This long-established surname is of early medieval English origins. It is topographical deriving from the Olde English pre 7th century word "west", and as such it described a person or persons who lived to the west of a main settlement. Alternatively it may have been a regional descriptive nickname for someone who had migrated from "The west" to another part of the country. Perhaps not entirely surprisingly it is first recorded in the county of Essex, which is as far to the east as it is possible to go. The surname is first recorded in the 12th century (see below), and other early recordings include: Goche West, who appears in the Pipe Rolls of Norfolk in 1197, and William del West, who is recorded in the Select Pleas of Essex in 1292. Nicholas West (1461 - 1533), sometime bishop of Ely, was frequently employed on diplomatic missions to Scotland, Germany, France and Castile during the period 1502 - 1525. He was also chaplain to Queen Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry V111th, and was opposed to the divorce proceedings of 1529. One of the earliest settlers in the English colonies in the New World was John West. He embarked from the port of London in May 1635, aboard the ship "Speedwell" bound for Virginia. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Maurice de West. This was dated 1152, in the Pipe Rolls of Essex, during the reign of King Stephen, known as "Count of Blois", 1135 - 1154. 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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