Besides the predominantly German-speaking areas of Continental Europe, Great Britain, or more precise - the south of England - is the second region of origin of the Gatter family.

The earliest "Gatter" we have gained knowledge of in England is John Gatter whose name we find in 1495 in a list of wills in Shorne, Ifield (Kent). But in this part of southeastern England the Gatters disappear thereafter. They only re-appear in that area a good 300 years later with a James Gatter, who is christened in 1799 in the parish of Saint Dunstan, Canterbury.

"Gatter" is a quite unusual name for Great Britain, and does in fact not sound very "British". This led a number of Gatters from this island believe that their folks came over at some time from the European mainland. One Devon Gatter wrote: "Gatter also referred to living on the wall, or a wall builder for the feudal towns. Since good ones in this art were sought after in England, the English imported some Gatters from the continent to work for them". Whether or not this story has any truth to it, I dare not say. But it is a nice story.

After the 30 years war (1618-1648) indeed a family of German Gatters appears in England. They were probably refugees of that war. Their first names were cleary of German origin. Menbers of this family may be the ancestors of some British Gatters, but surely not of all.

It is also interesting to note that that all early British Gatters lived in areas along the southern coast of England (Kent, Devon). Kent for example is located on the English Channel and only some 50 kilometers away from the European mainland (no Gatters have been found in Scotland or Ireland).


Distribution of Gatters in the 1880 British Census (cortesy of Douglas Mumma)

Despite some continental migration, I tend to believe that the bulk of the Gatters in England is of British origin and that the name Gatter it rather a mutation of the name Gater or Catter, as several British Gatter genealogies prove. Also many other mutations of that same name occur: Jater, Gator, Gader, Gather, Geater, Jeater, Jeatar, Geator, Gaiter, Gaither, Gayter, Jayter, etc.

The Gatter book will dwell more thoroughly on the issue of mutations, will show the abundance of different name variations and their distribution.

The cradle of “Gatter civilization” in Great Britain seems to have been or become Devon, far in southwestern England.


Here we find (besides London where members of the Gatter family appeared only somewhat later) the greatest number of Gatters. One source tells us about 80 court cased on Gatters in North Devon.

In Talaton we find Gatters as ealy as 1569. They are listed in the muster rolls if that year. This Talaton family is the biggest Gatter family of English origin today. Even if not all Gatter families could be connected to it by documantary evidence, Gatter families in London and Somerset share the same genetic fingerprint. Visit this family line here.


In the 1700’s and early 1800’s we find Devon’s Gatters in the towns of

Lapford (1709)
Cadbury (1714, 1716)
Exeter (1721, 1787, 1813)
Heavitree between (1733-1748)
Plymtree between (1739-1743)
Mamhead (1770)
Talaton (1771, 1774)
Luppitt (1779)
Upottery (1780, 1783, 1836)
Sidbury (1799)
Woodbury (1816)
Talaton (1827)

From Devon the Gatters apparently worked their way to the west: In Cornwall we have with the christening of John Gatter an early find in 1696, parish of Saint Just in Roseland. In the early 20th century a Gatters came from Cornwall to the US (see section on Gatters in the US).

Another way of expansion from Devon seems to have been to the north east via Somerset where we find the marriage of James Gatter with Mary Webber in 1749 in St. Mary Magdalene, Taunton, in 1753 we find that of Mary Gatter with Joseph Bryant in Dulverton, and finally that of Betty Gatter with Samuel Wyet in 1773 in West Buckland. It is however only in the early 1800’s that we have knowlege of Gatters in Pitminster (1808) and Ottenford (1818). After this the Gatters vanish in this part of the country.

Fate took the Gatters further north to into Gloucester where they made their appearance fairly late with Francis Gatter, who was born around 1790 in the parish of Saint Philip and Jacob in Bristol. In about 1815 he marries Cecilia with whom be has at least two children, Sarah born in 1816 and John in 1821, both christened in the parish of Saint Philip and Jacob. In the same parish we find other Gatters between 1801-1828. This couple seems to heve beeb at least temporarily also in Cardiff (the only find in Wales!), where another daughter with the name of Sarah was born in 1814 in the parish of Saint John And St. Mary, Cardiff, Glamorgan.

