This English surname WOFFORD was from the Old English given name WULFGEAT, composed of the elements WULF (wolf) and GEAT. The name has numerous variant spellings which include WOOLFIT, WOFFIT, WOOLVETT, ULLYETT, ULLET, ULLYAT and ULIOT, the latter spellings are mainly found in Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Early records of the name mention WLUIT (without surname) who was listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086, and Goduuin ULFGETI appears in Suffolk in 1095. Wulfiet Mus was recorded in 1176 in County Northumberland, and Margaria Woliet is in record in Essex in 1351. Many factors contributed to the establishment of a surname system. For generations after the Norman Conquest of 1066 a very few dynasts and magnates passed on hereditary surnames, but the main of the population, with a wide choice of first-names out of Celtic, Old English, Norman and Latin, avoided ambiguity without the need for a second name. As society became more stabilized, there was property to leave in wills, the towns and villages grew and the labels that had served to distinguish a handful of folk in a friendly village were not adequate for a teeming slum where perhaps most of the householders were engaged in the same monotonous trade, so not even their occupations could distinguish them, and some first names were gaining a tiresome popularity, especially Thomas after 1170. The hereditary principle in surnames gained currency first in the South, and the poorer folk were slower to apply it. By the 14th century however, most of the population had acquired a second name. A notable member of the name was Sir Donald WOLFIT (1902-68) the English actor-manager, born in Newark-on-Trent. He began his stage career in 1920, and made his first London appearance in 1924 in 'The Wandering Jew'. With his own company formed in 1937, he played Shakespeare in the provinces, and during World War I he instituted the first London season of 'lunch-time Shakespeare'. 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.
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