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. 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 noll". 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. In 1553, the birth of William, son of Richard Knowlton, was recorded in Kent, and on May 1st 1580, the birth of Stephen, son of Richard Knowlton and Elizabeth Contize, was recorded at Canterbury, Kent. On February 1st 1624, the christening of Mary, daughter of Matthewe and Dorcas Knowlton, took place at Chesham, Buckinghamshire. A notable bearer of the name was Thomas Knowlton (1692 - 1782), botanist and gardener who entered the service of Richard Boyle, third earl of Bulington in 1728, and discovered the "moor-ball", a species of fresh-water algae of the conferva family. 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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