This long-established surname, with variant spellings Cottam, Cot(t)on, Cottom and Coatham, is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is locational from any of the several places named with the Olde English pre 7th Century "cotum", meaning "cottages", for example, Coatham in Nottinghamshire and the North Riding of Yorkshire; Cottam in the East Riding of Yorkshire and in Nottinghamshire (near Retford); and Cotham in Nottinghamshire (near Newark). In the Midlands several places named Coton or Cotton also derive from "cotum", for example, Coton in Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire, and Cotton in Shropshire and Northamptonshire. Locational surnames were developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, usually to seek work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace.The "-um" ending is however, preserved only in the northern counties. The surname was first recorded in the late 12th Century (see below), and Ralph de Cottum was recorded in the 1212 Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire. Recordings from London Church Registers include: the christening of Raphe Cotton on September 21st 1582, at Snaith, and the christening of Sarah, daughter of William Cottham, on January 16th 1701, at Great Mitton. A Coat of Arms granted to this family depicts a black bend between three pellets on a silver shield. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Randulf de Cotton, which was dated 1185, in the "Pipe Rolls of Worcestershire", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.