The Alliston / Elliston family of East Anglia and Essex

This site provides some information about the origins and history of the surname.

This website gives some early evidence of where the Suffolk/Essex version of the surname Alliston and related names originate.
I start with a list of factual information about the surname then go on to suggest as to how the name came about in the North Essex and South West Suffolk area.

Per pale gules and vert overall an eagle displayed argent

First recorded for Maur de Eylstone Collins Roll 1296 Edward I

Collins Roll Part 3

Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford was also on the same Roll

Later recorded in various branches of the Alliston/Elliston/Elystone family around the Castle Hedingham area in the 1500/1600′s. Family members, Yeoman and stewards for the D’Veres ( Earl Of Oxford ). William Alston of Saxham Hall may have been the first Alliston at Castle Hedingham.

From the book The Brights of Suffolk By Jonathan Brown Bright, Bright (family.) Saxham Hall in Newton was for ages the estate and residence of the Alstons who apparently descended from William Alston of Stinstead in Essex in the time of Edward I.

Alston Coat of Arms

Born by Hugh Alston in the time of Edward III
In 1415 Hugh Austyn or Allstyn fought under Richard De Vere , Earl of Oxford.

Immotus – unmoved


Derived from the Old English elements æðel “noble” and stan “stone”. This was the name of an early king of England. The name was rarely used after the Norman conquest.

The first recorded use as a surname in the Suffolk area was a feet of fines entry in 1224 when John son of Adam De Alliston sold 30 Acres. It could be that the land had been in the family some time.

The general consensus amongst historians that names ending with ton were place derived names. Ton is derived from old English for town or farmstead. There was a place called Alston in Suffolk near Trimley St Martin, although originally in the Domesday Book it was called Alteinestuna, it is in the hundred of Colne. Alston Hall still exists.It consisted of an Alliston Church and Alliston street, now long gone but the cemetry was found in the 1700s. The church was consolidated to Trimley St Martin in 1362. This is about the time when English replaced French as the official language of England. Alteines is a Gallic word meaning stone of fire and is associated with sorcery.

Stansfeld had two Tenants in Chief in 1086, Richard son of Count Gilbert (De Clares) and The Abbey of Bury St Edmunds.

From Domesday Book and The Law by Robin Fleming. Cambridge University Press.
ii 100b (0-33) Annexations (invasiones) against the King; Stambourne: TRE Aethelstan, a freeman, and twelve other freemen held forty acres of land in Stambourne. They still have it. Does annexation against the King mean they held the land without the Kings consent, in which case are they resisting the invasion?

Another hypothesis is that Stambourne was originally called Alestanburna (Alestans stream) after Alestan who held a manor there, it was called Stanburn in early feet of fines. Alestan was Lord in 1066 and still held tenancy in 1088 from Hamo. The family of Alestan seemed to have stayed in the manor until the time of Henry III ( Stambourne Website ). It was at this time that the surname Alliston appears at Stansfield not far from Stambourne and if Stambourne was derived from Alestan then it seems quite plausible that Stansfield was as well. Members of the family may have moved when their manor reverted to the King or they may already have had an interest in Stansfield. A Feet of Fines is recorded as a dispute over land as it was the only way a legal record could be kept of the land transfer at the time. One of those involved in the ‘dispute’ pays a fine to the Crown to have the Crown resolve the ‘dispute’. In this case it is John son of Adam who has asked the Crown ( Henry III) to settle the ‘dispute’ over the land at Stansfeld and hence the land sale is recorded. Both the Plaintiff and the Defendent get a copy of the Fine and later a copy was also sent to the Crown.

An Alestan is mentioned as Lord of the Manor In Ham London in 1066. If you look at the place names in Newham ( which is the currrent name for that location) there is a road called Alestan Beck, beck being an old Germanic word for stream. It adjoins Stansfeld road and is not far from Sudbury road. The fact that the Peverel family also later held both Stambourne in North Essex and the Ham manor near London suggests they were part of the same Estate. The place names seem to confirm this and link it to Alestan, with Alliston also being associated with Stansfeld. Alestan Beck road was created in the 1900s but where a stream used to flow, so originally it probably did refer to the stream. Could it possibly of been the boundary for Alestans manor?

