This notable and long established surname, widespread in Lancashire, is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is an occupational name for a maker of chests. The derivation is from the Middle English and Old French "arc", ark, chest, coffer, via the Latin "arcere", to shut in, enclose, with "wrytte", maker, craftsman. The following quotation from the medieval "Tale of a Usurer" reads, "When this corn to the Kniht was sold, He did it in an arc to hold, And opened this arc the third day". Job descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary. Early examples of the surname include: Thomas the Arkewrytte (Cheshire, 1286), and George Arkewright (Yorkshire, 1450). In the Richmond Wills Records of 1539, reference is made to the bequest of a sheep to one Henry Arkwright, and in 1683, a John Arkwright, of Broughton, Furness, was noted in Lancashire Wills held at Richmond. Probably the most famous bearer of the name was Sir Richard Arkwright (1732 - 1792), an engineer and cotton manufacturer, who in 1769 invented and erected a spinning-mill near Hockley. He was knighted in 1786, and became high sheriff of Derbyshire the following year. Arkwright Town near Chesterfield in Derbyshire, and Arkwright Street, Nottinghamshire, were named in his honour. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gilbert de Arkewright, 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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