Recorded as Spelling, Spellen and Spilling, this is an English surname. It is believed to originate from the pre 7th century Olde English word 'spellian' meaning a scholar, speaker or professional story-teller. Clearly the name literally means an educated person at a time when few could write their name, and even fewer could by any standard be considered to have any recognizeable academic education. This in fact was a situation which existed in England until the begining of the 19th century, and only from about 1870 could it be said that most people were able to read and write. The surname is also used as Speleman, Spellman and Spelman, with the same meaning. Because few could read, a 'spellian' was an important person, allowed to visit the different town and villages to give out the official news. These visits were eagerly awaited being the only way that people could obtain information as to what was happening in the world. Early examples of the surname recording taken from surviving rolls, registers and charters of medieval times include those of: Geoffrey Sperling of Norfolk in the Hundred Rolls of 1273, Edmund Spelyng in the tax rolls of Essex in 1327, and Dennys Spillinge in the registers of St James Clerkenwell in the city of London, in 1631.
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