Origin of The Shapcott Name


Our surname probably came about through the introduction of the use of surnames by the Normans in about 1100 AD.    


Surnames came gradually into general use during the Middle Ages when the population of England was expanding rapidly.  One of the events said to have encouraged the taking of surnames was the spread of Christianity among the common people, many of whom took “Christian names” at the time of their conversion into the new faith.  This resulted in a number of people in the same village having adopted the same Christian name, and as there were only a limited number of such names available, this caused considerable confusion.   


Families grew bigger and villages became more crowded, and individual Christian names became inadequate to distinguish friends and neighbours from one another.  Thus Surnames – or second names – became important as a means of identifying individuals and families.  By the end of the 14th century they had become widespread in use.







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People often took on a name that associated them with something particular – their appearance, their occupation, their local vicinity or landscape.  It is thought that such was the origin of our Shapcott surname.


Translated literally from the old English words  “ sceap ”  and  “ cot ”  the name may have been that given to a person or family who lived by a sheep shelter, or it may also have been attributed to people who were involved in the keeping of sheep.


The original Shapcote family of Knowstone were definitely involved in the production and supply of wool for several centuries, and prospered from this trade.


Our surname was probably once spelled  SCEAPCOT  or  SCEPECOTE.


Over a period of time, the name changed to  SAPCOTE, and some  time later to  SHAPCOTE and SHAPCOTT.



Shapcott research has shown that over the years there have been many variations

on the spelling of the SHAPCOTT name – for example :


SAPCOTT   SAPCOTE  SHAPCOTE   SHAPCOT   SHAPCOTTE SHAPCOAT  SHAPPCOTT SHAPCUTT


SHEPCOT  SHEPCOTE  SHEPCOTT   SHEPCUTT    SHIPCOT  SHIPCOTT   SHIPCOAT  SHIPPCOTT


SHEIPCOT  SHEPCOTTE  SHOPCOTT  SHOPCOT    SHOPCOTE  SHAFCOAT     


These variations may be attributable to the differences in the local “thick” Devon accents, and to the fact that many people had little or no education, and were generally illiterate.  Many people had to rely on officials or clergyman to write down their surnames, and it was left up to these more learned men to interpret the surname and decide as to  how it would be spelled, for in those days there was no commonly accepted form of spelling.  Thus the pronunciation and spelling of the SHAPCOTT surname has evolved through the ages.



Next - The First Shapcotes of Knowstone