This uncommon name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is found chiefly in the north eastern counties of England and in East Anglia. The surname is a variant form of the more familiar Railton, itself a locational surname deriving from some minor, unrecorded, or now "lost" place so called, believed to have been situated in East Anglia. An estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets are known to have disappeared in England since the 12th Century, owing to such natural disasters as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, and to the widespread practice of "clearing" rural lands to make sheep pastures from the 14th Century on. The placename is believed to be derived from the Old Norse personal name "Radulfr", meaning "counsel-wolf", shortened to Ralf and then Rawle or Raule in the early medieval period, with the Olde English "tun", enclosure, settlement. The surname from this source has a number of forms, ranging from Railton, Raylton and Ralton, to Relton, Rilton and Rhelton; it is also found in Scotland, where John Railtoun, burgess of Edinburgh in 1544, is the first of the name to be recorded. Examples of the name from Church Registers include: the christening of James Relton on November 24th 1647, at Sedburgh, Yorkshire, and the marriage of John Relton and Prescilla Quince, in Great Wigborough, Essex, on April 16th 1688. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Anth Raleton, which was dated February 1st 1537, christened at Spexhall, Suffolk, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Bluff King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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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