Recorded in the spellings of Iceton, Isten, Iston, and other forms, this is an English locational surname. Its origins are possibly from as far back as the Ancient British people who inhabited the land before the Roman Invasion of 55 a.d. The modern surname almost certainly originates from an area now known as "Iselstone", near Bamburgh, in Northumberland. Today the place is famous as the Iselstone Reef, but some seven hundred years ago it is believed to have been a village. The name means "the village (tun) by the river (Isel)", and it is in Northumberland that most surviving recordings are to be found. Locational surnames were usually given to people after they moved away from their original village and settled elsewhere. If as seems likely the village was overwhelmed by the sea, the villagers would have had an even greater motivation than usual to move, Some five thousand British surnames are believed to derive from "lost" villages and sites, of which the only public memory in the 20th century is usually the surviving surname. Examples of the recordings taken from authentic charters and church registers include Lyonell Iceton of Corbridge, Northumberland, on March 25th 1663, John Iston, of the village of Warden, Northumberland, on October 29th 1721, and Richard Istens, at the church of St Mary's, Rotherhithe, London, on August 20th 1802.
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