This East Anglian surname FLAX was a metonymic occupational name for someone who grew, sold or treated wax for weaving into linen cloth. The name was originally derived from the Old English word 'fleax' and came into England from Germany sometime in the wake of the Norman Invasion of 1066. The earliest of the name recorded in England is William Flexman who appears in 1279 in County Huntingdonshire. Nicholas Flaxman was recorded in 1332 in County Norfolk, and Cristina Flexwyf was mentioned in 1378. The rise of surnames, according to the accepted theory, was due to the Norman Conquest of 1066 when Old English personal-names were rapidly superseded by the new christian names introduced by the Normans. Of these, only a few were really popular and in the 12th century this scarcity of christian names led to the increasing use of surnames to distinguish the numerous individuals of the same name. Some Normans had hereditary surnames before they came to England, but there is evidence that surnames would have developed in England even had there been no Norman Conquest. The development of the feudal system made it essential that the king should know exactly what service each person owed. Payments to and by the exchequer required that debtors and creditors should be particularized, and it became official that each individual acquired exact identification. William Bancroft (flaxman) was listed in 1562, and he was also mentioned in the Preston Guild Rolls of 1582. Ralph Lever Flaxman of Chorley in Lancashire, appears in the Wills at Chester in 1660, and Jeremiah, son of Clousley Flaxman and Annavick his wife, was baptised at St. Michael, Cornhill, London in 1796. The name has many variant spellings which include Flexman, Flaxman, Flacks and Flex.
A notable member of the name was John Flaxman (1755-1826) the English sculptor born in York. He displayed an early talent for drawing, and in 1769 became a student at the Royal Acadamy. He worked for twelve years as a designer for Josiah Wedgwood. His sculptures include the monument to the Earl of Mansfield in Westminster Abbey, to the poet William Collins in Chichester Cathedral and to Lord Nelson in St. Paul's Cathedral, and his statues of Robert Burns and John Kemble in Westminster Abbey.
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