This unusual and interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from either of the places called Knapton in Norfolk, or in East Yorkshire. The name derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century personal name "Cnapa", also used in its original meaning of boy, servant, plus "tun", settlement or enclosure. The placenames are first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Kanapatone" and "Chapetone" respectively. During the Middle Ages when it was increasingly common for people to migrate from their birthplace to seek work further afield, the custom developed that they would adopt the placename as a means of identification. The surname dates back to the late 13th Century (see below). Variations in the spelling of the name include Napton, Naptin, and Naptine. London Church Records list the marriages of William Napton to Elnor Malyn, on September 6th 1573 at St. Mary's, Aldernmanbury, and of Robert Napthine to Elizabeth Sale on June 12th 1803 at St. Andrew by the Wardrobe. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Estrilda de Cnapetone, which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of 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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