This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is locational from the numerous places so called in all parts of England, for example: Bedfordshire, recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Cliftone"; in Cheshire, recorded as "Clistune" in the Domesday Book; Derbyshire, recorded as "Cliptune" in the Domesday Book; and North Yorkshire, recorded as "Clifton", also in the Domesday Book, to name only a few. They all share the same meaning and derivation, namely from the Olde English pre 7th Century "clif", meaning a gentle slope, or more usually a riverbank, with "tun", an enclosure or settlement. Recordings from Oxfordshire Church Registers include: the marriage of Margery Clyffton and Thomas Molle at Cropredy, in 1546; the marriage of John Clefton and Elinor Mechell in 1591, at Great Milton; and the marriage of Richard Clifton and Mary Hedges in 1556, at Waterberry. An early settler in the New World Colonies was Thomas Clifton, aged 25 yrs., who sailed from London on the "Primrose", bound for Virginia in July 1635. A Coat of Arms granted to a family of the name is a black shield with a silver lion rampant langued and armed red within a silver bordure, charged with eight trefoils, slipped black. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gilbert de Clifton, which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Yorkshire", 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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