The strange case of Lenton

By David Langton

25 April 2011

When I first viewed at a Langton population map and considered both the distribution and the overall population figure I was struck by two things; Firstly, that whilst the Lincolnshire source for the name Langton was surrounded by neighbouring counties with high Langton scores, in the case of the Leicestershire Langton source, there was a strange absence of Langtons in the counties to the south of Leicestershire. It was as if there was a cliff edge. I wondered how it could possibly be that you could go straight from the highest concentration of Langtons in the country in Leicestershire, to nothing when you crossed the county boundary. Secondly, I wondered given the number of Langton villages that had spawned the name Langton in Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire, how was it that the total overall Langton population was comparatively low. Given that there are at least 5 origins for Langton, how is it, the UK population is only 3,479? It was as if some of us had mysteriously gone missing. By comparison, for instance, Lenton which only has two Lenton villages has a population of 2,047 and Langdon largely confined to the rural south west has a population of 2,359, surely there should be a far greater numbers of Langtons.

Now here is a very strange thing if you go to the National Trust Distribution site through the Links menu and compare the high level blue areas for Langton and Lenton (1881 census) and accept that both are high in Leicester the two areas of distribution fit exactly like a jig saw puzzle. How very strange, but that is just the beginning of the strangeness. Before we get any stranger, let us look at some of the possible origins for the name Lenton. There seem to be only two Lenton villages, both in the English Midlands. One is in the southern part of Lincolnshire about 8 miles south east of Grantham, the other Lenton which used to have a priory has now been engulfed by Nottingham and is two miles from the city centre. If either of these two villages gave rise to the name Lenton they should be in the centre of the Lenton population. What we find is that the Lincolnshire one is a bit out on a limb and only at level 4 the second weakest level whereas the Nottingham one is level 5 the weakest level. The Nottingham one is about 30 miles from the area of highest concentration and seems to take its name from the local river, the Leen, hence Leen-ton, then Lenton. It has good road connections with Leicester, but it would seem very strange if all Lentons decided to shoot down the road to populate Leicester rather than take the five minute walk into Nottingham. The Lincolnshire Lenton is forty miles away from the main population concentration for the surname. It is a village truly on the road to nowhere and confusingly near a similarly named village Laughton. The village has no local River Leen to be derived from, so it is a -ton with a first part "Len". I's derivation must therefore be either an anglo saxon personal name like Len or an anglo saxon word like Len. It is possible that that word was originally Lang (Long). It is a possibility with Lenton and Laughton that either or both these villages were previously named Langton, although I have seen no evidence of this. The Lincolnshire Lenton has poor road connections with Leicester. Neither of the two Lenton villages seem to be good candidates for the origin of the surname Lenton.

Let us turn for a moment to the origin of the surname Langton in Leicestershire. Langton comes, we would claim from the group of Langton villages about fifteen miles to the south east of Leicester. If they really are the source of the surname we would expect a high reading in the neighbourhood. In fact the highest Langton reading in the country occurs in Leicester St Margaret where in 1881 there were 70 Langtons with a concentration of .0886. Indeed Leicestershire has the highest county population with 183 Langtons at .0565. There can be little doubt that it was these Langton villages that created the surname Langton in the region. Perhaps we could use the same technique to flush out the origin of the name Lenton. Where is the highest concentration of Lentons in the entire world? The answer from the 1881 census is that there is one place that is a clear winner with 66 Lentons at .0836, almost identical figures to the Langton winner at Leicester St Margarets. So where is this Lenton winner? It is a place called Leicester St Margarets. This in turn begs the question is there a place called Lenton nearby? Well, no! Is there then a place nearby with a similar sounding name? Well, yes-Langton. It is possible the origin of the Lenton name is not the 30-40 mile distant Lenton villages but the nearby Langton villages. Lenton is just the local Midlands nasal pronunciation of Langton. Lentons are really Langtons. But does the rest of the evidence bear this out?

