The surname of WHITCHURCH was a locational name, which was derived from the Old English word 'WICHE' meaning the dweller at or by the dairy-farm. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Early records of the name mention Richard Wicher, 1176, Berkshire. William le Wyccewrich, was documented in County Somerset in the year 1327. Peter le Wycher of the County of Surrey was recorded in the year 1329. Johannes Wykir of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. The name is also spelt WITCHER and WHYCHER. 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. Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. They were not in use in England or in Scotland before the Norman Conquest, and were first found in the Domesday Book. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from 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 gentlemen to have but one single name, as the meaner sort had. It was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) it became general practice amongst all people. 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. Later instances of the name include Thomas Whitcher of County Devon who registered at Oxford University in the year 1581. Thomas Middleton and Anne Witcher were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1798. William Wicker and Elizabeth Vinning were married at the same church in 1807.
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