The famous Victorian etymologist Canon Charles Bardsley writing in the year 1880 stated that this surname recorded in the spellings of Tanton, Tantum, Taynton, and Taunton, was English and locational. It originates either from the county town of Taunton, in Somerset, or from the hamlet called Tanton, near Stokesley, in North Yorkshire, or from the three villages called Taynton, in the counties of Gloucester, Oxford, and the former county of Bristol. We have no reason one hundred and twenty years later, to doubt the wisdom of his words. The derivation in all cases is from the Old English pre 7th century words "tame" meaning river, and "ton" a settlement or hamlet, and sometimes in the later medieval times, a town. The earliest recordings are usually to be found in the registers of the county of Somerset. These include Henry de Taynton of Oxford, and Guido de Tanton of Somerset in the Hundred Rolls which show the land ownership, for the year 1273, and also Archid de Tanton, in the famous record also of Somerset, and known as Kirby's Quest, in the same year. In the county of Norfolk, William de Tantum appears in the Hundred Rolls for that county, whilst later church recordings include Agnes, the daughter of Richard Tanton, christened at North Burton in Yorkshire on March 19th 1570, and John Taunton, of Reighton, also in Yorkshire, on March 7th 1723, and finally William Tantum who married Mary Ward at St Georges chapel, Mayfair, London, on July 1st 1753.
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