Clan Aiton are a Scottish kin-group who do not have a recognised chief and are therefore considered an armigerous clan.
This name, perhaps more commonly spelt 'Ayton', probably derives from the lands of Ayton in Berwickshire. <ref>George Way of Plean and Romilly Squre, Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia, 351</ref> The name itself is given by Black to mean a town on the banks of the River Aye. The original progenitor of the family is believed to have been an Anglo- Norman knight, Gilbert, who obtained the lands of Aiton in the eleventh century, and assumed the name as his designation. <ref>Plean, Squire, Enclycopedia, 351</ref>
Alternative linguistic explanations for the name were provided by William Aiton- a family historian- in 1830. He states that the name was originally Eytoun and this was derived from two Saxon words, 'Ey'- a river, and 'tun' or 'town'- a habitation. <ref>William Aiton, An Inquiry into the Origin, Pedigree and History of the Family, or Clan, of Aitons in Scotland, 8</ref> He states that (by 1830) the name had been altered into various different forms. Sir William Dugdale (1605-1686) the English antiquary and herald, spelt it 'Aton'. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Dugdale</ref> <ref>William Aiton, Inquiry, 8</ref> He also states that the family in Fife spelt their name 'Ayton' or 'Aytoun', while the family in Lanarkshire spelt their name Aiton and sometimes Aitoun. <ref>William Aiton, Inquiry, 8</ref>
In common with many other clans, the earliest recorded Aitons were Norman knights. Steffan, son of Swan de Aeitun granted lands of Coldingham Priory around 1170. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 351</ref> There is believed to have been an ancient castle at Ayton, which would undoubtedly have been the scene of many border disputes, and Matthew of Ayton is listed as a Scots prisoner held at Chester Castle in 1296. William Eyton of Eyton appears in the Ragman Rolls submitting to Edward I of England in 1291, 1282 and 1296.<ref>William Aiton, Inquiry, 9</ref>
Andrew Ayton (d.1547) is listed by Macgibbon and Ross as a 'Master of the Works' who made purchases for the king, collected the tax of spears in Fife and conveyed money to the Master of Artillery. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 351</ref> He superintended works at Stirling Castle until 1511. According to Anderson, this Andrew was a son of the house of Ayton of that Ilk and he received lands at Denmuir in Fife. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 351</ref> He was governor of Stirling Castle and Sheriff of the county of Elgin and Forres in the reign of James IV. <ref>William Aiton, Inquiry, 12</ref> Andrew Ayton added to the family the lands of Wester Dunmuir in Fife as well as lands in Kilgour and Glenducky. <ref>William Aiton, Inquiry, 12</ref>
The principal family ended in an heiress who married George Hume, and the greater part of the family lands then passed into that family until James, son of the sixth Earl of Hume, had his estates forfeited for following the Jacobite cause in the rising of 1715.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 351</ref> There were however, many notable members of the family during the seventeenth century.
Sir Robert Ayton was a distinguished poet and sometime ambassador to the Holy Roman Empire, as well as secretary to Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 351</ref> Sir John Aytoun of Kippo (d.1700) was usher to Black Rod (a functionary in Parliament) in the reign of Charles II. <ref>William Aiton, Inquiry, 17</ref> Sir Robert Aytoun of Kenaldie was a secretary to Queen Anne (1655-1714) <ref>William Aiton, Inquiry, 17</ref>
Andrew Ayton, merchant, was Provost of Glasgow between 1738 and 1739.<ref>William Aiton, Inquiry, 12</ref>
Sir John Aitoun of that Ilk was an investor in the disasterous Darien scheme of 1695. <ref>James Samuel Barbour, a History of William Paterson and the Darien Company, 255</ref>
Of the Waleslie branch of the family, the Reverend Thomas Aiton was minister of the parishes of Alyth in Angus in 1720 and later Kilconquar in Fife in 1735. The father of his wife, Barbara Haddow, had been in exile during the reign of James IIV- so is likely to have been of Presyterian sympathies. He returned with William III but died been shot at the Battle of Kilicrankie.<ref>William Aiton, Inquiry, 12</ref>
William Aiton, born near Hamilton (1731-1793) was a noted gardener who, gaining the favour of George III, was involved in the establishment of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. <ref>William Aiton, Inquiry, 39</ref>He published a number of works on botany.<ref>William Aiton, Inquiry, 39</ref> <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Aiton</ref> His son, also William Aiton (1766-1849) was also a botanist and suceeded his father as director at Kew Gardens in 1793. He was commissioned by George IV to lay out the gardens at the Royal Brighton Pavilion and the gardens at Buckingham Palace.
Some Aitons appear to have had less illustrious backgrounds, suggesting a decline in the fortunes of the wider kin-group. However, William Aiton, author of the family history published in 1830, is described as Ex-Sheriff Substitute of Hamilton.
William Aiton of Hamilton's family history (1830) has been digitalised by the National Library of Scotland and can be consulted here: