According to the best of
authorities, the word Shipley is of Anglo-Saxon origin and goes
back in usage prior to the present form of the English
language. As one of the oldest names in England, it is
recorded in the Doomsday Book and has been traced to the 12th
The original speech of the British Isles was phonetic, and legends and ballads were retained in memory because of the illiteracy of the people and the absence of many books. There were no standards of orthography for the people who could read. The fact, that the names of persons were derived from locations and occupations, provides a very simple origin for our name of two syllables. The spelling varies but in most cases it is Shipley.
One such exception was the Shipleigh who was present at Runnymede when King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta. The first syllable is spelled in various forms, such as Scopp, Sheep, Ship, Shap, Sheap; the second occurs as leigh, ley, lee, lea, Iye, and together they constitute the variants of Sheep Isle, Sheep lea, or Sheep meadow, indicating places where sheep were to be found or men whose occupations were concerned with the care of sheep.
The geography of England shows many places, hills, valleys, villages, abbeys, and other locations bearing the name Shipley. Many of the titles of these places are very old. The personal name Shipley has been applied to many individuals and recorded in the famous Domesday Book, in registers of land, rosters of churches, of universities, and of the army. The spelling varies: Scipleage, Schepeliea, Schipler, Shipeley, Sheplee, Schipeleia, Scaplie, Chapley, Schapeley, Shepey; but in most cases it is Shipley.
Surnames did not come into use in England until late, and the names of these persons often had other significance. From a mass of data gathered and preserved among his manuscript copies of documents, researchers have come to the conclusion that the name came into the English language from the Anglo-Saxon speech, through the Leister dialect, and is one of the oldest names of England.
The origin of the name shows that the earliest to bear it came from lands where sheep were grown; but, like all persons whose names have been taken from places or occupations, those who bear our name have come to have very much wider interests than caring for sheep.
Shipley Clan of Maryland, The Shipleys of Maryland 1938,
(Baltimore: Reese Press, 1938)
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