This long-established and distinguished surname may be either of Anglo-Saxon or Old French origin, and is an occupational name for a player on the harp. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "hearp", Middle English "harp", with the addition of the agent suffix "-er". In its original sense "a man who has to do with", the "-er" designates persons according to their profession or occupation. Some early forms of the name, for example, Harpour and Harpur, have their origins in the Anglo-French harpour", Old French "harpeor", a harper. In medieval times, the harper was one of the most important figures at baronial halls, festivals and fairs, and the Brehon laws of Scotland and Ireland ranked the playing of the harp as "the one art of music which deserves nobility". Early examples of the surname from England and Scotland include: Henry le Harpur (Cambridgeshire, 1273); Reginald le Harper (Worcestershire, 1275); and William le Harpur of La Lawe, in the county of Edinburgh, who rendered homage to Edward 1 of England in 1296. Sometimes these names represent an official position, that of hereditary official in the households of great lords. An early settler in the New World was George Harper, a landowner of some standing, who was listed on a register of the inhabitants of St. Michael's parish, the Barbados, in 1680. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert le Harpur, which was dated 1186, in the "Pipe Rolls of Hampshire", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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