The name derives from Saxon word play for someone whose occupation involved riding, perhaps supervising the manors owned by a monastery or as a Sheriff’s Officer.
The first known document surviving in the records to use the surname occurs in 1247 when one Elyas Rydhut appears in the Manorial Rolls for the Hundred of Horthorn in Montacute, East Somerset. Elyas was required to attend the Manorial Court as a juryman – he may not be the same individual as Elis Ridhut whose name appears as one of the jury at the Somerset Assizes in 1276. Perhaps they were brothers of the John Rydhut who appear in the records in 1276 and 1278 for Somerset Assizes.
Other examples of the name cited in the Dictionary of English Surnames by P.H. Reaney [revised edition 1997] are John Ridut (1276 and 1278 Assize Rolls Yorkshire), and William Rydhowt (1379 Yorkshire Poll Tax Returns, see Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 5-7, 920; translated in Transactions of the East Riding Antiquarian Society, 30). All spellings are as they appear in the historic documentation.
The first private known record of the Ridouts in Dorset is in 1317 when property at Sherborne was transferred from Thomas, son of Adam Ridut, to Nicholas, son of Andrew Ridut. [Between 1247 & 1317 two generations of Ridouts may have lived given the early age of marriage and life expectancy of the period]
The Lay Subsidy of 1327 records Walter Ridhoud (Wallero Ridot in the Latinized form used by the scribes) of Ibberton, William Ridhoud of Woll & Bexinington and Nicholas Ridhoud of Tarrant Hinton as paying tax. This tax, and that which followed in 1332, was only paid by wealthier people and was charged against moveable assets only.
The Lay Subsidy Roll of 1332 records the names Roberto Ridyhert of Symonbesbergh [Symondsbury] and De Nicholao Ridhoud of Hyneton Goundeuyle [Tarrant Hinton]
Between 1300 and 1400 there was widespread and repeated famine due to climate change which caused a loss of population of approx.1.25 million in the first 25 years of the century. Famine recurred throughout the remainder of the fourteenth century but in 1348 was made worse by the largest outbreak of plague known (the Black Death) which also recurred later. The total loss of population from these causes was 2.5 million of the original population of 5 million in 1300. Until this period society had been very ordered and regulated but this massive disruption almost certainly contributed to the need to use surnames in southern England to identify the survivors.
The name next appears in the Lay Subsidy Roll of 1525 in north Dorset in the nine parishes of Stourton Caudle, Fifehead Neville, Manston, East Orchard, Fontmell Magna, Hargrove, West Melbury and Cranborne.
In 1547 Nicholas Rydowt was fined 2d [2 old pence] for ‘breaking the Assize of bread’ i.e selling underweight. In the same court the important Manorial Office of Tithing man at Colbear changed from Richard Stoote to Richard Watton and Nicholas Rydowt – both being sworn in. At the same court, Nicholas Rydowt was reported as being in possession of ‘one filly [died of the murrain] valued 12d [one old shilling] of bay colour which had come as a stray on the Feast of St. Lawrence’. In 1548 Nicholas Rydowt was again fined 2d for breaking the assize of bread. More unfortunate in this period was the Rev William Rydowt, vicar of Fontmell Magna from 1549 to 1554, who was persecuted for his religious view during the reign of Catholic Queen Mary.
In 1641-2 all men over the age of 18 were required to take the ‘Oath of Protestation’ and Ridouts recorded for this purpose appear in 33 Dorset parishes under 12 spellings:
Ridout, Ridoute, Ridwat, Riddout, Riddowt, Rideot, Rideout, Ridiot, Ridiott, Ridoit, Rydout and Rydoute.
[We are grateful to Roger Guttridge of Wimborne, Dorset for permission to use his original research]