Let us look first of all at the highest population occurrences of Lenton in the counties. The clear winner is Warwickshire an adjoining county to the South West of Leicestershire with 270 Lentons. It is near Leicester but even further away from the two Lenton villages. In Second place there is Northamptonshire with 186 people the adjoining county to the south east of Leicestershire. Northamptonshire is no nearer the two Lenton villages which both lie north west of Leicester. The third highest total is in Leicestershire itself with 113 which clearly favours a Leicestershire origin. If the first three all favour Leicestershire, the fourth favours the Lincolnshire Lenton, for Lincolnshire itself ranks next with 113. Fifth is London with 104, Sixth is the giant county of Yorkshire with 86 and a low frequency, it's slight influence favours the Nottinghamshire Lenton village, seventh is Huntingdon with 75 which is equidistant from the Langtons and the Lincolnshire Lenton. Eighth is Lancashire with 67, ninth is Cambridgeshire with 63 which is further afield as is Bedfordshire with 54. With the first three having a combined clout of 598 favouring Langton in Leicestershire, it is a very clear result. The next test is that of counties by frequency of the Lenton name per million of county population. Equidistant Huntingdonshire is the winner with .1293, Next is Northamptonshire with .0677,lending its support to the Langton villages. Third is Leicestershire itself with .0242, More support for Langton is given by fourth, Warwickshire with .0366, fifth is Bedfordshire, sixth is Cambridgeshire, a poor seventh with .0242 is Lincolnshire with such a poor result it virtually eliminates its own Lenton village in Lincolnshire. Once again the Langton villages in Leicestershire are the clear winners to be the name origin for the Lenton surname.

Let us turn from the spreading counties to the more exact areas of cities, towns, parishes and villages. We have already seen that the highest number of Lentons occurred in Leicester St Margaret with 66 but perhaps the others will support a Lenton village origin. Second is Coventry Holy Trinity to the south west of Leicester with 65 clearly supporting the Langton hypothesis. Next is Broughton in Northamptonshire with 48 Lentons. Broughton in fact is just over the county boundary and only 15 miles from the Langton villages. Fourth is Coventry St Michael with 31 supporting the Langtons, fifth is Bedworth with 27 about 25 miles from the Langtons and in the opposite direction to the Lenton villages. Sixth is Northampton itself favouring Langton with 20, seventh is Leamington with 20 favouring Langton. Eighth is Gretton in Northamptonshire with 20 a mere ten miles from Langton. Finally really out on a limb is Stow Bardolf in Norfolk with 19 that favours Lenton in Lincolnshire. If anything the results are even more conclusive.

Finally there is the measure of frequency. This can be difficult because one tiny village with a single family can produce a high but only slightly relevant result. Laxton in Northamptonshire 10 miles from Langton wins with 6.0, Broughton is next with 5.467, third is a Somerset village miles from anywhere, Stocklinch Ottersey 5.0847 (6 people), fourth is Knossington with 4.1237 ten miles north of Langton, Fifth is Smeeton with 3.599 a village next door to Langton, sixth is Bury in Huntingdonshire with 3.4384 favouring no one, seventh is Gretton Northamptonshire with 2.3952, close by the Langton villages, Eighth is Leverton Lincolnshire with 2.3569 favouring the Lincolnshire Lenton, ninth is the similarly named Somerset village Stocklinch Magdalen, their mammoth total of 2 residents constitute 2.19802 per population, tenth is Glatton in Huntingdonshire with 1.7921. Again the results overwhelmingly favour the Langtons as the origin of the Lenton name. Especially significant are the little clusters in Laxton, Knossington, Smeeton and Gretton all situated within 10 miles of the Langtons. There are no similar results for Lenton, Lincs and Lenton, Nottingham is nowhere to be seen.

