The surname of POVAH was a nickname 'the povey', one with the characteristics of an owl. It is in Shropshire and the Welsh borders that the name is so familiarly known. Fixed hereditary surnames began to be taken in Wales after the administrative union with England in the 16th century. At first, however, this development was confined to the classes who had dealings with the English bureaucracy, and the adoption of surnames did not become general until the 18th century and after. Early records of the name mention Richard Povah of Shocklach, Lancashire, listed in the Wills at Chester in 1545. Edward Povey of Lancashire, ibid. 1595. Randle Povah was mentioned in documents in Yorkshire in the year of 1605. The name spelt as 'Povah' is now extremely rare and Povey is mostly in use. Surnames having a derivation from nicknames form the broadest and most miscellaneous class of surnames, encompassing many different types of origin. The most typical classes refer adjectivally to the general physical aspect of the person concerned, or to his character. Many nicknames refer to a man's size or height, while others make reference to a favoured article of clothing or style of dress. Many surnames derived from the names of animals and birds. In the Middle Ages ideas were held about the characters of other living creatures, based on observation, and these associations were reflected and reinforced by large bodies of folk tales featuring animals behaving as humans. Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. They were not in use in England or in Scotland before the Norman Conquest, and were first found in the Domesday Book. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans. They themselves had not long before adopted them. It became, in course of time, a mark of gentler blood, and it was deemed a disgrace for gentlemen to have but one single name, as the meaner sort had. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the flowing and draped garment worn over the armour.
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