Our ancient families did not consciously choose family names. Hereditary surnames came into being primarily because the eternal tax collectors needed a way to identify people.
Almost all of our English surnames were in existence before the beginning of the 15th Century, and most of our names were placidly accepted by our ancestors. They simply went by the name they were known by in their village.
Tracing your family name back through the centuries--and its spelling will vary greatly--can take you to the early 1400s. That is through nearly 500 years of records (no small feat), but few of us, unless we have noble or royal ancestors, get beyond this date.
Some of our surnames have roots in English occupations--one of those being the leather industry.
Man has been using skins for clothing and shelter as far back as prehistoric times. One of the earliest occupations of our ancestors was that of treating raw skins into leather. The Romans and Greeks produced leather, and it was the Romans who are credited with teaching most of Western Europe the craft of tanning. Before the late 19th Century, hides had to be soaked in water for an entire year before the tanning of the leather could begin. In medieval England, tanning was an early craft predating the Norman Conquest. Most English villages had at least one leather worker. As early as the 14th Century, men were involved in the occupations of skinners and were makers of footwear, saddles, bottles, purses, bags, pouches and gloves.
Some surnames today derive from ancestors whose occupations were part of the medieval English leather industry. A Codman simply meant a leather worker. Belter was a man who made belts--direct from the Old English word \o7 belt\f7 . A Bottler, Bottell or Bottle were those who made leather bottles. Earlier variations of this surname, from the Middle English, were Bouch, Buche and Budge.
Saddle makers spawned many surnames. The earliest English recording of a family name deriving from this occupation is Simon le Sadeler in 1288. The Old English word was \o7 sadol, \f7 which meant saddle.
Those who made the saddletree gave us surnames from the Old French \o7 fustier\f7 . These surnames became Fewster, Foister, Foyster and Fuster.
In the early Middle Ages, glove makers produced a glove to protect the left hand of gentlemen involved in a falconry--a popular sport of the time. From this craft came the surnames of Gant, Gaunt, Glouer and Clover. Those who made leather bags were known as Belger, Bolgar, Burser, Purse and Purser.
Shoemakers--of which there were many--provided us with many surnames, Shoemaker, Shoemake, Schoemaker, being the easily recognized ones. But the surnames of Bootman, Coade, Cordon, Corwin, Patten, Sutter, Specker and Le Sueur all have roots in the shoemaking occupation.
If your ancestors made leather purses, bags, pouches or sacks you may still carry these ancient surnames: Bagder, Baggs, Pocheler, Poghwebbe, Pocketts, Sach, Sack and Satchell.
Those who produced rawhide were called Skinner, Shinner, Pelter, Pelly, Felmonger, Feller and Fell. Leather makers were also known as Barker, Berker, Currier, Tanner, Tower, Whittear and Whittier. If you descend from a worker in kidskin, you may have inherited the surname of Cheverall or Chevrill.
Two good references, usually available in public libraries, to the origin and variant spelling of English surnames are: A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames by Charles Bardsley and the Penguin Dictionary of Surnames by Basil Cottle.