The long-accepted explanation of this unusual name holds that it is a form of Toplass, taken to be a variant of the medieval English surname Toplady or Tiplady. This latter is taken to be from a nickname reflecting the explicit and broad humour of the Middle Ages, derived from the Middle English "type(n)", to knock over, and "ladie", lady, and bestowed on a man who was reputed to have made love to a lady higher than himself in social rank. One John Typlady is recorded in the Register of the Guild of the Corpus Christi in the City of York in 1490.However, the earliest forms of the surname now found as Toplis(s), Taplis, Topless and Toplass suggest an Anglo-Saxon origin, as a locational surname from some minor, unrecorded, or now "lost" place, believed to have been situated in Derbyshire or Staffordshire, and named with the Olde English pre 7th Century elements "topp", top, summit (or the Olde English byname "Topp", from "topp", used in the sense of "tuft, crest" (of hair)), and "leah", thin wood, glade. Hence, "Topp's wood", or "the top wood". The surname may also be topographical, from residence in or by such a wood or clearing. The "s" of the name is the genitive form, "of the top wood". Early examples of the name include: Topplis (1607, Derbyshire); Topleys (1609, Yorkshire); Toplea (1617, Derbyshire); and Toplesse (1638, ibid.). Mary, daughter of William Topliss, was christened at Duffield, Staffordshire, on May 27th 1668. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Topples, which was dated December 12th 1538, witness to the christening of his son, Thomas, at Alstonfield, Staffordshire, 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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