There are numerous family stories, or myths, about the Langtons. Some are repeated more often than others, and often in colourful variation. Some are plain bad work by somebody who was at best being lazy, or worse, making wild guesses or giving word to internal fantasy.
Some are easy to debunk, and some take a huge amount of work. Others still you cannot prove or disprove, such remains the seemingly conflicting evidence.
This article is about stating which Langton stories are incorrect. The evidence behind these statements can be found elsewhere on the site, in articles or in notes/sources on the family trees, so if you are interested in the evidence then go look, and if you cannot find it, then get in contact and we will gladly explain how we reached our conclusions.
As you might imagine, with Stephen Langton being perhaps the most famous Langton, there are many rumours about his life, the most common of which, regards his origin. Which family he belonged to, and where he was born. Many Langtons have been brought up with the story that they descend from Stephen Langton, but the truth is that very few of us are. As there are more than a dozen Langton surname origins, you have about a 1 in 15 chance. It might be argued that the chances are less than that seen as though he was a cleric, his brother Simon was also, and his third brother Walter is known to have died childless. But the reality is that Simon and Stephen had secret children, as was common for clerics in this day and so there are descendents. Furthermore, we have the DNA to prove it, and so a dna test will show you for sure whether or not you are a descendant of Stephen, or his brother Simon.
So what exactly are the myths that are wrong then? Well, firstly he was not born on Friday Street in Essex. That is the most obviously false as there is no Langton village nearby.
second is the arguement that he came from Leicestershire, because Walter Langton his brother was from West Langton in Leicestershire and was the Bishop of Lichfield. Yes, Stephen had a brother called Walter, and yes there was a Bishop of the same name from West Langton, Leicestershire, but they are different people, living at different times.
Stephen was a member of the Langton family of Langton by Spilsby then, surely? This was claimed by Dr Johnson, friend of Bennet Langton, and they even had old manuscripts to prove it. But actually this is false too. The documents do not point to Langton by Spilsby, in lincolnshire, but rather Langton by Horncastle, also in Lincolnshire, and it is actually this less known village that was Stephen's origin.
Not true. The simple fact is that the words that make up Langton are Anglo-Saxon. Lang (meaning long) and ton (meaning settlement). So the name is not norman.
Ironically though, there is a twist. Place-names surnames were adopted by the families that held the land in the period shortly after the conquest, so almost all Langtons took their name from Langton villages that they held of the King. These people were not Anglo-Saxon. They were Norman, and from other groups who fought with the Normans to conquer Briton, including the Flemish. So, if you are a Langton, then you almost certainly fought with William the conqueror in 1066 against the native English. Effectively there were about a dozen different families who came over at this time who were given land for their part in the conquest, and so almost all of the Langton families, though unrelated, fought side-by-side in 1066.
This statement is made dispite the obvious flaw that the two people have the same name. Who calls their children the same thing? Well, actually no-one, but the source of this rumour nevertheless claims that it was common at this period.
It was not, and is not, for obvious reasons. They werent brothers, they werent related, and there is no evidence that Bishop Langton displayed a shield with three chevronells, as per John Langton of Newton-le-willows, Lancashire.
Not true, as proven by DNA (see the DNA Project). This family came from Lenton, South Lincolnshire and had very prominent ancestors associated with Sempringham Abbey.
There are many many examples of this claim, some old, some new. Being familiar with some Langtons from over here and some Langtons from over there, they simply join them together into one big happy Langton family! Right?
Wrong! All these claims are erroneous.
It is important to understand that our Langton name comes from the village, not the other way round. Mr Langton does not move somewhere, settle a new village and say, "I will call this place Langton!". You will get someone calling their house "Langton house", or "Langton hall", for example, yes, but not a whole village, or town.
The name comes from the village that has been there alot longer than our Langton ancestors. This is another important point, because place-name surnames were taken circa 1100AD, and the villages had been there for a while, before the Norman conquest in 1066. In 1100AD when the name was taken from the village and used as a surname, it was taken by the owner who lived on the village estate, and being just after the Norman conquest, these people were Normans. That's right, our Langton ancestors were Normans (or those who fought in the conquest with them - this includes a few other groups, such as the Flemish)
Following the conquest, William (the conqueror) dished out land to his knights. "Henry, I've got a nice place for you up in Lincolnshire, its called Langton and its close to a place called Spilsby who im giving to your mate Thomas. Its nice there, the landscape is a bit flat, but its good for crops." Then William turns to another of his Knights, Robert, and says "Robert, me old chum, thanks for your help the other day. I liked the way you hacked down that Anglo-Saxon with your sword, he didnt even see it coming. Now, about that place i promised you. I've got a nice place up in Leicestershire, called West Langton. Nice place. Hope you like it. But listen, just West Langton okay, because im giving East Langton to someone else. Now, off you go before I change my mind and give you Langton up in Northumberland."
So, Mr Langton from Langton by Spilsby in Lincolnshire, was (and still is) completely unrelated to Mr Langton from down the road in Langton by Horncastle in Lincolnshire. Again, these two Mr Langtons, unrelated, were also compltely unrelated to Mr Langton from West Langton in Leicestershire.
So next time you read a source in a book, or on the internet, or wherever and it joins these different families up, do not believe it. All links bettween one Langton and another should be proven by evidence before being believed.
Uh, no. This is just a wild guess that someone made in a book because they saw that there was a William Langton, dean of Yorkshire Cathedral about the right time to be a alive, but a little bit older than Bishop Walter. There is no evidence linking this two, and in fact we know that Dean William of Yorkshire was a descendant of the Langton by Horncastle family. He was a relation, and perhaps an uncle to Bishop John of Chichester, who was also Lord Chancellor of England, and who also belonged to the Langton by Horncastle family.
This is what the book in question says:
The life of Bishop Walter Langton, was strongly influenced by his family, Father William Langton (his Uncle) and mentor, Bishop Robert Burnell
Robert Burnell was an English bishop who served as Lord Chancellor of England in the years 1274–1292. A native of Shropshire, he served as a royal official before switching to the service of the future King Edward I of England....
Could the Robert Burnell bit be true? Yes, perhaps, but we havent looked into this.