements in the landscape were revered. In particular the mighty oak trees, which were often used for meeting places, and formed the centre point of the community. "Nock" is a shortened version of "atten Oak" in the same way that "Nash" means "atten ash." Other forms are Noke, Nock, and Oke, all having essentially the same meaning. Other examples of literal "by-names" are Bitherway (by the road way), Holloway (at the hollow road), and Townsend, although curiously this name has, in many instances, grown with an additional "h" to give the meaningless Townshend.What is certain is that "Nock" and its variants has had a long and honourable life. Early examples include Henry att Nok in the 1326 pipe rolls of Essex, whilst John atte Noke is recorded in the Sussex Rolls of the same period. In late medieval times the central proposition was dropped giving us the later forms which include examples such as Ann Nock, daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Nock, who was christened at St Botolph's Church without Aldergate, London, on August 5th 1683, and Edward Nock, who married Dorothy Willouby at St James Church, Dukes Place, London, on May 7th 1696. The name is occasionally confused in recordings with the Scottish "Knox," a name which developed from the Olde British "cnoc" meaning a hill. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas atten Oke, which was dated 1296, in the Subsidy Rolls of Sussex, 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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