This interesting and unusual surname has two possible, related, origins; the first is of Anglo-Saxon, pre-Conquest date, and is an example of the widespread and common practice of creating a surname from a nickname. In this instance the nickname was first applied to a fortunate person, from the Olde English pre 7th Century "sped", meaning generally, success, good fortune, smooth progress, and retaining its original spelling in the Middle English term "sped". The modern sense of the word, "swiftness", is an obvious development of this usage. The second possible origin of the modern surname is also from a nickname, created from a derived sense of "sped" as before, here applied to a swift runner. The Register of Wills for Chester records the will of Cicilie Speed of Tattenhall, a widow, in 1578, and one Richard Speed was an early emigrant to the New World, leaving London on board the "Peter Bonaventure" in April 1635, bound for the "Barbadoes". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Godfrey Sped, which was dated 1185, in the "Pipe Rolls of Suffolk", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. 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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