A Map of Alestans Manor in Newham can be found here

From the Calendar of Royal Documents Henry I
91. Writ of H I, ordering Aubrey de Vere, sheriff of Essex, to convene the shire court concerning the dispute between the abp. of Canterbury and the abbot of Westminster concerning the land of Alestan [in West Ham]; to cause a verdict to be delivered on who has the better title, and to put him lawfully in seisin. Westminster [1129, ante Nov.]

Cal: Regesta II, no. 1539.

Date: Attested by Nigel d’Aubigny, who d. in Normandy in Nov. 1129 (Charters of the Honour of Mowbray, xviii and n. 2). Aubrey de Vere is recorded in office in 1130, and succeeded his predecessor after 1128 (Sheriffs, 43).

Note: Alestan held a manor of eight hides, thirty acres in West Ham TRE, and this was given by W I to Rannulf Peverel and Robert Gernon (DB II, ff. 64, 72b).
Westminster Abbey seem to have acquired the land by 1144. see the book Westminster Abbey and Its People, C.1050-c.1216 By Emma Mason

Robert de Vere (c. 1164 – before 25 October 1221) had a daughter Eleanor, who married Sir Ralph Gernon of Easthorpe, Essex.

In Richard I’sts time a Daughter of Alstan was recorded in Dunwich. (Feet of Fines: 20 Belesent daughter of Alstan v. Reginald son of Robert in Dunwioh )

Another interesting Domesday entry is Hunworth in Norfolk. Alestan is the main Lord there both before and after 1066.
His tenants are Walter Giffard ( brother in Law of Richard De Clare ) and Alan Rufus a strong supporter of King William. Also King William himself is also a Lord at Hunworth. All the lords apart from Alestan can be shown to have very close relationships to King William. And for Alestan to have King William as a close neighbour if not tenant suggests a relationship.

The last firstname Alstan mentioned in the feet of Fines is in the time of King John when Geoffrey son of Alstan bought land from William Son of Alstan at Westhall, Suffolk.

Another early record appears to be that of William Alisun, which was dated circa 1248 ‘Documents of the Abbey of Bec’, Buckinghamshire, during the reign of King Henry III ‘the Frenchman’, 1216-1272.

A Feet of Fines in the time of Henry III; Thomas Alleston Clerk and Others vs. John Castre of London and Margaret his wife in Cantebrigg ( Cambridge ).

Another early listing in the time of Edward II:
25 William Alston of Ixnyng and Margaret his wife v. Henry Alston of
Ixnyng in Ixnyng (Exning near Newmarket)

De Alliston is mentioned only once in the Feet of Fines so it is not a place with a large population.


The Pedigree of Alliston or Elliston of Essex and Kent, Sec.” in the
Heeald and Genealogist, vol. v. 1868. According to Domesday Book certain
lands in Black Notley were, in the time of Edward the Confessor, held by a freeman
named Alestan. This Alestan possessed lands in several other parishes of Essex,
but was deprived of them all at the Conquest, except a portion in Notley and Stam-
bourne. I do not know whether it was this same Alestan or another, who was a
Thane, and had large possessions in Norfolk. The name Alestan is obviously the
Saxon original of our Aleston, Aliston, or Alyston, with or without a double 1, and
with or without a final e. As in the case of the Saxon Athelstan or Ethelstan, and
the German Adelstein or Edelstein, the initial letter was written indifferently A or
E, sometimes, also, Ae. Alestan, or Elestan, indeed appears to be merely a con-
tracted form of Athelstan, Aethelstan, or Ethelstan; for example, ” Elystan ” or
” Ethelystan ” Glodridd, the name of the Welsh Prince who was godson of Athel-
stan the Saxon.

