This is an English medieval locational surname. It derives from the ancient city of Exeter, formerly known as 'The jewel in the West'. According to the famous Victorian etymologist Canon Charles Bardsley writing in the year 1880 he says (quote) 'that it would be strange if Exeter was not represented in our directories. It can only be represented by Hexter, as Exeter does not exist as a surname'. Canon Bardsley however was wrong on this occasion. He did not have the benefit of computerised research which has discovered many things about surnames not known to the Victorians. This particular name is recorded in several spellings including Exeter, the short form as Exter, and the dialectal Hexter, which in the 20th century seems to be the most popular spelling. The place name means 'The Fort on the River Exe', and in that respect is of Roman origins. The surname is recorded as early as the year 1273 when John de Excestre is recorded in the 'Hundred Rolls' of the county of Wiltshire. Later examples include Elizabeth Exeter, who married Edward Haylock at the church of St Mary Magdalene, on August 6th 1634, James Exter, who married Elizabeth Redford at St James church, Dukes Place, and Thomas Hexter, a witness at Holy trinity, Paddington, all city of London, on November 3rd 1869.
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