An Indenture of Apprenticeship prepared in London describes Rogero Myners as Civi et Clothworker, et Johanna uxor ejus shepestre. This document proves the meaning of the name, a female shaper of garments. The derivation is from the Anglo-Saxon "Schapistre" although the surname is much later. Many surnames of occupation have specifically female forms, although in reality it is probable that by the 14th century the "shap(s)ter" would have had a general meaning except in legal documents. In Piers Plowman appears the sentence "As a shepsteres shere" whilst rather more pragmatically the Privy Purse of Elizabeth of York includes - To Alice Shapster, for making and washing XX111 sherts and XX111 stomachers, 1 4s 2d.Certainly the Shap(s)ter was an important member of the medieval society, and this is shown by the regularity of recordings. These include examples such as Christina la Schippestre in the Close Rolls of Edward 11 in 1310, whilst later in the reign of Henry V111 the church records show that Agnes Shapter married Martin Knill at Braunton, Devon, on November 25th 1546. Other records are those of Thomasina Shapter who married William Friar at Bovey Tracey on January 26th 1547, whilst in London we have the variant form in John Shepster, who married Audrey Grenhill, at Harrow on the Hill, Middlesex, on November 14th 1586. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Matilda Shapistre, which was dated 1273, The Hundred Rolls of Suffolk, during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The hammer of the Scots" 1272 - 1307. 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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