This very unusual surname recorded in the spellings of Cawte, Cawt, and the dialectals Caught and Caughte, is from the late Middle English period. It is however of French origins, the derivation being from the pre 10th century Old French 'curt' and the later 'court', themselves surnames in their own right. The name describes either a person who was resident by a 'court', such a building being originally a manor house, rather than the later association of a royal palace, or a small person, the word 'curt' also having that meaning. The early recording examples include Richard le Curte of Surrey in 1199, which was clearly a nickname, whilst Richard atte Curte of Sussex in 1296, and William de la Court, also of Sussex in the same year, were residential. Later examples of church recordings include William Caughte, a witness at All Hallows the Less, London on August 15th 1630, William Caught, christened at St. Dunstans, Stepney on March 19th 1636, and Edward Cawte, christened on September 21st 1623 at the church of St. Hallows the Less, London. On 3rd December 1662 Elizabeth Cawte married Gulielmus Braithwaite at St. Martins in the Field, Westminster. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Reginald Corte, which was dated 1181, in the pipe rolls of the county of Suffolk, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The church builder", 1154 - 1189. 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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