The surname of LAWS was a locational name, dweller 'at the low' i.e. hill. Also a baptismal name 'son of Lawrence'. There are ten or more places in Scotland from which the name may have derived. It was a common surname in Glasgow in the 16th century. Early records of the name mention William de Lawe of county Northumberland, in 1273. Robertus del Lawe was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax in 1379. In 1428 Robert de Lawe had a safe conduct to pass through England to Scotland on his return from Spain. John Brewer and Agnes Lawes were married in London, in the year 1527. Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th until the 15th century. They had not been in use in England before the Invasion of William the Conqueror in 1066, when they were introduced into England by 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 a gentleman to have but one single name, as the meaner sort. It was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) that it became general practice for all people. A notable member of the name was John of Lauriston Law (1671-1729) the Scottish financier, born in Edinburgh, son of a goldsmith and banker. He was educated at the Royal High School, he became a successful gambler and speculator. He went to London to make his fortune, but in 1694 he was imprisoned for killing a man in a dual over a lady. In 1695 he escaped from prison and fled to the continent. In Amsterdam he made a study of the credit operations of the bank, and later settled in Genoa after eloping with the wife of a Frenchman. 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.
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