This English surname HOLTHAM is of local origin, being of the group of surnames based on the place where the original bearer lived, or held land. In this instance, the name is simply derived from the place-name Holton, the name of towns in Lincolnshire, Oxford and Somerset. The name was from the Old English word HOLTUME, and literally meant the dweller by the wood or forest, from residence nearby. Early records of the name mention HOUTUNE (without surname) who was listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086. Houtuna (without surname) was recorded in County Lancashire in the year 1202. Hugo de Holte, was documented in the year 1200 in the County of Lancashire. Richard de Holte of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379 and Alicia de Holttum, was recorded in the same document. 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. 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. Most of the European surnames were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name.
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