Recorded in the spellings of Penny, Penney and Pinney, this is a medieval English nickname surname. It derives from the pre 7th century word "penig", the Middle English "peni", meaning a penny. The penny was the common unit of value when money was still an unusual phenomenon, and by no means denoted a coin of little value, as it does today. It was the only unit of coinage in England until the early 14th century when the groat and the gold noble were introduced. The penny was a silver coin of considerable value, and the nickname may therefore have denoted a person of some substance. There is some evidence that Pening was used in Olde English times as a byname, for example in the placename Penistone in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The surname dates back to the late 12th Century and early recordings include Ailnoth Peni in the Curia Regis Rolls of Surrey in 1204, and William Peny in the Assize Court Rolls of Shropshire in 1221. Later London church registers list the christening of Henry Pynnye on the 10th September 1552 at St. Margaret's, Westminster, and Rachell Pinney on the 5th November 1593 at St. Giles Cripplegate. Charles Pinney was the Lord Mayor of Bristol in 1831, and had the uneviviable task of three times reading the Riot Act, for which he was lucky to escape with his life. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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