Another early reference is 1261 to 1262 Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford:

An interesting story also comes about in this time when Hugo (Hugh) Alston helped Hamilton escape to Scotland. Hamilton otherwise known as Walter Fitz Gilbert had killed Lord Spencer in A duel in about 1313. Hugo Alston had been Walters second in the dual and the pair had to flee the country. In fleeing they came across two sawyers and Walter Fitz Gerald swapped clothes with one of them. Hugo then put on Walters cloak and hat and when the Kings men came looking they gave chase to Hugo Alston thinking he was Walter Fitz Gerald. Hugo escaped and rejoined Walter fleeing to Scotland where they put themselves at the service of one Robert de Bruce. They fought in the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 aiding Sterling Castle. The last Medieval Earl Of Clare died in this battle, Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester. The consequence of this battle was that it led to the independence of Scotland. King Robert bestowed the lands of Cordsow, later named Cadzow, the present town of Hamilton, upon Gilbert, who had changed his name to Hambden and later still to Hamilton. Walter then granted Thinacre Mill, being part of the lands, to Alston, as a reward for his services. Thinacre Mill is still in existance today. Website here

From book The Manors of Suffolk, which is scanned hence EUiston (Elliston) :


Barrington, Elliston, to dau. Mary = Mills. Argent’s, Stutton, Samford.

„ Sir John, 1375, to Thos., 1562. Barrington’s, Westhall,

In the Little Domesday book ( the name Alestan (Alstan/ Alestanus/Alstanus) appears numerous times in the East Anglia region. If one person he appears to be a Thegn that managed to survive the Norman Conquest and keep some lands. Alestan commended himself to Alwin of Thetford.

Much of Alestans land was lost to Roger Bigot a Norman who later became Earl of Norfolk.

Alstan/Alestan also managed to gain land after the conquest:

Little Snarehill is just East of Thetford and his land was 1 league long and half a league wide which is about 3 miles by a mile and a half.

This is where King Edmund is supposed to have lost his life in a battle with the Danes. He was tied to a tree and shot with arrows for not renouncing his christian faith. He was coronated at Bures St Mary very close to the ancestral home of the Allistons. For some centuries afterwards he was a significant part of East Anglian and English life. The nunnery was founded by Uvius the first Abbot of St Edmunds Bury, in the reign of Canute in remembrance of the persons who fell at Snareshill near the town in the sanguinary conflict between King Edmunds armyand the Danish forces (Excursions in the county of Norfolk by Thomas Cromwell volume II).

Alstan is listed as being Lord of Chignall near Chelmsford and not that far from Braintree and Stisted in 1086 after the conquest.

As mentioned he also held the land at Stambourne and Toppesfield not far from Stansfield and Castle Hedingham.

More details on this Alstan can be seen on the Stambourne wesbite It is also suggested that it is the same Alestan that held the substantial estate of West Ham, this is because the estates of West Ham and Stambourne are granted to the same people which indicates that they are connected. Henry III granted them both to the Peverel’s. Originally Aethelstan was granted the land at West Ham by King Edgar in 958. This could be either Aethelstan Ealdorman The Bishop or Aethelstan Ealdorman of East Anglia. British History Website. This Aethelstan had a brother called Eadric who had a son called Aethelweard the historian, he claimed to be the Grandsons Grandson of Aethelred I elder brother to Alfred the Great. This would make Aethelstan also descended from Aethelred and would explain his high standing in society at that time. Aethelstans family had fostered Edgar as a child when his mother died. Edgar married Ælfthryth, the wife of Aethelstans eldest son, Athelwold. Some say Edgar had Athelwold killed and it looks like the circumstances were strange as Aethelwolds lands were granted to his brother Aethelwine rather than Aethelwolds sons Aethelnoth and Leofric who founded St Neotts Cambridgeshire. This would have included West Ham. Land succession by custom went to the eldest male in the family although wills could override this. Intersting is the fact that St Neotts was later re-founded by the De Clares. More on St Neott, supposedly a family member, can be found here.

An Alestan was Lord at Hollington near Hastings in 1066 and this was a joint Lordship with Godwin. Alestan holds no other land in the area. This is interesting because it is very close to Battle St Martin where William and King Harold fought. One of the reasons King Harold engaged William was because he had his Manor there. King Harold was also Earl of East Anglia. Godwin was the name of Harolds father. It is possible that the Alestan at Hollington is the same Alestan at Stambourne. Some historians claim that King Harold descended from Eadric and hence Aethelred I. This would mean that it is possible that Alestan And King Harold were second or third cousins.

