The surname of WILLATS and its variant Willet, was a baptismal name meaning the descendant of Little Will, a pet form of William (resolution, helmet); dweller near the Willett (stream), a river in Somerset; one who came from Willet, a village in County Somerset. Early records of the name mention Willot de Foxwist in 1286. Stephen Wilotes of the County of Worcestershire in 1327. John Wilot of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Originally the coat of arms identified the wearer, either in battle or in tournaments. Completely covered in body and facial armour the knight could be spotted and known by the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped garment which enveloped him. Between the 11th and 15th centuries it became customary for surnames to be assumed in Europe, but were not commonplace in England or Scotland before the Norman Conquest of 1066. They are to be found in the Domesday Book of 1086. Those of gentler blood assumed surnames at this time, but it was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) that second names became general practice for all people. A later instance of the name mention John Avery and Elizabeth Willett were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1764. 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 notable member of the name was William Willett (1856-1915) the English builder born in Farnham. He is chiefly remembered for his campaign of 'daylight saving'. A Bill was promoted in parliament in 1908, but opposition was strong and the measure was not adopted until a year after his death.
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