This interesting surname is a variant of the more widely found "Ap(p)leton", itself a topographical name for someone who lived by an apple orchard, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th Century "aeppel", apple, and "tun", enclosure, settlement. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognizable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. The form Napleton results ultimately from the Olde English phrase "aet thaem aeppeltune", at the orchard, which became "atten Appleton" in Middle English. The preposition "atten" was later mis-divided giving "atte nappleton", and the dropping of the "atte" leaves the form "nap(p)leton". One Thomas ate Napeltone, witness, was recorded in the 1317 Assize Court Rolls of Kent. Recordings from English Church Registers include: the christening of Barbara, daughter of Jacob Napleton, at Boughton Under Blean, Kent, on March 25th 1579, and the christening of Thomas, son of Thomas and Anne Napleton, at St. Martin Pomeroy, London, on March 7th 1623. A notable bearer of the name was John Napleton (1738 - 1817), a divine and educational reformer who became golden prebendary in Hereford Cathedral (1789). A Coat of Arms granted to the Napleton family depicts a red squirrel sejant, holding a sprig proper, on a gold shield. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hemeri de Lepeltone, which was dated circa 1182, in the "Red Book of Worcester", Worcestershire, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 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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