The surname of SPENCE was from the office of custodian of the larder or provision-room, derived from the Old French word 'despense'. 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. The name was brought over from France in the wake of the Norman Conquest of 1066. Early records of the name in Scotland mention Roger dispensator who witnessed a charter by the bishop of Moray, granting the church of Deveth to Spyny, between 1202-22. Between 1296 and 1324, Thomas de Spensa witnessed a charter in favour of the Hospital of Soltre. Fetgus de la Spens held a tenement in Edinburgh in the year of 1392. John de Spens of Perth was bailie of Glendochirde in 1428. Thomas Spens was the Bishop of Aberdeen in the latter half of the fifteenth century. The name is also spelt Spens. This Scottish surname belonging to a branch of the Clan McDuff, was taken to Ulster by settlers from Scotland, most of whom established themselves in the east of the province. Over half the Spence families in Ireland are now in County Antrim and County Down. 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 draped and flowing garment worn over the armour.
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