This very interesting surname has long posed a puzzle to researchers. At first appearance it seems to be locational and derive from the Olde English 'Sceap - landa', the sheep pastures. Whether any such place ever existed as a village from which a surname could have derived has not been proven, and the latest research tends to find against this theory. In its modern spellings as Shapland or Shaplin, the name is not found before the early 18th century. This suggests that it is a dialectal variant of something else, which we believe to be the Old French ' Capelain', usually recorded as 'Chaplin' or 'Caplan', but there are many forms. Originally this name described a lay-priest, the unusual feature being that priests were supposed to be celibrate. However the derivation does seem to follow this path, and recordings showing the development include Robert Chaplyn of London in 1592, Charles Chaplane at St Dunstans, Stepney on January 1st 1660, and Thomas Shaplin who married Elizabeth Greene, at St Botolphs, Bishopgate, London, on April 13th 1708. The first recording as 'Shapland' may be Hannah Shapland, who married Cornelius Alderson at St James Church, Clerkenwell, on April 25th 1759. Other recordings include Richard Shepland of Cheselbourne, Dorset, On February 3rd 1779, and Anne Shapland, who was baptised at Baker Street Presbyterian Church, Enfield on April 25th 1791. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Nicholas Le Chapelain, which was dated 1260, The assize rolls of the county of Cambridge, during the reign of King Henry 111, known as 'The Frenchman' 1216 - 1272. 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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