Recorded in the spellings of Ward, Warde, and Wards, this famous and noble surname, the family name of the earls of Dudley and Bangor, and with over seventy coats of arms assigned to nameholders, is widespread throughout the British Isles. The origins are pre 7th century,and it is generally accepted that the name was originally occupational for a town guard. This is from the Olde English word "weard" - meaning a member of the watch, the watch being the earliest form of police or militia. In a few instances the surname may be topographical for one who dwelt by marshy land, the word "ward", in the counties of Essex and Kent in the medieval times, described a marsh. In Ireland, although the name is usually spelt the same, it is claimed, that all are native Irish in origin. This is clearly nonsence, as it is known that several "Ward" nameholders were amongst the very earliest of English settlers in the 13th century. It is true that a Gaelic form of the name is Mac an Bhard , meaning the son of poet, and that this was anglicised in the 17th century to forms such as MacAnward, MacWard, McWard. The earliest surname recordings are from England, and these include such examples as Simon le Warde, of the city of Bedford in the year 1279, and Alice le Wardes of Chelmsford in Essex, in 1352. These names clearly refer to an occupation, although as far as is known, the town watch was all-male! The first known recording is that of William Warde, in the 1194 Pipe Rolls of the city of York, in the reign of King Richard 1st, known as "The Lion-heart", 1189 - 1199.
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