This unusual and long-established surname is of medieval English origin, and is a topographical name from residence by the spur of a hill or ridge. The derivation is from the Middle English "at", and "hoe" (Olde English pre 7th Century "hoh"), heel, projecting ridge of land, steep ridge. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Early examples of the surname include: Philip Atteho (Kent, 1273); William Attehow (Norfolk, 1286); and John ate How (Sussex, 1296). Thomas Attehow de Methwolde was vicar of Griston, Norfolk, in 1357, and one Francis Athow was noted in "A Visitation of Essex", dated 1541. In the modern idiom the name is variously spelt: Athow, Atthow, Athowe, Atthowe, Attoe and Atto(w), the latter two examples showing the loss of the internal "h". Similar surnames include: Atfield - at the field, and Atwell - at the well. Recordings of the name from London Church Registers include: the christening of John Atthow at St. Andrew's, Holborn, on January 17th 1571; the christening of William Atto at St. Giles' Cripplegate, on September 9th 1696; and the marriage of John Attoe to Ann Loyd at St. Pancras Old Church, on January 29th 1824. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger Atteho, which was dated 1236, in the "Feet of Fines of Sussex", 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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