This unusual surname is recorded in the spellings of Byatt, Byatte, Byott, Bygate, and possibly other forms as well. It derives from the Middle English locational phrase 'by the gate', which itself originates in the Olde English 'geat' or 'yate' or the Norse-Viking 'gata' - meaning a road or street. However it can be reasonably certain that by the thirteenth century when this name is first recorded, that 'gate'or 'yate' did mean gate, and probably the gate of a walled town. This would seem to be confirmed by the recording of Ralph Bytheyate of York in the 1379 Poll Tax rolls.There are a number of similar medieval surnames such as 'Bitheway'(by the way), 'Noakes' (from 'atten oaks') or the more popular 'Townsend' (at the end of the town), all of whom demonstrate that even the smallest or unlikliest feature could become a recognizeable surname in the small communities of the medieval period. Early examples of the surname include the recordings of Mary Byatt who married Richard Warner at Canterbury, Kent, in 1669, whilst in 1693 Elizabeth Byott was married in London to Thomas Wilson. The coat of arms was granted in Suffolk in 1730, the blazon being a paly of four gold and red, whilst a blue chief is charged with a gold garb between two silver escalops, the latter being the badge of the pilgrim. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Nicholas Byate, which was dated 1297, the accounts of the Duchy of Cornwall, during the reign of King Edward 1, known as 'The hammer of the Scots', 1272 - 1307. 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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