Origin of the Acutt Family
The Acutt family tree dates back to 1044, before the Battle of Hastings in 1066, emanating from the Royal Court of King Henry III and we are thus considered an “Ancient Family”. The name is derived from the Scottish family name “Halkett” (meaning “Brave Warrior”). This altered over time to the pronunciation “Hackett”, eventually becoming the present-day “Acutt”. The family originates from the eastern Scottish Highlands, Fyfe district, so we are essentially of Scottish extraction.
The Acutts are associated with the “District Fyfe” or “Duke of Fife” tartan. The written records of the family date back to the early 1600’s to one John Acutt who was in the Kings Excise and was styled a “Gentleman”, i.e. he was a man of personal means.
The family tree splits into two – one Acutt went to France to fight in the Scottish Archer Guard of King Louis XI (where the French version of the name styled “Acquet” originated) while our branch settled in Devon, South England. Robert Acutt (the First) was a Supervisor of Excise. Robert Acutt (the Second) was born in 1781 at Minehead in Somerset. He also received a Commission in the Excise. Those were hard days that followed the Napoleonic Wars. With the promise of a new life to escape the hardships in England at the time, Robert Acutt (the Third), who was born in 1814 at Babbicombe, Torquay, Devonshire, sailed from Plymouth and emigrated to the town of D’Urban in 1849, arriving in Natal later in 1849. On 1 November 1851 he started Robt. Acutt, Auctioneers, later to become Robt. Acutt and Sons. Robert, my Great Great Grandfather, is on the office picture frame poster showing the trace of my direct family in Acutts. I am the fifth generation of Acutts in the firm, with my son Jonathan, the present Managing Director of the firm being the sixth generation. Hopefully my grandson Joshua will be the seventh generation to run the firm! These are obviously not all of the Acutts past principals, as there were a good number over the years, as well as other non-family directors or principals, could be fifty or more, over 167 years! I’m not certain because all the records were lost in the fire that burnt down Acutts Head Office situated at 15 Mercury Lane, Durban in the late 1960’s.
It is family folklore that, in the early 1850’s, Robert wrote to the family remaining in England that life here wasn’t so easy, but the family didn’t believe him and, thinking he was onto a good thing and not telling them, emigrated en masse! Eventually there were 8 branches of Acutts in Africa. The 8 branches to the family tree are accurately documented in the limited-edition book “Acutts in Africa”.
Author: Patrick Acutt