This is a rare and usual English locational surname. It originates from a place called originally 'Kirk-op' or similar and meaning 'the church on the hill top'. The spelling of the name and the known meaning suggests that the surname is from the north country, which is where one would also expect to find the place, however we are unable to prove that this is the case. There is no such place recorded as 'Kirkop' or similar, which suggests that this surname is one of the five thousand which are believed to originate from now 'lost' medieval sites. The few early recordings of the surname which are proven, seem to be found in the surviving church registers of the diocese of Greater London. This again in itself is not unusual, being a locational surname, it was one given to identify a stranger. In olden days if for any reason people left their original homes, they often made for the only place which seemed to offer real opportunity, the city of London, with its streets 'paved with gold'. Spelling throughout the centuries being at best erratic, and local dialects very thick, have often lead to the development of 'sounds like' spellings. A good example of an early recording of this name is that of Thomas Kirkup, who married Ann Morley at the famous church of St Katherines by the Tower (of London), on December 14th 1746.
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