This interesting surname found in the spellings of Alton and Alten, is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is locational deriving from one of the various places called Alton in England, although the preponderance of early recordings from the midlands region, suggests that most nameholders are from there. The Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire villages however are first recorded as early as 825 a.d. in the spelling of 'Aweltun'. This translates as 'the settlement' (tun) by the spring' (waella). However it seems that the Alton in Derbyshire and Alton in Leicestershire derive from 'eald tun' meaning 'the old house' whilst the places called Alton in Staffordshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire are named from the Old English personal name 'Aelfa', which was a baptismal name of endearment and means literally 'the elf'! Locational surnames originated either from the Lord of the Manor of the particular place, or more usually from former tenants who moved away to another area or perhaps even the next village, and thenceforth were identified as John de Alton, or whatever, this gentleman being recorded in Lincoln in 1219. Other recordings include Peter de Alton in the 1325 Calender of Inquistions for Nottingham and Thomas Alton in the 1508 Coroners Rolls also for Nottingham. The coat of arms was originally granted in Nottinghamshire, the blazon being a gold field charged with a silver lion passant on a green chief. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Simon de Altun, which was dated circa 1141 - 1154, The Lincolnshire Antiquities Register, during the reign of King Stephen, known as 'The 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.
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