Recorded in several spellings including Radband, Radbond, Radbone, Radbon and Rathbone, this surname has a very unusual origin. It is a medieval English descriptive nickname, although the translation is open to some argument. We know from experience that surnames which contain the element 'bon' in their earliest recordings, refer to a persons legs, be they long, short, fat or thin! Some ten percent of all English surnames have a personal nickname origin, and many are extremely Chaucerian, i.e. blunt and crude. In pre 7th century Olde English 'rhath' meant short or stubby, and therefore it is possible that this surname refers to one with short legs. The early Victorian etymologists when faced with surnames which had a meaning that might cause offence, (although they don't seem to have caused offence to the original name holders), would fudge the issue or ignore the name altogether, hopefully we have moved on a little. What is certain is that this name is one of the earliest on record, whilst in the 18th century the family were famous shipowners in Liverpool, and Basil Rathbone a famous film star of the 1940's. Early examples of the surname recording include Robert Rathebune of Cheshire in 1297, and Richard Radbun in the Subsidy Rolls of Yorkshire for 1327. Peter Rathbone appears in the Wills Register of Chester in 1592, whilst Thomas Radband was a witness at Bampton church, Oxon, on December 19th 1703. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Rathebune, which was dated 1275, in the pipe rolls of the County of Worcester, during the reign of King Edward 1, known as 'The hammer of the Scots', 1272 - 1307.
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