Even further to the north the Gatters appear 30 to 50 years later. From 1855 onwards we find the family in Warwickshire in the parishes of All Saints and Saint Phillips, both Birmingham. In neighbouring Worcester the family appears in 1875 in the parish of Saint Martin.

By the mid 1600’s the London area had become a second center of Gatter family life. Already in 1620 we find John Gatter here, who however passed merely through and sailed to the new world and settled in Virginia (see Gatters in the USA) to become one of the first, if not the first Gatter in America.

The London Area in around 1650, detail of a map of Middlesex by Blaue


Also these Gatters might have originated from Devon, where they had appread some 80 years before. The ealiest sign of London “Gatter-community life” is the christening Tho(mas?) Gatter in Saint Martin in The Fields parish, Westminster, on July 16, 1643. Thereafter we find Gatters in St. Andrew, Holborn in 1656, where Elizabeth Gatter is christened on February 15, 1656. By 1662 Gatters live on Fleet Street (parish of Saint Bride) and in 1684 in Clerkenwell (parish of Saint James).

In the 1700’s we find scattered Gatters in the parish of Saint Katherine by the Tower of London (christening in 1720), in Saint Matthew, Bethnal Green (christening in 1750), in Saint Luke, Chelsea (marriage in 1795) and Middlesex, London (birth in 1799).

It is only in the 1800’s that Gatters seem to have lived in greater numbers in the London area. We find them in the parishes of:

Saint Mary, Lewisham (1812)
St Paul, Deptford (1822, 1823)
Saint Nicholas, Deptford (1825)
Saint Botolph Bishopsgate (1826)
Saint Gilesm, Cripplegate (1831, 1836)
Saint Leonards, Shoreditch (1828, 1835)
Saint Luke Old Street, Finsbury (1840)
Saint Mary, Battersea (1845)
Saint Dunstan, Stepney (1846)
Saint John, Horseleydowns, Bermondsey (1849, 1851, 1852)

It is likely that the family spread from the area of London to the adjacent shires. In the mid 1600’s the came to the coastal areas south of London. In Sussex an early member of the family is found with the christening of Richard Gatter’s son John on November 9, 1646 in the parish of Saint Peter the Great or Subdeanery of Chichester, Chichester. Only 200 years later on January 3, 1852 another Gatter was located in East Grinstead.

In Buckingham (northwest of London) where the name is quite rare, first Gatters appear around 1706 in the town of Eton. In adjacent Hertford (north of London) the family appears around the same time. Here William Gatter marries Sarah Overall in 1716 in Cheshunt. Between 1721-1728 they have at least 3 children in this town, Sarah, Mary and Robert.

Also in Hampshire (southwest of London) we find the family (it is rare here) for the first time in the 1700’s. On July 23, 1745 William Gatter marries and Ann White in Week, Winchester.

In Surrey (south of London) and Berkshire (west of London) the Gatter seem to settle only in the 1800’s. In Surrey it is only in 1825 that we find Jams Gatter in the town of Puttenham, marrying Mary Ann Cheeseman. The family then is found in several places in the following years (1826 in Saint Mary, Newington, 1830 in Saint Peter, Walworth, and 1839 in Holy Trinity, Clapham), but it disappears after 1839.

Berkshire does not seem to be a frequent place of residence for Gatters, and only very late (1847) we find them in the parish of Saint Mary, Reading.

An exception is Staffordshire, quite far to the north, where with An Gatter an early member of the family, marrying John Heykin on September 18, 1656 in Eccleshall. After that only in around 1786 the birth of a William Gatter in Stoke (who marries Lucy Barlow in 1811 in Bucknall) could be found.

Another such exception is Cumberland, where however only one Gatter was found in 1768 in the parish of Saint Andrews, Penrith.


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