The surname of MATTHEWS was a baptismal name 'the son of Mathew'. The name was found in medieval registers throughout the country, and means 'gracious gift of Jehovah'. This given name was of biblical origin, ultimately from the Hebrew male font name Matityahu, recorded in the Greek New Testament in the form Matthias. It was an exceedingly popular font name during the 11th and 12th Centuries. 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. Early records of the name mention Mathiu, listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086. Matheu Robert of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379, and Willelmus Matheu appears in County Lancashire in 1440. Robert Mathewson and Joane Gorringe were married at St. Thomas the Apostle, London in 1559. Mattheus, Chancellor to Alexander 11 in Scotland in the year 1229. John Mathow was recorded in Balhoussy in 1614. Robert Mathow was Freeman of Glasgow in 1661. A notable member of the name was Alfred Edward Matthews (1869-1960). He was the English actor, born in Bridlington. He began his career in 1887, and played innumerable comedy roles from Charlie's Aunt to Quiet Weekend, and was still a popular favourite at 90. He published his autobiography in 1952. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. 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.
Arms registered in Scotland.
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