The surname of PITCHFORK was an occupational name 'one who covers the ground with a pitch-fork'. A farmer or worker on the land. The name is also spelt Pitcher. Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the individual. At what period they became hereditary is a difficult problem. Many of the occupation names were descriptive and could be varied. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not usually pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today, and they would, in fact, turn their hand to any form of work that needed to be done, particularly in a large house or mansion, or on farms and smallholdings. In early documents, surnames often refer to the actual holder of an office, whether the church or state. Early records of the name mention Alan Pichard who was documented in the year 1273 in County Yorkshire. Walter Pichard, County Lancashire, ibid. John Picher was documented during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) and Thomas Pitcher of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Originally the coat of arms identified the wearer, either in battle or in tournaments. Completely covered in body and facial armour the knight could be spotted and known by the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped garment which enveloped him. Between the 11th and 15th centuries it became customary for surnames to be assumed in Europe, but were not commonplace in England or Scotland before the Norman Conquest of 1066. They are to be found in the Domesday Book of 1086. Those of gentler blood assumed surnames at this time, but it was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) that second names became general practice for all people. Later instances of the name mention Barnaby, son of John Pitchfort, who was baptised at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in the year 1601, and William Nocke and Elizabeth Pitchfork were married at County Salop (no church recorded) in the year 1608. John Pitcher and Catherine Shannon who were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in the year 1759.
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