This long-established surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name either from Knowlton, a hamlet south west of Cranborne in Dorset, or from Knowlton, a parish near Sandwich in Kent, or from some "lost" medieval place of the same meaning. Both places were recorded as "Chenoltune" in the Domesday Book of 1086, and as "Cnolton" in the 1168 Pipe Rolls of the respective counties, and are so called from the Olde English pre 7th Century "cnoll", Middle English "knol", knoll, hillock, with the Olde English "tun", enclosure, settlement; hence, "settlement by a knoll". Locational surnames, such as this, were originally given to local landowners, and the lord of the manor, and especially as a means of identification to those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere. In the modern idiom the name has three spelling variations: Knolton, Knowlton and Knowlden, the latter being particularly associated with the famous church of St Martins in the Field, Westminster. In fact all early Knowlden recordings are found there suggesting that the name spelling is specific, or at least it was originally, to Westminster. These recordings include Ann Knowlden, christened at St Martins on February 18th 1561, and Aveldine Knowlden, christened at the same church on June 13th 1584. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Knolton, which was dated 1327, in "Early Medieval Records of Somerset", during the reign of King Edward 111, known as "The Father of the Navy", 1327 - 1377. 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.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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