This long-established surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from the parish and village of Altham on the river Henburn in North East Lancashire. Recorded variously as "Elvetham", circa 1150 in the "History of Whalley", Lancashire, and as "Alvetham" in the 1242 Book of Fees, the place was so called from the Olde English pre 7th Century "elfetu, aelfetu", swans, and "ham(m)", water-meadow, or flat low-lying meadow on a stream; hence, "water-meadow frequented by swans". Locational surnames, such as this, were originally given to local landowners, and the lord of the manor, and especially as a means of identification to those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere.The surname development has included: Symon de Aluetham (the Chartulary of Whalley Abbey, dated 1304), and John Altham, noted in the 1372 "Pleadings and Depositions in the Duchy Court of Lancashire". On November 26th 1594, Elizabeth Altham was christened at Clitheroe, Lancashire. A notable bearer of the name was Sir James Altham, double reader at Gray's inn and serjeant-at-law, 1603; baron of the exchequer and knighted, 1606. The family Coat of Arms is a shield divided per paly of six ermine and azure on a red chief, a gold lion passant guardant, the Crest being a demi-lion holding a black ship's rudder. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Adam de Eluetham, which was dated 1246, witness in the "Assize Court Rolls of Lancashire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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