This surname of DENSHAM is of two-fold origin. It was a topographic name for a dweller in a valley originally derived from the Old English word 'denu'. 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. It was also given as a nickname for someone thought to resemble a Dean, an ecclesiastical official who was the head of a chapter of canons in a cathedral, or perhaps more possibly an occupational name for a servant of the dean. The name was rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form 'decanus' (originally a leader of ten men), from 'decem'- ten. The name has travelled widely in many forms throughout Europe and various spellings include DENSON, DENSUM, DENSTON and DENSTEN. There were places of the name DENSTON, a township in the parish of Alverton, County Stafford and a parish in County Suffolk from where the original bearer may have taken his name. The earliest of the name on record appears to be WILLIAM DE DENSTON who was the rector of Strumpshaw, County Norfolk in l349 and CLEMENT DENSTON was documented in Norwich in l429. Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans. They themselves had not long before adopted them. It became, in course of time, a mark of gentler blood, and it was deemed a disgrace for gentlemen to have but one single name, as the meaner sort had. 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 flowing and draped garment worn over the armour.
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