This ancient English surname of MEPHAM was a locational name meaning 'one who came from MEOPHAM' a place in County Kent. The name was originally rendered in the Old English form MEAPA, literally meaning the dweller at the settlement where moss grew. The earliest of the name on record appears to be MEPEHAM (without surname) who was listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086. Surnames derived from placenames are divided into two broad categories; topographic names and habitation names. Topographic names are derived from general descriptive references to someone who lived near a physical feature such as an oak tree, a hill, a stream or a church. Habitation names are derived from pre-existing names denoting towns, villages and farmsteads. Other classes of local names include those derived from the names of rivers, individual houses with signs on them, regions and whole countries. A later instance includes Edward MEPHAM of Yorkshire, who was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Before the 1066 Conquest names were rare in England, the few examples found were mainly adopted by those of the clergy or one who had taken holy orders. In 1086 the conquering Duke William of Normandy commanded the Domesday Book. He wanted to know what he had and who held it, and the Book describes Old English society under its new management in minute detail. It was then that surnames began to be taken for the purposes of tax-assessment. The nobles and the upper classes were first to realise the prestige of a second name, but it was not until the 15th century that most people had acquired a second name. In the Middle Ages the Herald (old French herault) was an officer whose duty it was to proclaim war or peace, carry challenges to battle and messages between sovereigns; nowadays war or peace is still proclaimed by the heralds, but their chief duty as court functionaries is to superintend state ceremonies, such as coronations, installations, and to grant arms. Edward III (1327-1377) appointed two heraldic kings-at-arms for south and north, Surroy and Norroy in 1340. The English College of Heralds was incorporated by Richard III in 1483-84.
The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. Granted to Stephen de MEPHAM, Archbishop of Canterbury (1328-33) during the reign of Edward I.
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