More detail on the Domesday holdings can be found here

Another name that some claim may be the source of the Alliston surname is Alli which was a rare name in Anglo Saxon England. In the Domesday Book Alli was believed to be a bodyguard to King Edward. He held lands mainly in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. An Ali/Ala is he also recorded in Suffolk where he held land in Bulcamp Ali and Blundeston, both on the East coast of Suffolk. The land is held from Manni, a Thegn. Manni also held land at Cowlinge near Sudbury and land in East Suffolk. Neither hold land in 1086.

A reference to the related name Eylestone can be found in documents about Stamford castle, Lincolnshire. In the late 1300′s the castle was given to Edward Langley and in 1397 he complained of a long list of affronts to his liberties by the burgesses:

He complained that whereas ` he and all other lords….from time immemorial, had held their courts and leets, view of frankpledge, markets, fairs, fines for the breach of the assize of bread and ale, assay of weights and measures, punishment of hostellers, regrators, forestallers and other delinquents, yet Adam de Eyleston of Grantham….. and John Broun of Stamford and others had prevented his stewards and ministers holding their courts at these places and have usurped the jurisdiction and by heavy fines compelled certain of the tenants either to obey them or abjure the said places, besides breaking his closes and houses there, entering and hunting in his warren there, felling his trees, digging in his several soil, fishing in his several fisheries and carrying away fish, earth, stone, sand, trees, hares, rabbits, pheasants and partridges.

The family history becomes a bit more certain in the 1500′s when the parish records were started,

A good place to start is the Castle Hedingham Records in the Essex County website where William Alliston first appears, some say his father John was from Saxham hall in Newton near Little Cornard and Bures St Mary. This may be a record from the Alston family though. Sometimes the names are interchangeable just like the Saxon name Alstan and Alestan

The book

History of the Bye Family gives some early information.

The folllowing is taken from A genealogical and heraldic history of the extinct and dormant baronetcies of England:

The family of Alston is upon record so early as the reign of Edward I. when ” William Ai.ston, of
Stisted, in Essex, for want of warranty of Brocks-croft, in Stisted, did grant and confirm to John de Carpenter, of Naylinghurst, so much of the better land in Stisted, except his mansion-house there. In the time of Edward III Hugh Alston bore for arms, * asure, ten stars, or, four, three, two, one ; ‘ which was long before coat armour was granted by patent.” John Alston, of Newton, in Suffolk, descended from the above-mentioned William, of Stisted, was father of William Alston, of Newton, who had by Ann his wife, daughter of Thomas Symons, a son and heir, Edward or Edmund Alston, of Saxham Hall, in Newton, who m. Elizabeth, daughter of John Cole-man, and had two sons, viz.

William, his heir.

Vison of Thurkill of Stisted 1204

There appear to be a small number of branches of the family in the Castle Hedingham/Sudbury area when the parish records began. They seemed to have close links with the Earls Of Oxford as Yeoman or Stewards. They also have stories connecting them to the De Clares.

Many of the parish entries can also be found here:

Stemmata Alstoniana written by L. Cresswell (1905) is a collection of genealogical tables and memoranda relating to the ancient family of Alston. It contains evidence that suggests the Alston/Alliston family are descended from Athelred I.

Possibly Senior members of the House Of Wessex 

Possible Members of The House Of Wessex (House of Cerdic)

This site gives some information as to why I think that the Alliston Family of Suffolk and Essex are descended from Aethelstan (Half King) Earl of East Anglia who was placed there to protect the christian people from the pagan invading Danes at that time. His father was Aethelfrith of Mercia grandson of Aethelred I, elder brother of Alfred The Great. ( wiki link) It is common consensus amongs historians that Alestan is a form Aethelestan. This would place the Allistons in the House of Wessex one of the most legendary families in Britain. Given the naming conventions of the time it is quite possible that the Alestan in the Domesday book was related to Aethelstan Half King through one of his sons, Aethelwald, Aefwald, Aethelwig, Aethelsige or Aethelwine. By the time of the Domesday East Anglia was under Danelaw so many of the names of other Thegns were of Danish origin. Aethelstan and its derivatives including Alstan and Alestan were not names commonly used by the Danes they were Saxon names commonly used in the House of Wessex. Using pronounciation alone it would be difficult to tell Alestan from Alliston (some branches of the family spell the name Alleston). Much like in modern history certain names tended to be passed down through the family from Father to Son or Grandson and Aethelstan is a frequent name in the House of Wessex or where influenced by the House Of Wessex. Very often they varied the name slightly from Father to Son keeping one part of the name and changing the later part for example Aethelred had sons called Aethelwold, Aethelhelm and Aelfred.

