This interesting surname, of Anglo-Saxon origin, is a locational name from the places called Downton in Shropshire, Herefordshire and Wiltshire, or Dunton in Essex, Leicestershire, Norfolk and Warwickshire, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th Century "dun" meaning "hill", plus "tun", enclosure or settlement; hence "settlement by a hill, or settlement on a hill". The surname dates back to the late 13th Century (see below), and further recordings include: Isabella de Dunton (1273) in the Hundred Rolls of Shropshire, and Ralph de Dunton (1296) in the Subsidy Rolls of Sussex.Recordings from London Church Registers include: Nicholas Dounton, who was christened on September 29th 1558, in St. Antholin's, Budge Row; Mary Downeton, who married Hanry Wattes on November 25th 1593, in St. Gregory by St. Paul's; and Elizabeth Downton, who married Pollidore Apsie on January 27th 1611, also in St. Gregory by St. Paul. Among the notable namebearers in the "Dictionary of National Biography" is Nicholas Downton (died 1615), who was commander under the East India Company. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gilbert de Dunton, which was dated 1272, in "Testa de Neville, sive Liber Feodorum", Norfolk, 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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