Recorded as Tow, Towe, Toe, Towse, Towse, Tuff, Tuffs, and Tough, this is an English surname of medieval origins. It derives from the pre 7th century word 'toh,' and describes either someone who was literally tough, vigorous, and stubborn, probably a favoured warrior, or possibly a person who lived at a 'tulach', meaning a steep knoll. Certainly from the earliest times the name was well recorded and in Scotland gave rise to the clan known as 'Tough and all that Ilk', originally from Aberdeenshire. The earliest recordings are however from England and some of them certainly suggest that the nameholders lived upto their name! These include Alicia la Towe in Worcester in 1275, and Nicholas le Toghe in the Hundred Rolls of Kent, also for 1275. The first Scottish recording would seem to be that of Henry Toulch, the sheriff of 'Abirdene' in 1361, and Sande Towcht, who apparently lived upto his name as he was arrested for 'scrabbling others'. Later recordings include Thomas Towe of Westminster on May 10th 1551, Sarah Tow christened at St Andrews Church, London on February 18th 1581, Jane Toogg of Stepney on May 1st 1587, Johannes Tuff at St Martins in the Field, westminster on January 6th 1628, Thomas Tough at St Brides Church, Fleet Street, on November 23rd 1652, and Sexty Broadfield Towse, christened at St Botolphs Bishopgate, London, on August 30th 1753. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Rober Towe. This was dated 1275, in the Hundred Rolls of Lincolnshire, during the reign of King Edward 1, known as 'The hammer of the Scots', 1272 - 1307. 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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