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Recorded as Clayton, and occasionally dialectals such as Claiton, Cleaton, Cleiton, and others, this is a medieval English surname. It is locational from various places now called Clayton in the counties of Lancashire, Staffordshire, Sussex and the West Riding of Yorkshire. The derivation is from the pre 7th Century "clorg-tun, meaning the village on the clay. The earliest spelling is in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Claitone and Claitune, and it appears in its present form in Lancashire in the pipe rolls of 1263. Locational surnames were usually acquired by a local landowner, or especially by former inhabitants of a place who had moved to another area, and were thereafter best identified by the name of their birthplace. Spelling over the centuries being at best erratic and local dialects very thick, often lead to the creation of "sounds like" spellings. Amongst the interesting namebearers listed in the Dictionary of National Biography is Charlotte Clayton, later Lady Sundon, and a lady of the bedchamber to Queen Caroline of Brunswick in 1714. She obtained great influence over the German speaking queen, and controlled court patronage. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Jordan de Claiton. This was dated 1191, in the Charter Rolls of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Richard 1st, known as "Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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