Leighton/Layton is a separate surname from Langton and the two names may not have much to do with each other in the UK. Indeed the grounds for writing this article in relation to England are rather thin. There may have been some drift between the two surnames but probably not that much. Drift is more likely to be from Langton to Leighton/Layton, from a more complex L-vowel –ngt-on to a simpler L-vowel-t-on. In the USA there looks to be a more crucial relationship between the two surnames with Leighton having an astonishing 1200+ modern day total in the rural state of Maine.
Leighton/Layton is a more numerous surname than Langton. The form of the name tends to be Leighton in the North of England and Scotland and Layton in the South of England although some Laytons do occur as far north as Yorkshire and Durham. The figures for the names in the 1881 census are as follows Leighton 3,221, Layton 2,379, Leyton 77, Laton 33, Latton less than 100, Latten 62, Leaton 136, Lattin 41. With the name Leighton about 15% of the total occurs in central Scotland around Aberdeen, Dundee, Fife, Stirling and Kincardine. The origin of the name is variously given on sites. The most likely to me, seems to be the form ‘leigh’ meaning wood but not necessarily spelt leigh. Certainly the distribution patterns for the name Leighton have a surprisingly rural appearance with peak concentrations being in Shropshire and North Lancashire/Cumberland. If indeed the main origin of Leighton is from leigh meaning wood we may have numerous sources of the name, since Leighton as a place name may simply refer to a hamlet in the wood. To a degree there is a contrast with the place name Langton since Langton is a ton which is lang or long, in other words sizable. A Leighton means a settlement in the wood which surely implies smallness of size. .
The Leighton/Layton distribution maps show a very scattered distribution as if the name has numerous origins. However again we may contrast with Langton. For Langton we can identify two dozen or so villages, yet for the more numerous Leighton/Layton it is difficult to identify many possible origins. There is East and West Layton and a Layton (Domesday Book - Latone/Latton/ Laston/Lastun and Latun)in North Yorkshire, a Layton in Durham and another near Blackpool in Lancashire and Leightons in Cheshire in the Wirral (Lestone) and Stockport (Laitone), Powys(Lestune) and in Shropshire (Lestone), Cambridgeshire (Lectone) and Bedfordshire (Lestone), Leaton (Letone) Shropshire and Latton (Latone)Wilts, and Latton (Lechetone) and Latton, (Lattuna) Essex. Yealand Conyers between Lancaster and Kendal used to be called Leighton (Ialant) Conyers. Given that we have allowed a variety of spellings this is not a very large total. One suspects that there are a number of smaller Leightons out there that are not big enough to be entered onto a map.
The earliest examples of the names are Richard de Layton 1292 in the pipe rolls of Cumberland and Randulf de Leighton with a coat of arms in 1330. The Scottish Leightons occur as Angus 203, Fife 62, Kincardineshire 39 Stirlingshire 30. With the exception of those who had moved down to the capital in London/Surrey Leighton has a largely northern distribution Yorkshire 350, Durham 310, Lancashire 283, London 216, Staffordshire 208, Northumberland 187, Shropshire 137, Surrey 134, Gloucestershire 120, Westmorland 90, Flintshire 76. The places with the highest concentration are Kendal in Westmorland with 45 at 0.2182 and Lancaster in Lancashire with 45 at 0.2182. This population may be derived from Leighton Conyers. If one considers the possibility of name drift then I might think that there may be some drift from Langton to Leighton in Northumberland, Staffordshire and Shropshire. But this is mere speculation based on an impression that perhaps there ought to be more Langtons there and we have got Leightons there. Drift from Leighton to Langton seems less likely. If it has occurred one would expect it in areas of high Langton prominence such as Wigan and York. .
The Layton version of the name is largely southern and eastern although a few northern counties do feature. London 443, York 231, Surrey 188, Worcestershire 157, Durham 151, Warwickshire 131, Norfolk 119 particularly Great Yarmouth, Cambridgeshire 113, Hampshire 104 particularly Portsea, Portsmouth, Lancashire 98, Radnorshire 48, Herefordshire 39, Huntingdonshire 27. Slightly disturbingly this distribution matches Langton distribution rather too well suggesting drift might be widespread. I don’t actually believe this to be the case but I might be wrong. .
LEYTON occurs in Staffordshire 11, Lanarkshire 10, London 10 Lancashire 9 durham 7 Monmouthshire 5 Worcestershire 5, Kent 4, surrey 3 Hampshire 2. Endangered species surnames such as LEATON, LATTEN, LATON, LATTON could be derived from either Langton or Leighton/Layton. Leaton occurs mainly in Northamptonshire, Surrey and Lincolnshire. Latten occurs in the east in Norfolk 23, Kent 11 and Suffolk 7. Lattin with 41 people occurs in Cumberland 25 mainly Renwick 15 and Sheffield Yorkshire with 12. For Laton/Latton see the article on the Longtons. So if you are an endangered species you must have originally derived from elsewhere and developed a spelling variant. So please read the DNA article. If you are a Leighton/Layton/Leyton we don’t think there has been too much drift between the two names in England but I could be wrong. If you have DNA results send them in.