This unusual and interesting name is of Old French origin, introduced into England after the Norman Conquest of 1066, and has two possible interpretations, each with its own distinct history and derivation. Firstly, Rutter may be an occupational surname for a player on the rote, which was an early medieval stringed instrument, a kind of fiddle. The derivation in this instance is from the Old French "roteor, roteeur, routeeur", rote-player, from "rote", the rote. Early examples of the surname from this source include Thomas le Rotour and Richard le Routour, both recorded in the Ministers' Accounts of the Earldom of Cornwall in 1297. Secondly, the surname may have been developed from a somewhat derogatory nickname, possibly for an unscrupulous person, derived from the Old French "rotier, routier", robber, highwayman, footpad. One Thomas le Roter is recorded in the Warwickshire Book of Fees for 1251, and John Rutter is listed in the Suffolk Subsidy Rolls of 1524. In 1618, a Ferriman Rutter, of Gloucestershire, appears in the Register of the University of Oxford. The Rutter Coat of Arms depicts three black stocks of trees eradicated on a gold shield. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Reginald Ruter, which was dated 1210, in the "Curia Regis Rolls of Cumberland", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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