This interesting and unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a late variant of the locational name Wenham. There is a place called Wenham in Suffolk and Sussex, and the place in Suffolk is recorded as "Wenham" in the Domesday Book of 1086 and the 1199 Feet of Fines. Both placenames share the same meaning and derivation which is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "wynn", pasture, meadow, or "wenn", tumour, used of a tumulus or hill, and "ham", homestead, village, estate; hence, "homestead by the meadow", or "homestead by a hill". Locational surnames were given to the lord of the manor, and to those former inhabitants who left to live or work in another area, and in this way the spelling of the name often changed with varying regional pronunciations. Hawise de Wenham is noted in the 1327 Subsidy Rolls of Somerset, and Robert Wenam is listed in the 1525 Subsidy Rolls of Sussex. Recordings of the surname from English Church Registers include: the christening of Elizabeth, daughter of Willyam Wennam, on April 21st 1583, at St. James', Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk; the marriage of William Wennan and Hester Cooper at St. Nicholas Acons, London, on June 25th 1644; and the christening of Edward, son of Obediah and Ann Wannan, on January 17th 1812, at Wesleyan, Rye, Sussex. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Wenham, which was dated 1194, in the "Pipe Rolls of Surrey", during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "Richard the Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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