The surname of MOWBRAY was derived from the Old French name 'Monbrai' a name which was brought to England in the wake of the Norman Conquest of 1066. There is also a place Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, from where the original bearer may have taken his name. This place was held by Roger de Moubray circa 1125. Local surnames, by far the largest group, derived from a place name where the man held land or from the place from which he had come, or where he actually lived. These local surnames were originally preceded by a preposition such as "de", "atte", "by" or "in". The names may derive from a manor held, from working in a religious dwelling or from literally living by a wood or marsh or by a stream. Other records of the name mention Walter Mombray who was the Mayor of Bristol in 1221 and Roger de Munbray, County Yorkshire, was documented during the reign of Edward I (1272-1307). 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. A later instance of the name mentions Elizabeth Mummery who was buried at Canterbury Cathedral, in the year 1660. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another.
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