The origin of the surname Spencer (also Spence, Spender, Spens, and Spenser) can be traced directly to Robert d'Abbetot who is listed as Robert le Dispenser, a tenant-in-chief of several counties, in the Domesday Book of 1086. Robert was possibly one of the Norman knights who fought alongside (or accompanied) William the Conqueror in the defeat of Harold II, King of England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. There is little doubt that both Robert and his brother Urse came to England at about the time of the Battle of Hastings. They were both beneficiaries of William over the years, and were given titles and substantial land and property-suggesting repayment for some earlier deeds. It is likely that Robert's first acknowledgment was his official appointment as Royal "Dispencier" sometimes expressed more grandly as "Royal Steward", "King's Steward" or "Lord Steward". As dispenser of provisions to the King and his household Robert was known and recorded as Robert le Despencer or, in its Latinised form, Robertus Dispensator. There is also the possibility that Robert held this official position before arriving in England.2 Thurstan was born.
- [S1426] , page 186 - . . . their history so far as I know it, has never been worked out, and their gedigree, remarkable for its antiquity, has served merely as a quarry for the pedigree-mongers who constructed for the noble house of Spencer a descent that carried back their line to medieval times . . . the real clue to the history of these hereditary Dispensers is found in their tenure by serjeanty of Great Rollright, Oxon. And the source on which we are dependent for tracing the pedigree of the family is the cartulary of Abbingdon Abbey.
- [S1439] le Despencer.