The surname of THORNHILL was an extensive parish six miles from Wakefield, County Yorkshire. There is also a Thornhill, a tithing in the parish of Stalbridge, County Dorset. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Early records of the name mention Walter de Thornhulle, County Somerset, during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). Wilelmus Thornhill was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. William Thornhill married Jane Terrill at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in 1661. The name is also spelt Thornell and Thornill. 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. The origin of badges and emblems, are traced to the earliest times, although, Heraldry, in fact, cannot be traced later than the 12th century, or at furthest the 11th century. At first armorial bearings were probably like surnames and assumed by each warrior at his free will and pleasure, his object being to distinguish himself from others. It has long been a matter of doubt when bearing Coats of Arms first became hereditary. It is known that in the reign of Henry V (1413-1422), a proclamation was issued, prohibiting the use of heraldic ensigns to all who could not show an original and valid right, except those 'who had borne arms at Agincourt'. The College of Arms (founded in 1483) is the Royal corporation of heralds who record proved pedigrees and grant armorial bearings.
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