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Add a New Surname | Register with Surname: Hunt



From FHM 158

What's in a name?: Hunt

The surname Hunt is England and Wales’s 83rd most popular, borne by some 66,000 individuals. It owes its popularity to the facts of its origin, being used to denote a huntsman, employed to look after stags, wild boar and the other creatures that our monarchs and great nobles enjoyed slaughtering.

          The term comes from the Old English ‘hunta’, meaning hunter, and early references to the surname include Humphrey le Hunte, who appears in 1203 in Feet of Fines for Sussex, and Ralph Hunte, whose name appears in the Yorkshire assizes for 1219.

          Interesting historical Hunts include Frederick Knight Hunt (1814–1854), a journalist and author in London, who worked for a while for Charles Dickens. He established The Medical Times in 1839 and was sub-editor of the Illustrated London News.

          George Ward Hunt (1825–1877) was a barrister who rose to become Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1868 and First Lord of the Admiralty (1874–1877) – although never Prime Minister. Most romantic, surely, was James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784–1859), the essayist and poet who was a passionate social reformer, prosecuted for an article criticising the army for flogging soldiers, and imprisoned for his views on the Prince Regent. He was a great friend of the poets Keats and Byron and wrote extensively himself.

          The arms shown here are blazoned Per pale Argent and Sable, a saltire counterchanged, with the crest A talbot sejant Sable, collared Or, lined Azure, the line tied to a halbert in pale of the second, headed of the last.

They are the arms of the Hunts of Boreatton Park, Baschurch, Shropshire, who are descended from Thomas Hunt. During the Commonwealth, Thomas served as Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury, and was also High Sheriff of Shropshire in 1656. After Charles II was restored in 1660, Thomas bought the estate of Boreatton, where his family remained.

His descendants included Agnes Hunt, born at Boreatton in 1867. When she was nine, she developed septicaemia, which spread from her infected blood to her hip, causing osteomyelitis. Rather than accept life as a cripple, however, she became an expert nurse and opened the world’s first open air orthopaedic hospital, Florence House, Baschurch.

The Talbot was the original English hunting dog – rather a favourite in English heraldry. Dogs were a symbol of fidelity and determination, and a lot of people just liked having their dogs in their coat of arms. In this instance, however, the hunting dog’s presence is of course symbolic of the surname, Hunt.  

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