Recorded in a number of forms including Steeple, Stepple, Steple, Steeples and Stepples, this is an English surname. It is apparently residential, deriving from the pre 7th century Anglo-Saxon word 'stepel' meaning a slim tower or steeple. It would seem to describe somebody who lived by such a structure, something quite rare in Britain, spires and steeples not being built until well after the end of medieval period. This suggests that as the surname is relatively popular, it may well have originally had a more diffuse or even Chaucerian meaning. What is certain is that the surname predates the accepted steeple building period, whilst the 12th century onwards, saw the formation of modern hereditary surnames as we know them. This period was also one of robust morals and humour, and it saw the development of many nicknames, which in themselves later became surnames. These nicknames usually related to a particular person's physical characteristics or moral atttibutes, and these could be either positive or negative. Many of these would not now be acceptable even amongst the most broad minded, in the 20th century! Does this synopsis apply here? We are uncertain. We know that the name was recorded in Lancashire as early as 1332, when Johan Steppel appears in the Subsidy Rolls of the county, but in general the surname recordings are from the 16th century when the registration of birth, death and marriage, became compulsory. Recordings from the surviving registers of the diocese of Greater London include: Alice Steple, the daughter of William Steple, christened at the church of St Mary Magdalene, in the city of London, on March 6th 1596, Richard Steeple, a witness at the church of St Gregory's by St Paul's (Cathedral) on May 8th 1625, and Mary Steeples, the daughter of Enoch Steeples, who was christened at St Matthews, Friday Street, city of London, on April 30th 1712.
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