This interesting and unusual surname, with variant spellings, Sapshed, Sapseed etc., is of English topographical origin either from residence on a promontory or headland on which Scotch fir grew, or from residence at the source of the river Sept in the Yorkshire North Riding. The derivation in the first instance, is from the old English pre 7th Century "saeppe", "Spruce firs" or "Scotch fir", plus "heafod", "head", used in various transferred senses such as "headland, summit, upper end, source of a stream" etc.. The river name, recorded as "Sef" in the "Chartulary of Rievaulx Abbey", dated 1170, translates as "slow stream", from the old Swedish "saever", calm or slow. "Heafod" is also the second element in this case. On January 4th 1552 John Sapshead, an infant was christened in Christchurch Greyfriars, Newgate, London. It is interesting to note that in his "Dictionary of British Surnames", professor P.H. Reaney equates the surname Sapsed with "Sapsford", "Sapstead" and "Sapsworth" claiming that all ultimately derive from Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire, due to an old pronunciation of the placename as "Sapsworth" and "Sapseth". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Otwell Sapsed, (christening), which was dated November 11th 1545, at St. Dionis, Backchurch, London, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Bluff King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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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