This very unusual surname recorded in the spellings of Stretch, Streche, Strake, Streke, Streak, and Streek, with the patronymic additives of 's', is of medieval English origins. It derives from the Olde English pre 7th century word 'straec' of which the late eminent etymologist of English surnames Professor Reaney translated as 'strong, powerful, or even violent! This implies that the surname was given as a descriptive nickname possibly to the 'strong man' of a travelling fair. However the 'Middle Ages' were a time of change, humour was extremely robust, and it has to be considered that the alternative may have applied, in some cases! Early recordings are quite rare, which again suggests that the original translation may have been quite different to that of the 20th century. Be that as it may the nameholders were held in sufficiently high status to be granted a coat of arms. This has the blazon of a gold field, charged with a red lion rampant, a very distinctive bearing. Early examples of the surname include Godwin Streke in the 1176 Pipe Rolls of Surrey, Adam Streeche in the pipe rolls of Hampshire in the year 1210, Richard Le Strech in the 1221 Assize Rolls of Worcester, so it is fairly certain what he was like, whilst Walter Streke appears in the Subsidy Rolls, also for Worcester, in 1275. Later recordings include Mary Streek, at the church of St Stephans, Coleman Street, London, on July 3rd 1658, and Elizabeth Streak, christened at St Mary Somerset, London, on February 22nd 1726. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Estrech, which was dated 1176 The pipe rolls of the city of Worcester, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as 'The church builder', 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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