Lytton Study Group - English Letton surname/arms/motto

The Lytton Study Group
Letton in England - The Surname/Arms/Crest/Motto

An article by Che Letton

The English surname Letton is local in origin, belonging to that large category of surnames derived from the name of the place where an original bearer dwelt or where he once held land. The surname thus originally signified simply "dweller in or person from Letton", this being the name of a small parish one mile from the town of Shipdam in County Norfolk(*).

The place name itself would appear to be derived from a combination of the personal surname Lett, a popular medieval diminutive denoting "the son of Lettice", with the Anglo-Saxon tern "tun", meaning "an enclosure". The latter term, incidentally, was the forerunner or out modern term "town".

Early records of the surname indicate its local origin through their inclusion of the preposition "de" (of). Thus, in the Rotuli Hundredorum (Hundred Rolls), drawn up in Norfolk in 1273, we find one Simon de Leton. In 1337 the Feet of Fines for the same county tell us that one William de Letton was rector of Buckenham Parva, and that "John, Son of Richard de Letton, for 4 marks and a gold ring, gave lands in Heringshae".

The arms below are those borne by the Lettons of Herefordshire. The surname is quite rare in England toady, but it is interesting to note that it was actually among the first names to become established in the New World.

A list of passengers on the ship Elizabeth of London, bound for New England in April, 1635, included twenty three year old Thomas Lettyne.

* There are also two villages of the same name Near Hay-On-Wye, Heredforshire.


     Argent two bars between three bears' heads erased gules.


     The background colour, argent or white, is associated in heraldry
     with Peace and Sincerity. The bas symbolise the ancient Military
     Belt and Girdle of Honour, and the bear is an emblem of Strength
     and Defence of one's Kindred.


     A dexter hand fesseways couped gules holding up a cross
     Crosslet fitchee azure.


     Occula peto


     I seek hidden things.

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