This interesting and unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from Oxenham (Manor), near South Tawton in Devonshire. The component elements of the placename are the Olde English pre 7th Century "oxan", oxen, with "ham(m)", translating variously as "meadow", especially a flat low-lying meadow on a stream, also, "an enclosed plot, a close". Locational surnames were originally given to local landowners, and the lord of the manor, and especially to those former inhabitants who left heir place of origin to live and work in another area. The surname, with the variant spelling Oxnam, is particularly well recorded in Church Registers of Cornwall and Devonshire from the mid 16th Century. On October 7th 1545, Anna, daughter of Johis Oxnam, was christened at Landulph, Cornwall, and on April 19th 1562, William Oxenham and Mablle Halse were married in South Tawton, Devonshire. Interesting bearers of the name were John Oxenham, sea-captain, who was with Sir Francis Drake's expedition to Central America in 1572; and Henry Nutcombe Oxenham, M.A., Oxford, 1854, who subsequently held a mastership at the Oratory School, Birmingham. A Coat of Arms granted to the Oxenham family of Oxenham, South Tawton, is a red shield with a fess between three gold mullets. The mullet or five pointed star denoted honour and achievement in the service of the state in ancient times. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richarde Oxenham, which was dated February 16th 1546, witness at a christening in South Tawton, Devonshire, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Bluff King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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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