Recorded as Wenham, Wenam, and Whenham, this is an English locational surname of considerable antiquity. It is locational and originates from two tiny communities called Great and Lesser Wenham in the county of Suffolk. This county forms part of the region known as East Anglia. This region was once very remote, being cut off from much of mainland England by the famous marshes and lakes known as "The Fens", which were largely trackless wastes. In the medieval times it was realised that if they were drained, these fens could be the source of great farming wealth, and for several hundred years Dutch engineers were employed in this task. The name "Wenham" derives from the pre 7th century Olde English "wynn" meaning pasture, plus "ham" - a farm or possibly "hamm" meaning low lying,. Either meaning would be quite appropriate. The villages appear as "Wenham" in the famous Domesday Book of 1086, and are almost unique for retaining their spelling for nearly one thousand years. Early examples of the surname recordings include Hawissa de Wenham of Somerset, in the ninth year of the reign of King Edward 11, or 1317, and later in 1682, the marriage of Thomas Wenham and Elizabeth Upshaw at Canterbury Cathedral, Kent. The earliest known recording is probably that of Selithe de Wenham of Suffolk county in the year 1273. This was during the reign of King Edward 1st, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307.
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