This interesting surname is habitational from Winchester, a place in Hampshire, approximately nine miles due north of Southampton, from the Roman-British name "Venta", smiling (from the root "ven", to enjoy), and the Olde English pre 7th Century "ceaster", a Roman town. The place is recorded as "Quenta", circa 150, in "Claudi Ptolemaei Geographia", and as "Venta Belgarum", circa 730, in Bede's "Historia Ecclesiastica", and as "Wintanceaster" in 744, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The surname first appears in records in the late 11th Century (see below). William de Wyncestre was recorded in the "Calendar of Inquisitones Post Mortem" for Yorkshire (1286), and one John Wynchestre was mentioned in the same records for Gloucester in 1360. Saer de Quincy, first Earl of Winchester died in 1210. William Paulet was first Marquis of Winchester, circa 1485. John Winchester (died 1460) was bishop of Moray and chaplain to James 1 of Scotland. Oliver Winchester (1810 - 1880) was the owner of the arms company which produced the "Winchester Rifle", and was a descendant of John Winchester, who settled in America before 1637. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Odo de Wincestre, which was dated 1086, in the Domesday Book of Hampshire, during the reign of King William 11, known as "Rufus", 1087 - 1100. 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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