This is a very rare surname of locational or topographical origins. It derives from the early German (Anglo-Saxon) "spiel", which usually translates as "the look-out place", plus the Olde English "word" (pronounced "worth"), which in this context describes a small, walled fortress, a defensible building. Whether such a place was originally a hamlet or village that has now disappeared is not known. It does not appear on the Medieval Village List produced by the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments, but this is not unusual, as several thousand surnames derive from unlisted and lost village sites. What is perhaps more unusual is that the original spelling form is always found as Spellsworth or Spellworth (see below), although these forms now seem to have died out. A later variant form would seem to be the Derbyshire Spelwood, one Thomas Spelwood being recorded as marrying Janet Stevenson at Dronfield, Derbyshire, on July 9th 1821, whilst in Sussex and Essex are to be found the spelling as Spellard, although this form may have a different root. An early recording in London was that of John Spelsworth, also spelt Spilesworth, of St. Olave's Church, Southwark, registered on April 1st 1632, in the reign of Charles 1. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Agnes Spelsworth, which was dated January 28th 1565, christened at Alveston, Derbyshire, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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