This very interesting name is of early medieval Anglo-Scottish origins. Introduced by the Norman French after the Invasion of England in 1066, it was a metonymic occupational surname for someone who was originally in charge of the pantry of a great house or monastery. The term derives from the pre 10th century Old French word "despense", from the Latin "dispendere", meaning to weigh out or dispense. In Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales", the glutton in the Sumner's Tale is described as being "all vinolent as botel in the spense". The modern surname can be found as Spence, Spencer, and the Scottish form Spens, Spenser and Despenser. In the Governor's lists of inhabitants of the colony of Virginia, New England, and compiled on February 16th 1623, one William Spence, his wife, and their child, are shown as living at James' Island, near "Elizabeth Cittee! A coat of arms depicting a black boar's head erased between two red bars on a silver shield, with the Motto "Patior ut Potiar" (I endure as I enjoy), was granted to a family of the name at Berryholl in Fife, Scotland. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Simon del Spens. This was dated 1300, in the Charters of Guisburn Priory, Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 1st, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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