Most people think of Widdicombe on the Moor, in Devon when they see this name, This is probably true in many or even the major number of nameholders, but in fact there no less than five such villages three in Somerset, and two in Devon. They all have substantially the same origin, being Olde English pre 10th century and deriving from "wipig-cumb" or "wid-cumb" - the meanings being the willow valley or the wide valley, respectively. Many villages suffered in the late Middle Ages from the Enclosure Acts, which disposed the tenants of their traditional grazing rights, forcing them to seek homes and employment elsewhere. They then took as their surname, the name of their former village. However in this case the surname is Manorial, suggesting that many people have descended from the Lord of the Manor, a fact which may explain why the surname remains predominantly in the West Country. The early recordings appear to be all from Somerset, however this is misleading, it may simply be that either other records are lost, or that the relevant records were all lodged at Taunton, rather than Exeter.Examples of the recordings include Ammyra de Wydecombe in 1385, whilst rather later were Thomas Withecombe who married Jone Greogory at North Curry, Somerset, on April 4th 1553, and Alicia Widdycombe, daughter of Johannis Widdycombe, christened at Buckland Monachorum, Devon, on April 9th 1571. Amongst the many variant forms is that of Alexander Wedgcombe, christened at Ilsington, Devon, on May 17th 1605. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter de Wydecumbe, which was dated 1377, in the register of Somerset, known as "Kirby's Quest," during the reign of King Edward 11, known as "Edward of Caernaforn," 1377 - 1399. 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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