Recorded in several spellings including Snailham, Snailam, Snailom, Snailon and Snalham, this is an English post medieval locational surname. It probably originates from a hamlet called Snailham, near Winchelsea, in the county of Sussex. The place name has everything to do with snails. It derives from the pre 7th century Old English word "sneille" which means what it says, with the addition of the suffix "ham", meaning homestead, the overall name referring to a snail farm. "Snails" were a popular dish back to Roman times, indeed like many other delicacies, they may well have been introduced by the Romans, to the dinner table.Perhaps surprising the surname is not recorded in Sussex at all. This is because at sometime in the Middle Ages the village was "cleared" and all the inhabitants driven off. The usual reason was sheep farming, but plague and civil war, also played their part. The inhabitants then had no choice but to seek a living elsewhere. When this happened they tendered to be called by the name of the place from whence they came. Early examples of the surname recording include Mary Snailam, christened at St Botolph's church without Aldgate, city of London, on December 2nd 159, and Benjamin Snalom, who married Mary Harpur at St Martins in the Field, Westminster, on August 25th 1795. The first church recording may be that of Dorothy Snailam, christened at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on Julky 27th 1641.
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