Recorded in several spellings including Shelton, Skeldon, Skelton and Shilton, this is an English locational surname. It originates from the names of villages mainly situated in Cumberland, Warwickshire and Yorkshire. The village names and subsequent surnames translate from the pre 7th Century Old English "scylf" as meaning a shelf or dry area of land surrounded by water meadows or fens, and "tun", an enclosure or settlement. The villages are first recorded in the 11th century when "Scilton" occurs in the 1086 Domesday Book for Yorkshire, whilst Sheldon appears in the Pipe Rolls of Warwickshire as 'Scheldon' in the year 1192. Locational surnames are "from" names. That is to say that they were usually given in England to people as easy identification, after they left their original homes and moved elsewhere. This could be the next village, but was often London. Spelling being at best rudimentary and local dialects very thick, lead to the development of 'sounds like' forms. Early recordings include Willelmus de Skelton in the Poll Tax rolls of Yorkshire in 1379, whilst John Skelton is recorded in the rolls known as the "Feet of fines" for the county of Essex in 1410. The surname has produced a number of prominent nameholders. These include Gilbert Sheldon (1598 - 1677), who was archbishop of Canterbury, during the reign of King Charles 11nd (1649 - 1685), and Sir John Skelton (1831 - 1897), who wrote under the pseudonym of "Shirley". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hamo de Skelton, which was dated 1160, in the Early Yorkshire Charter Lists, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189.
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