This famous Old English locational surname derives from the villages of the same name in Durham, Lancashire, Staffordshire and Essex. The precise meaning is probably 'the water mill', but it is possible that it refers to a moated or fortified house, one surrounded by water. The use of water driven machinery for milling, was an introduction into England and Ireland after the 12th century, and probably as a result of the Crusaders experience with similar systems in the Near East. The first recording of the surname which is absolutely proven is as shown below, however the Waterhouse family of Kirton in Lindsey, Lincolnshire, claim descent from a Sir Edward Waterhouse, in the time of King Henry 111 (1216 - 1272). Certainly ancient arms exist for Waterhouse, having the blazon of a gold field, charged with a black pile engrailed, and the crest of a demi eagle displayed. The surname was also prominent amongst English settlers in Ireland, another Edward Waterhouse being knighted there in 1584. Early recordings include Henry Waterhouse of Hertford, in the register of Oxford University for the year 1585, and Edward Waterhowse of Sussex, in the same register, but for 1591. This latter spelling is one of the few examples of a variant form of 'Waterhouse'. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Adam del Waterhous, which was dated 1308, in the rolls of the city of Wakefield, Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 11, known as 'Edward of Caernafon', 1307 - 1327. 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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