Langston Origins Revisited

In a previous article I explored the difficulties of the origins of the surname Langston which whilst appearing to be a place name, occurs in areas well away from the actual geographical occurrences of settlements and features named Langstone. In the case of the eastern distribution of the surname Langston I suggested that given the density of the name in Buckinghamshire the origin might be villages Stone and Bishops Stone. I suggested the possibility that Stone might have been a long stone set up as an Anglo Saxon assembly point. I lamented however that I was unaware of a single reference to the place as "Long" Stone or of any record that it actually was an assembly point. I noted further, that it left the more thinly occurring western distribution around Worcester unexplained. I have now noted the existence of a pair of villages in Worcestershire named Stone and Shenstone. Despite this happy discovery I remain uneasy about the conjectural nature of the theory and the break with the expectation that a place name such as Langston should derive from a village called Langston or similar. I have decided therefore to take a more traditional and less controversial approach albeit less brilliant.

In the 1881 Census the Langston name occurred around London (174) in an anticlockwise ring Bedfordshire (9), Buckinghamshire (145), Oxfordshire (20), Berkshire (19), Surrey (79), Kent (26). The western distribution occurs in a clockwise ring in the English Midlands around Worcestershire (78), with Staffordshire (60), Warwickshire (88), Gloucestershire (22) and Herefordshire (9). It should be noted that Warwickshire and Gloucestershire of the western group neighbour Oxfordshire of the Eastern grouping. Finally it should be noted that there is a population outlier of Lancashire (28) to the north of the western group. The figure of 843 is comparatively modest for an independent surname contrasting with Langton 2,376 and Langdon 2,328. Moreover Langston demonstrates an unusually high concentration in London for a non London name with 20% compared to Langton 14% and Langdon 13%. Either a disproportionately high number of Langstons moved to London or there has been an element of surname drift once within London of similar names becoming Langston. When growth rates in London between 1881 and the present are taken into account for similar names Langston comes out on top; Langston growth 81%, Linton 48%, Langton 46%, Lenton 37%, Laughton 7%, Langdon 1%. Again either the Langstons bred faster/had greater proportional influx than anyone else or there was capture of weaker surnames by Langston. Further I have already demonstrated in the articles on the USA that Langston enjoyed spectacular success in capturing other surnames in the USA. Given these evidences of the growth of the surname Langston by absorbing other surnames we can back project that this process was already occurring prior to 1881 and that Langston was in fact an even smaller surname that grew by capturing other names. .

Within the Eastern concentration the first prominent Langston family that occurs is in Caversfield and Bucknell in Oxfordshire where John Langston died shortly before 1435. Shortly afterwards one of the men married into the Danvers family. The question arises given this early recording, is there a village called Langston or Langstone nearby, that might be the origin of the name. The next village is actually called Launton but in earlier times was called Langeton. Quite clearly this is a strong candidate for the origin of the name Langston in the Eastern area with the surname drifting towards Langston under the pull we have already seen the surname was able to exert. The Langton surname occurs in the area before Langston occurs. Richard Langton was prior of Chetwode in 1386. Eight shillings was paid for the soul of Agnes De Langeton in 1316. Elizabeth daughter of the Langston-Danvers union was recorded as Langton when she died in 1450. A later Danvers marriage was to a Thomas Langton rector of Culworth just outside Oxfordshire 1529-46. Shortly afterwards another Thomas Langton rector of Leckhampstead in Buckinghamshire is referred to in contemporary records as both Langton and Langston. It is quite possible that the village of Launton in Oxfordshire gave rise to both the Langston and Langton surnames in the area. This unique southern origin of Langton may also help to explain the surprisingly high frequency of the Langton surname in neighbouring Berkshire. The multiplication of the Langston name was helped when one Langston had twelve sons.

Whilst this Langeton-Langston origin looks promising for the eastern concentration of Langstons and helpfully explains the high numbers of Langtons in Berkshire it does little to explain the western Langstons living in the Midlands. The highest concentration of Langstons in the western area is in fact in Warwickshire not Worcestershire. Is there anywhere called Langston in Warwickshire? No but in neighbouring Leicestershire there are the villages of Langton that gave rise to the Langton surname. We now know that to the south east of these Langton villages the name got corrupted to Lenton. It is feasible that to the south and west in Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire it got corrupted to Langston. Langtons were prominent in the city of Worcester between 1367-1487 when possibly they picked the wrong side in the Wars of the Roses. Afterwards they just seem to disappear in Worcestershire, quite possibly because they drifted into Langstons. Ann daughter of Anthony Langton of Littleton near Evesham married the son of the Mayor of London. However the Worcestershire visitation has him and his wider family recorded as Langstons. Clearly in both eastern and western areas there was confusion between the two names. Given the presence of nearby Langton villages, the absence of places called Langston, the drift towards Langston and the earlier presence of Langtons in both areas it looks as if Langston didn't have a separate origin at all but instead like Lenton represents a name change from Langton. The original Langstons were indeed Langtons as some have claimed. Do all Langstons then carry Langton DNA? The answer is in Britain and Australia largely yes, in USA largely no. In the USA the Langstons are victims of their own success, their super absorbent name has swelled their numbers to near 20,000 and that involves the DNA of a lot of other families. If you are a Langston and particularly if you are from England or Australia we'd love to receive your DNA results. Please read the Langton DNA project article.

Finally do coats of arms reveal anything? There is only one Langstone shield an obvious copy of the Lincolnshire Langton shield being quartered blue and white with a gold bend. This suggests that whatever Langstone who devised this shield either understood Langton to be the same or a similar name. The other shields are all Langstons, the Caversfield Langston shield is almost identical to the Yorkshire Langton shield only it has hinds rather than lions. Again this suggests the Langston originator of the shield viewed the name as similar or the same as Langton. A Worcestershire Langton shield with fleur de lys and white palets is a copy of the late Middlesex Langton shield. The main western shield is however not a copy. It occurs in 6 versions in Sedgeberrow and Malvern, Worcestershire and Sarsden Oxfordshire. It consists of 2 or 3 roses in chief, a chevron and a dolphin in the base. Given that the existence of six variants suggests antiquity, one is tempted to wonder if in fact this is the shield of Langton of Worcester.