The original spelling of the family name is believed to be Hyltun, meaning "an enclosure on a hill" - "Hyl" meaning a hill and the word "tun" thought to be of Norse origin, used originally to describe a fence, then an enclosure, a farm, and eventually it evolved into the word "town".
The earliest written record of the Helton/Hylton/Hilton name that survives occurs on a charter between Alexander de Helton and Bishop Hugh who made a convention with the Prior of Durham, England, relative to the chapel of Hylton, where Hylton Castle now stands in 1172 A.D.
With the invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066, the French language became the spoken and written language of the aristocracy and landed gentry. "Hyl" became "Hel" and "Tun" became "Ton" i.e."Hyltun" was spelt "Helton". Latin remained the written and spoken language of the church.
When King Richard II, the last of the Plantaganet kings was deposed in 1399 and King Henry IV (house of Lancaster and a cadet branch of the Plantaganet family) was crowned, his coronation ceremony was conducted in English for the first time. English became acknowledged as the written and spoken language of the country.
"Helton" became "Hylton".
The letter "y" was used instead of "i" until the beginning of the 17th century when Hylton started to be spelt "Hilton".
In the early days, the name was recorded by someone who could write, normally the local preacher, who often wrote down what he heard, and two branches of the same family are recorded as both Hylton and Hilton
Some branches of the family retained the "Helton" spelling, some the "Hylton" spelling and some adopted the "Hilton" spelling. All three spellings of the name can be seen on legal documents of the same family;
Read the fascinating story of the Hiltons of Hylton Castle in the book "The Hiltons of Hylton Castle" by E. W. Lamberton, which includes a complete family pedigee of the Hylton Castle family from 1172-1769 published by Family |Heritage International. Available by post Price US$30 plus US$10 P&P from; Family Heritage International, P.O. Box 90, The "Original" Washington, England, NE37 0YP. or order online from Dreamlane Limited at www.DreamlaneLimited.com
Arms of Hylton
Crest of Hylton Moses head horned or radiated, over argent, two barrs azure, quartered with six annulets (Vipont) and 3 swords (Stapleton) Supporters two lions rampant, azure
Ancestry of the families of
Helton, Hylton and Hilton
The first recorded mention of the Helton/Hylton/Hilton family (different spellings of the same family name) was at Hartlepool, England when a cross or a pix was presented to St Hilda's monastery in 924 A.D. bearing the arms of Hylton. The family are thought to be of Viking origin from near Oslo in Norway.
The first written record of the family is dated 1166 A.D. when Romanus, Miles de Helton, held three knight's fees, de veteri feoffamento, in the return of Bishop Hugh de Puiset; witness in the charter of the same Bishop of Durham to Anchtel Bolmer, s.d.. ("de Helton" - "of Helton" - the Anglo Norman spelling "of Hylton" at Monkwearmouth on the river Wear in North East England)
Alexander de Helton in 1172, is expressly named as a Baron of the Bishopric of Durham in charters of Bishop Hugh, when he made a convention with the Prior of Durham Priory relative to the chapel of Hilton. He was also witness to charters of Bishop Hugh, with Germanus the Prior, and John Archdeacon 1171-1174, and in the charter of Roger de Kibblesworth in 1180. Alexander married Agnes.
William de Hilton, Baron of the Bishopric who died in 1208, married Benita, daughter and heir of Germanus Tyson, a descendent of Gilbert Tyson, one of the knights who had accompanied William the Conqueror in 1066 A.D. who became Lord of Bridlington (Yorkshire) Malton (Yorkshire) and Alnwick (Northumberland).
The marriage of their son, Alexander de Hilton, son and heir, under age in 1208 A.D. Lord or Swine and Swinestead, near Hull put the Hilton family in control of all the major ports on the north east coast of England from Hull on the river Humber to the river Tweed and the border with Scotland.
In 1289, Johannes de Helton, brother of the Baron of the Bishoprick married Agnes in Burton in Warcop, near Appleby, County Westmoreland on the west side of England, and started the Westmoreland branch of the family, many of whose descendents settled in Durham and along the banks of the river Tees
Before the War of Scottish Independence, the Hilton family was one of the most powerful and influential families in the north of England.
In 1403, the Hilton family were involved in the Northern rebellion led by Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, and his son "Hotspur" for control of England between the River Trent and the Scottish Border i.e. middle England. The rebellion was crushed by King Henry IV. The heraldry on the front of Hylton Castle (built 1390-1410), which includes the Bishop of Durham's family arms and Washington coat of arms, denotes the northern families who were involved in the rebellion.
In 1543, the family was involved in another northern rebellion, the "Pilgrimage of Grace", in defense of the dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII
Sir Thomas Hilton was appointed Governor of Tynemouth Castle, a royal stronghold at the mouth of the river Tyne, under Mary Tudor, known as "Bloody Mary" for her persecution of the protestants.
In 1569, the family fought on the side of Queen Elizabeth I during the "Rising of the North", another northern rebellion, after which the 7th Earl of Northumberland was excecuted.
In 1602, the family lost control of their estates at Hylton through the "wardship" of Henry Hilton who was underage when his father died and , the young Baron of Hilton lived at Billinghurst in Sussex.
In 1621, William Hilton, a descendent of the Hiltons of Hylton Castle, from North Biddick Hall in the "Original" Washington, England sailed on the "Fortune" to rescue the Pilgrims at Plymouth. He stayed in America and became the founding father of what is today New Hampshire. His cousin Edward became one of the founding fathers of what is today the State of Maine USA.
They started the "Great Migration" to America, and Hilton family members are recorded in;
Virginia from 1619
New England from 1621
Bermuda from 1623
Nevis in the Caribbean from 1628
Maryland from 1650
Carolina from 1666
New York from 1686