This distinguished surname has a number of possible origins. Firstly it may derive from either of two Germanic personal names introduced into England after the Norman Conquest of 1066; "Bernhard", composed of the elements "ber(n)" meaning bear, with "hard" brave, strong, or "Bernwald" meaning "bear-rule". It may also be a nickname for a quarrelsome or deceitful person, from the Middle English "bar(r)et(t)e" meaning trouble, strife, deception. A further possibility is that the name derives from the Old French "barette" meaning a cap or bonnet, and would have been a metonymic occupational name for a maker or seller of caps. The surname first appears in the mid 12th Century (see below). One Robert Barate appears in the Pipe Rolls of Nottinghamshire (1165) and Seman Barette is noted in the Pipe Rolls of Hampshire (1207). In the modern idiom the surname has many variant spellings ranging from Barrat, Barratt and Barritt to Barrott. A notable namebearer was Alfred Barratt (1844 - 1881), a philosophical writer, and secretary of the Oxford University Commission 1880. The family Coat of Arms is a silver shield with three lozenge buckles in bend gules, the Crest being a galley, her oars in sattire sable, flags gules. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Matthew Baret, which was dated 1150, in the "Social and Economic Documents of London", during the reign of King Stephen, known as "Count of Blois", 1135 - 1154. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.