This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from some minor, unrecorded, or now "lost" place, believed to have been situated in Lancashire, near Rochdale. An estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets are known to have disappeared since the 12th Century, due to such natural causes as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, and to the widespread practice of enforced "clearing" and enclosure of rural lands for sheep pastures from the 15th Century onwards. The placename is composed of the Olde English pre 7th Century "Widda", a 7th Century tribal name, and "hop", a small enclosed valley. Variant spellings of the surnames from this source, in the modern idiom, include Wid(d)ope, Wid(d)up and Widop. Early examples of the surname found in Lancashire Church Registers include: Adam Widope, who married Janeta Varley at Colne, on September 30th 1602; the marriage of Guilielmi Widdoppe and Jane Sager on August 25th 1617, at Padiham; and the marriage of William Widdop to Elizabetha Sothert on August 10th 1641, also at Padiham. The Coat of Arms most associated with the family depicts three cinquefoils counterchanged on a shield per fess embattled, ermine and black. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Widop, which was dated January 25th 1596, a christening witness at St. Mary Somerset, London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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