The surname of GAMBON was derived from the Old English word GAMEN - a nickname given to one who excelled at sport. The name is also spelt GAMMON. It was noted in 1380 that the prize offered in a foot race was 'the prize ofte his gamen that two men rennen a space for a priis, and he that cometh first to his ende shall have he gamen that is sett, whether it be spere (spear) or gleves (gloves). Early records of the name mention Richard Gamen who was recorded in the year 1251 in County Essex and Roger John Game was recorded in 1309 in County Bedfordshire. Edward Games of County Somerset, was documented during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) Alicia del Gamme of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Many factors contributed to the establishment of a surname system. For generations after the Norman Conquest of 1066 a very few dynasts and magnates passed on hereditary surnames, but the main of the population, with a wide choice of first-names out of Celtic, Old English, Norman and Latin, avoided ambiguity without the need for a second name. As society became more stabilized, there was property to leave in wills, the towns and villages grew and the labels that had served to distinguish a handful of folk in a friendly village were not adequate for a teeming slum where perhaps most of the householders were engaged in the same monotonous trade, so not even their occupations could distinguish them, and some first names were gaining a tiresome popularity, especially Thomas after 1170. The hereditary principle in surnames gained currency first in the South, and the poorer folk were slower to apply it. By the 14th century however, most of the population had acquired a second name. Later instances of the name mention John Game and Mary Nunn who were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1750. Between the 11th and 15th centuries it became customary for surnames to be assumed in Europe, but they were not common place in England before the Norman Conquest. Those of nobler blood were quick to take an added surname, as they realised it added prestige and practical advantage to their status.
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