This is one of the worlds most internationally known names, being associated with the Charles Rolls, the joint founder of the famous company of Rolls-Royce in 1907. Recorded as Role, Roll, Rule, Rolls, Rolles, Rolse, Rowles, and others as shown below, it is medieval English. However its origins are both Norman and Germanic, being a patronymic form of the pre 7th century male given name Roul or Rolf. The ultimate origin lies in the ancient name 'Hrolf', a fused compound of the elements "hrod" meaning renown, and "wulf," a wolf. This name seems to have reached England by two separate channels. It was very popular amongst the invading Normans of 1066, but may have been introduced as well by the earlier Scandanavians known to history as "The Vikings". The surname was first introduced like most others, in the 13th century, (see below), and examples of further recordings include Robert Role in the Hundred Rolls of Bedfordshire in 1279, and Matilda Rolles in the Hundred Rolls of Huntingdonshire for the same year. Other forms of the surname include Row, Rowes, Rowe, and Rolfes, whilst later recordings from the church registers of the city of London include John Rowles who married Agnet Fetherstone on November 13th 1541, at St. Stephen Walbrook, and Mary Rolls who was christened at St. Andrew's, Holborn on April 4th 1575. 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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