Butt is a name which since the 17th Century had been very popular in Devonshire and Cornwall and has been spelled variously as Butts, Butson and Butting, the latter two meaning "son of But". It is a topographical name, derived from the Middle English "but", meaning mark for archery, target or goal, ultimately from the Old French "but", aim, target. Hence, Butt has come to describe an individual who lived near the archery butts, or perhaps who was himself an archer. 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. Interesting namebearer, recorded in the "Dictionary of National Biography", include the vicar, George Butt (1741 - 1795), who was appointed Chaplain to King George 111 in 1783, and Sir Charles Parker Butt (1830 - 1892), who in 1883 was appointed Justice of the High Court and Knighted. Recordings from Devonshire Church Registers include: the christening of William Butt on March 29th 1544, in South Tawton, and the marriage of Mary Butt and Henry Conant on May 2nd 1610, at St. Mary's in Offery. A Coat of Arms granted to a family of the name is a silver shield, two red torteaux in chief and a red mullet in base, a blue chief nebulee, the Crest being a lion holding in the dexter paw a spear broken. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter But, which was dated 1114 - 1130, in the "Court Rolls of Ramsey", Essex, during the reign of King Henry 1, known as "The Lion of Justice", 1100 - 1135. 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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