This surname of NORCOMBE was of the locational group of surnames 'from Northcombe' in Bovey Tracey or in Bratton Clovelly, County Devon. The name was originally rendered in the Old English form NORCUMB, literally meaning the dweller at the north side of the valley. The earliest of the name on record appears to be NORCUMBE (without surname) who was documented in Devon in 1185. NORTHCOMBE (without surname) appears in Devon in 1203. Most of the place-names that yield surnames are usually of small communities, villages, hamlets, some so insignificant that they are now lost to the map. A place-name, it is reasonable to suppose, was a useful surname only when a man moved from his place of origin to elsewhere, and his new neighbours bestowed it, or he himself adopted it. Stephen de NORTHCUMB was recorded in Devon in the year 1230. Most of the European surnames were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name. Edwin NORTHCOMBE was recorded in County Somerset, during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way. The arms depicted here have been quartered with NORTH and COMBE. The lion depicted in the arms is the noblest of all wild beasts which is made to be the emblem of strength and valour, and is on that account the most frequently borne in Coat-Armour.
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