The surname of VENISON was originally derived from the word VENN meaning 'the dweller at the fenn' from residence beside the meadows or low and marshy tract of land. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. There are 33 places of the name VENN in the counties of Devon and Somerset, the name generally being associated with this area. The earliest mention of the name VENISON appear on the tombestone of one John Vennison in St Andrews dated 1654 he is described as deacon of the fleshers incorporation, FLESHER being an early word for a butcher. Other Early records of the name mention Godwin de la Fenna, 1176, County Durham. Thomas atte Fenne was recorded in Wales in 1185, and Ralph de Fenne, 1190, London. John atte Venne, 1327, County Somerset. Simon Ven, alias Fen was documented in London in 1580. John Ven (draper) and Ellinor Clarke were married in London in the year 1594. Richard Venne of County Devon, registered at Oxford University in 1619. Ambrose Venn and Eleanor Nottingham were married at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in 1657.
The surnames all originally stemming from the name FENN the forms with the voiced initial consonant (V-) are characteristic of SW dialects. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write, signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets in Britain were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coats of arms came into being, for the practical reason that 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.
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