Recorded as Gapp, Gappe, and Gapper, this unusual surname is English. It is also one of the earliest ever recorded with Richard Gappe appearing in the register of St Bartholmews Hospital in the city of London in 1198. It is usually topographical or locational, the spelling Gapper, meaning a person from Gap, although the only known surviving place called Gap, a village in the county of Buckinghamshire, does not seem to have provided examples of the surname recording. In general it describes a person who lived by a gap or gappe, a pre 7th century Norse-Viking word which was used to describe a chasm or cleft in cliffs, rather than the more modern diminutised meaning of a gap in a hedge or similar. The surname is most associated with the East Anglia region and specifically the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. Paradoxically these are areas of mainly flat lands and wide beaches, where "gaps" in the known original sense, are few and far between. Early examples of the surname recordings taken from surviving rolls and charters of the medieval period include: Savatius de Gap of Thorpe in Norfolk in the Hundred Rolls of the year 1273, Nicholas Gap, in the Subsidy Rolls for the county of Sussex in 1327, and John Gapper, a christening witness at St James Clerkenwell, in the city of London, on September 19th 1599.
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