Recorded as Slaymaker, Slewmaker, and occasionally Slymaker, this very unusual surname is of Olde English pre 10th century origins. It derives from the medieval word 'sleye', itself probably a derivative of the ancient 'scoh' meaning shoe. Professor Reaney in his famous 'Dictionary of English Surnames' describes the surname as meaning (quote) 'an instrument used in weaving '. We do not doubt that this is one of the meanings, however we also believe that the description could equally apply to a maker of 'sleighs'. Wheeled carts, in many areas of the country, were unknown until the 16th century, and such transport as existed was carried out on 'sleighs' usually pulled by oxen. Some of these sleighs, which in the absence of any recognizable roads, were used both in summer and winter, were large vehicles, and as such must have been built by specialists. As the first recording is in Yorkshire, an area where there was a significant textile industry, and also a known use of 'sleighs' for transport, it is unlikely that we shall ever be certain as to the origin. Occupational surnames were amongst the first to be recorded, but perhaps surprisingly, they were not by any means hereditary, and this may account for the relatively small number of early recordings. These include Robert Le Sleywrihte in 1334 at Colchester, Essex, not quite 'Slaymaker' but a near miss, whilst Henry Slaymaker, also recorded as Henry Slymaker, appears in the student register of Trinity College, Oxford, in 1594. The coat of arms has the unusual blazon of a red field, a chevron between three gold owls. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Slaymaker, which was dated 1379, the Poll Tax Rolls of the county of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 11, known as 'Edward of Caernafon', 1377 1399. 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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