The surname Lenton is simply a pronunciation variant of Langton that has come to be spelt differently, in reality it is the same name. The two totals need to be combined in Leicester St Margarets 136 Langton/Lentons at .1724 and Leicestershire 325 at .1003. So should we now ask, given that the Langton villages have overwhelming support to be the originator of the Lenton name, do they account for all the Lentons or could one of the Lenton villages have produced a few people bearing the name. One can never rule out the minimal population argument but it certainly doesn't look like it. Lenton in Nottingham has virtually no support from anywhere. Lenton in Lincolnshire is in a fourth grade concentration, does have the Lincolnshire coastal village of Leverton for support 30 miles away and Lincolnshire does have the fourth highest county total of 113. Its neighbour to the north the giant county of Yorkshire is 6th most populous albeit with a low density. Neighbours to the south Huntindonshire with 75 Lentons and Cambridgeshire with 63 do at least register. However the criticisms that can be levelled are very telling. Why are there no village clusters nearby, and why isn't Lenton itself a cluster? Why is the concentration in Lincolnshire so low at .0242. Further given that both Lincolnshire and Yorkshire have their own Langton villages and surnames couldn't some of the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire totals be accounted for by drift from local Langton surnames in those counties? The Lincolnshire Lenton argument is simply weak with the figures too small. Before moving on to other matters it should be noted that the Lenton name also occurs in very small numbers as Lenten particularly in far flung places like Cornwall and Aberdeen.

How can we be sure that the above argument which seems very convincing is actually true. Well, it's up to you. You can prove or disprove it one way or the other. By comparing Lenton and Lenten DNA with Leicestershire Langton DNA they should be the same. What we need is you Lentons sitting at ease in Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, London, Yorkshire, Huntingdonshire (I thought they'd abolished you), Lancashire, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire to read the DNA project article and send in your results. This also applies to Chester, Dudley, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Peterborough, Stevenage, Milton Keynes, Stevenage, Enfield, Luton, St Albans and a smattering of you along the south coast. Please don't leave it to everyone else. Did the Lentons have any prominence? Arms were registered on the 21st March 1584 for Lenton of county Buckinghamshire and Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire (Aldwincle near Kettering) Azure a bend ermine between 2 dolphins embowed and bendways or (gold). The crest a tigers head erased azure tufted, armed, collared and rimmed or. The same arms were again registered in Ireland (Fun. Ent. Ulsters Office) in 1623 ascribed to Edward Lenton, of Kilmainham Provost Marshal of Ireland. Lenton Priory in Nottingham has a shield of Quarterly or and azure over all a cross calvary on three grieces or steps sable fimbriated on the first. The name Lenthorne which might be a form of Lenton has Gyronny of 8 or and sable an eagle displayed argent. I don't know how this article makes you feel if you are a Lenton, you might feel outraged by the idea that Lenton and Langton are the same name and that ultimately you're descended from a long line of Langtons or you may rejoice that you now inherit all the Langton stuff and you may be wondering could you be descended from Bishop Walter Langton 53rd richest man of all time and perhaps you're wondering, did he leave a will? Yes he did. Walter is interesting because although he called himself Langton and his sons were called Langton he said he was the son of Ralph Peverell. The two families were either really just one family or closely related. Perhaps you didn't know about Lenton Priory in Nottingham. I've no idea if it stands if it's become a parish church or if it's a ruin. It had benefactors who put in a church window using the colours azure and or (blue and gold) the same colours used in the Lenton shield. The benefactor put in his own coat of arms-vairy az and or. The name of the benefactor was Peverell, who almost certainly pronounced Lenton as in the priory and Langton as in his own family/family connections, in just about the same way. In all probability this was why the Peverells were favouring the priory because it carried their family name, it was one name. Well Mr Lenton you probably want to thank me for all this effort and work in clarifying your identity and expanding your existing heritage, just look at the DNA project and send in your Y DNA results because that is Langton blood flowing in your veins.

Short note on Laxton: Whereas Lenton doesn't seem to derive from the Lenton villages as the surname distribution matches Langton not Lenton, In the case of Laxton, the distribution matches the Laxton villages, it is a separate surname. In the USA Laxton gained many other non Laxton adherants. You British Laxtons few in number as you are, are indeed the original inhabitants. We are still interested in your DNA, but we are expecting it to be separate and distinct from Langton. Short Note on Somerset Lentons: You guys really are out on a limb it may be you Stocklinch guys are East Midlands Lentons but it may be that your name has been corrupted from the highly localised Somerset name Loxton not to be confused with Laxton.