The surname of SHARPLESS was a locational name 'of Sharples' a township in the parish of Bolton, County Lancashire. The surname is familiar in south Lancashire, but does not seem to have spread far. The name was originally rendered in the Old English form SCEARP (sharp, steep) and LAES (pasture) literally meaning the dweller at the steep pasture. Early records of the name mention Haelogn Scearpa who was documented in the year 1026 in County Kent and John de Scharples was recorded in 1246 in Lancashire. Many factors contributed to the establishment of a surname system. For generations after the Norman Conquest of 1066 a very few dynasts and magnates passed on hereditary surnames, but the main of the population, with a wide choice of first-names out of Celtic, Old English, Norman and Latin, avoided ambiguity without the need for a second name. As society became more stabilized, there was property to leave in wills, the towns and villages grew and the labels that had served to distinguish a handful of folk in a friendly village were not adequate for a teeming slum where perhaps most of the householders were engaged in the same monotonous trade, so not even their occupations could distinguish them, and some first names were gaining a tiresome popularity, especially Thomas after 1170. The hereditary principle in surnames gained currency first in the South, and the poorer folk were slower to apply it. By the 14th century however, most of the population had acquired a second name. Later instances of the name mention Richard Sharples of Sharples, Lancashire who was listed in the Wills at Chester in 1618. Henry Penry married Mary Sharples at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1762. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.
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