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Chatto

September 14, 2018

Last weekend I went with my wife and mother-in-law to Beth Chatto’s garden in Colchester. Beth Chatto was a horticulturalist and writer who created and developed the garden over many decades; she died at the age of 91 earlier this year. It really is a fabulous garden and you can spend a very pleasant hour wandering through it. There is also a shop, plant nursery and licensed cafe there. I’d highly recommend it for a Sunday afternoon out if you live anywhere within reach of Colchester. Anyway the reason I post this is that I was reflecting on Beth Chatto’s unusual surname. The only other Chatto I’ve heard of is Chatto and Windus, the publishers (now owned by Penguin Random House). Where does that name come from? My guess is that it is a corruption of the French word Chateau. After all, the English version Castle is not uncommon as a surname (Barbara, Andrew, Roy). I have no real evidence for this hypothesis; it’s just a hunch which I would be happy to see either confirmed or refuted.

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6 Comments
  1. Mark Brafield permalink

    Not on Chatto – but what a joy to see the word ‘refuted’ used correctly. Although with my professional hat on, I am not sure whether it would, in fact, be possible to refute the proposition in the strict sense. What evidence could there be of the negative ?

    • An alternative etymology of the name that was fully documented – that would count as evidence against my hypothesis, wouldn’t it? I do agree, by the way, that using ‘refute’ to mean deny is hateful!

  2. Simon Carter permalink

    According to the surname database Chatto is a Scottish locational name from the Chatto estate. Why the Chatto estate was so called is unclear but the current Lady Chatto is Princess Margaret’s daughter Sarah.

  3. Simon Carter permalink

    The surname database lists Chatto as a Scottish locational name from the Chatto estate. Why the Chatto estate was so called is unclear although the current Lady Chatto is Princess Margaret’s daughter Sarah.

  4. Simon Carter permalink

    Apologies for the repeat posting. Drunk again.

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