The surname originated from the same area where Alstan/Alestan was located in the domesday. Stansfield and Stambourne are quite close to each other and it is not inconceivable that the family of Alestan in the Domesday book stayed in the area. It is known that Alestanus kept his manor at Stambourne after the conquest and parts of his probably family stayed at Stamborne up to the time of Henry II when the manor reverted back to the King. It may have been just after this time that one of the (great) grandchildren moved out to Stansfield. If the theory that Stambourne (Stambourne parish website) owes its name to Alestan is correct then it may also be that Stansfield was in some way connected to Alestan. Certainly the Alestanus mentioned in the domesday would have been influential in the area. When the French started keeping records the name became Elystone when written or pronounced by the French. When spoken by the English it was Alestan or Alston. The family with the early coat of arms meant one was a knight who fought alongside Edward I in his Scottish campaigns. The Allistons allied themselves to the Earl Of Oxford and it is interesting that he had close links with Abingdon Abbey which had been endowed by Aethelstan of East Anglia.The title of Earl Of Oxford was given to him by another family member connected to the House Of Wessex Empress Matilda in 1141.

After the Norman invasion there was quite a lot of resistance in East Anglia. Roger Bigot who later became Earl of Norfolk had taken over a lot of the land. He was not liked amongst the English population who were fighting to maintain their identity. Many of the English nobility fled the country but the fact that Alestan still maintained land after the invasion indicates that there was enough interest to keep him in the area. He or his children may have fought in the crusades and that is where the coat of arms could have originated. It is likely that they were involved with the forces rebelling against King John before the signing of the Magna Carta as Bury St Edmund was where the barons met for safety. It was due to this stronghold that King John was forced to cross the Wash near Lincolnshire and where he lost the crown jewels. Bury St Edmund was chosen because of King Edmund who would have been an ally of King Athelred I and King Alfred. Some historians suggest that Edmund was also a member of the house of Wessex his Grandfather being King Aethelstan of East Anglia son of Egbert of Wessex. When King Edmund had become a Saint, his bones were being attributed to many miracles, it was his protection who the Barons sought. Another effect of these bones was that it was making Bury St Edmund a prosperous town and no doubt the Alliston family would have benefited from this. However in 1217 the source of this prosperity was stolen and taken to France by French knights. It is just after this that the Alliston surname appears in a Feet of Fines when John purchased land in Stansfield between Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds. The first recorded man with the Alliston surname in Suffolk was called Adam. It seems that there was not much record of the Allistons until the 1430s when William was born in Saxham (Siam) Hall again near Sudbury. He later moved to Castle Hedingham which is where the tracability of the A/Elliston’s really starts.

The A/Ellistons have never been afraid trying to assert their independence, they would have been experienced militia fighters both prior to the Norman invasion when the Danes held East Anglia and after when the Normans tried to suppress the English. They may also have been part of Agincourt and Bosworth as many of the archers and fighters in these battles came from the Sudbury area. After the battle of Bosworth they became merchants, Sudbury was famous for its wool and later for the silk industry. Two became majors of Sudbury in the 1600s. Some of them became very wealthy, others stuck to living of the land. The wealthy members seem to have died out ( but someone may know different) although their daughters did marry into current nobility i.e the Duchess of Cornwall and the Earls of St German. One became Sheriff of London in the early 1900′s and another became a famous actor in London in the 1800′s. Another became Bishop of Ulster and another a famous physician.

One was knighted for his efforts in the war. They were quite involved in affairs of the county of Essex and some seem to have been members of parliament around the period of the civil war. Some of the legal documents have them mentioned with Oliver Cromwell so some would have fought as Parliamentarians. Some sat on comittees and hearings so they may have been magistrates.

The following link gives a good account of the history of Suffolk and and idea of the events the Allistons have lived through


Of Ellis Tun or derived from Alestan ? Links to the House Of Wessex