This ancient English surname of ATTREE is a topographic name for a dweller by the stream by the low-lying land. The name is also spelt ATTRIE and ATTREY and was originally rendered in the Old English form GEHAEG, and the earliest of the name on record appears to be ATTERE (without surname) who was listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086. Thomas ATTERE, was recorded in Cambridge in the year 1272, and Walter at REGHE was documented in 1287 in County Surrey. Surnames derived from placenames are divided into two broad categories; topographic names and habitation names. Topographic names are derived from general descriptive references to someone who lived near a physical feature such as an oak tree, a hill, a stream or a church. Habitation names are derived from pre-existing names denoting towns, villages and farmsteads. Other classes of local names include those derived from the names of rivers, individual houses with signs on them, regions and whole countries. Later instances of the name include Mathew ATTE RY, who was recorded in 1389, County Essex, and Walter ATTREY of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. John A'TREE was recorded in the Sussex Wills in the year 1558. Before the 1066 Conquest names were rare in England, the few examples found were mainly adopted by those of the clergy or one who had taken holy orders. In 1086 the conquering Duke William of Normandy commanded the Domesday Book. He wanted to know what he had and who held it, and the Book describes Old English society under its new management in minute detail. It was then that surnames began to be taken for the purposes of tax-assessment. The nobles and the upper classes were first to realise the prestige of a second name, but it was not until the 15th century that most people had acquired a second name. In the Middle Ages the Herald (old French herault) was an officer whose duty it was to proclaim war or peace, carry challenges to battle and messages between sovereigns; nowadays war or peace is still proclaimed by the heralds, but their chief duty as court functionaries is to superintend state ceremonies, such as coronations, installations, and to grant arms. Edward III (1327-1377) appointed two heraldic kings-at-arms for south and north, England in 1340. The English College of Heralds was incorporated by Richard III in 1483-84.
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