This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and has two possible sources. Firstly, the surname may be topographical for someone who lived by a sheepcote or sheep shelter, and derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "sceap, scep, scip", sheep, and "cot", a shelter for animals, especially for sheep. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Secondly, the surname may be occupational for someone who watched over sheep in a sheep shelter, a shepherd, from the same derivation. Job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary. In the modern idiom the surname can be found as Shipcott, Shepcutt, Shopcott, Shapcote and Shapcott. Recordings of the surname from Devonshire Church Registers include: the marriage of John Shapcott and Angnys Patryge on May 15th 1544, at Molland; the marriage of Anne Shepcot and Humfry Crooke on August 5th 1548, at Knowstone; and the marriage of Thomas Shapcott and Agnes Radford on July 9th 1588, at Oakford. A Coat of Arms granted to the family depicts a gold chevron between three silver dovecotes on a black shield, the Crest being a goat's head erased. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Shepcotte, which was dated August 12th 1539, witness at the christening of his son, John, at Knowstone, Devonshire, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Good 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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