This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is from a topographical name for someone who lived by a hedgerow or in a row of houses built next to one another, derived from the Middle English (1200 - 1500) "row", from the Northern Middle English "raw", itself from the Olde English pre 7th Century "raw". 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. The surname was first recorded in the early 14th Century (see below), and early recordings include: John de Rowe, a witness in the 1317 Assize Rolls of Kent; and Robert del Rowe in the 1327 Subsidy Rolls of Suffolk. An interesting namebearer was William Row (1563 - 1634), a Scottish presbyterian divine, who graduated at Perth in 1587, and became minister of Forgandenny. He protested against the restoration of episcopacy, 1602 - 1606, and was imprisoned from 1607 to 1614, for opposing the appointment of a permanent moderator. A Coat of Arms granted to a Row family from Devon is a silver shield, a chevron azure between three trefoils slipped per pale red and green, the Crest being a buck's head couped red attired gold. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard atte Rowe, which was dated 1306, witness in the "Assize Rolls of Staffordshire", 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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