The surname BURRIS was derived from the Old English word 'burhus' meaning the dweller at the bower-house, or one who is employed there. Local surnames, by far the largest group, derived from a place name where the man held land or from the place from which he had come, or where he actually lived. These local surnames were originally preceded by a preposition such as "de", "atte", "by" or "in". The names may derive from a manor held, from working in a religious dwelling or from literally living by a wood or marsh or by a stream. The acquisition of surnames in Europe and England, during the last eight hundred years has been affected by many factors, including social class and social structure, naming practices in cultures and traditions. On the whole the richer and more powerful classes tended to acquire surnames earlier than the working class or the poor, while surnames were quicker to catch on in urban areas than in more sparsely populated rural areas. The bulk of surnames in England were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries. The process started earlier and continued in place names into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the 11th century people did not have surnames, whereas by the 15th century they did.
Bourhouse, during the reign of Edward IV (1461-1483) was a manor at Waltham Abbey. Early records of the name also include John de Burhus, 1440, Sheffield. Margaret Burrous was documented in 1564.
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. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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