This ancient and interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and has two possible sources. Firstly, it may be habitational from the county town of Berkshire, which gets its name from the Olde English pre 7th Century "Readingas", meaning "people of Read(a)", a byname meaning red, possibly given to someone who had red hair or a ruddy complexion. The placename was first recorded as "Readingum" in the 871 and 872 Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, and as "Reddinges" in the Domesday Book of 1086. The second source is from a topographical name for someone who lived in a clearing, derived from the Olde English "ryding", a derivative of "ried, ryd", a clearing (probably in woodland); the earliest recording of the surname (see below) is from this source. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. An interesting namebearer was John Reading (deceased 1692), a musician and composer, who was the organist of Winchester Cathedral (1675 - 1681), and of Winchester College (1681 - 1692); he composed the Winchester College song "Dulce Domum". A Coat of Arms granted to a Reading family of London in 1697 depicts, on a silver shield a chevron between three boars' heads erased black, the Crest being a griffin's head erased gold. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Grifin del Ruding, which was dated 1246, witness in the "Assize Rolls of Lancashire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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