This interesting surname is a Northern English locational surname, recorded in the spellings of Skelton and Skilton. It is derived from the names of villages situated in Cumberland and Yorkshire. The village and subsequent surname translates from the pre 7th Century Old English "scylf" meaning a shelf or dry area of land probably originally surrounded by water meadows or fens, and "tun", an enclosure or settlement. The village names are first recorded in the 11th century when "Scilton" occurs in the 1086 Domesday Book for Yorkshire Later the rolls known as the "Yorkshire charters" of 1160 give the place name as "Sheltone", not far from its modern form. As a surname "Skelton" had emerged by the middle of the 12th Century (see below). Other 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 John Skelton (1460 - 1529), poet and naturalist of Norfolk, 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. 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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