The surname of SLAYTER was an occupational name 'the slater', one whose trade it was to lay slate roofs of houses. The name was derived from the Old English word Sclat. Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the individual. At what period they became hereditary is a difficult problem. Many of the occupation names were descriptive and could be varied. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not usually pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today, and they would, in fact, turn their hand to any form of work that needed to be done, particularly in a large house or mansion, or on farms and smallholdings. In early documents, surnames often refer to the actual holder of an office, whether the church or state. Other spellings of the name include SLAGTER, SLAFTER, SLAYTOR, SCHLACHTER, SLAGTER and SLATER. Early records of the name mention Thomas Sclatere, 1255 County Worcestershire. Thomas Slater was documented in the year 1297 in County Yorkshire. The name was in Scotland at an early dated and Henry Sclater was concerned in a charge of breaking the peace in Aberdeen in 1399. John Sclater was the burgess of Arbroath in 1458, and John Sclater was slater for the palace and church of Dunkeld in 1514. Later instances of the name mention Elizabeth Sclater who was baptised at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in 1684. Thomas Slatter married Esther Bael, St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1807. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write, signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets in Britain were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coats of arms came into being, for the practical reason that men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.
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