This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 26th August 1996, reproduced by kind permission of the author, the late Desmond Holden.

The “What's in a Name” series was a regular feature in the Advertiser over the period 1993‑2004, taking a refreshing look at the derivation of some typically Derbyshire surnames.

Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames, and do not indicate any particular interest on Desmond's part in the genealogy, descent, or family history of individuals bearing the surnames featured.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

“In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves.”

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called CHAPPELL?

Surnames based on buildings form a recognisable category. They include Castle, Fort, Towers, Hall, House and College. Every one of these is to be found in the Local Directories. Since a religious establishment of some sort or other was to be expected in most communities, it follows that names such as Church, Kirk, Temple, Abbey, Chanty and even Cathedral are equally as prolific. (In the case of "Cathedral" though it is now believed to be a corruption of quite another name - "Gatherall".)

One name belonging to this last group appears more frequently than most of the others. It is "Chapel", although its spelling is more often "Chappell." In total, only "Kirk" would appear to be ahead.

Nowadays we tend to associate "Chapels" with the smaller buildings belonging to the Non-Conformist congregations. Otherwise a chapel ought correctly to be understood as any place used for Services in private houses, garrisons, monasteries, hospitals, schools and colleges.

The origin of the word "Chapel" is interesting. The Latin term for one's head was "caput" and, by obvious application, a sort of hood, protecting the head and shoulders was known to the Romans as a "cappa". Gradually the meaning extended to the garment which today we would designate as a "cape" or a "cloak". Smaller versions of the garment were called by the name of "cappella."

Moving to one side, as it were, we must now deal with an item of history. It involves what one might deem the second best known cloak in English Tradition - namely that of St. Martin. (The first and better known, it is submitted, is that belonging to Sir Walter Raleigh!).

The story of St. Martin is, briefly, that he was a Roman Soldier and the most famous incident attributed to him is that he cut his military cloak in two and gave half to a poor shivering beggar. According to the old historians, this cloak came into the possession of the early Kings of France and was highly prized as a precious relic. It was carried in battle and upon the chest in which it was placed, oaths were taken and treaties signed. The place wherever it was housed became identified with the relic itself and took on the name "cappella" and those who were entrusted with its care and protection became known as, "cappella" (hence "chaplains").

As time went by, the name gradually began to be applied to other sanctuaries which were usually subordinate to the main purposes of a church or a cathedral.

The numbers of "chapels" increased and no doubt many people were engaged in the work of looking after them. From this it can be seen that as a surname, "Chapel" or any of its many variations, would then have been conferred upon people as a sort of occupational name, or, in other cases, because they lived in the vicinity of a chapel.

Some of the very early structures answering to the name of "chapels" were little more than two main facing walls which sloped and met at their apex. Each end was then filled in. The appearance was rather like an inverted letter "V". From a distance they took on the fanciful resemblance to somebody wearing a cloak, and if there was also a small belfry on top, the appearance of a hooded figure was even more pronounced.

It is from this piece of sheer coincidence that a mistaken notion has been fostered as to the origin of the word "chapel." It is one of those explanations of which it can be said that if it were not true, then it was so convincing, it ought to have been. Rather like the idea that the expression "News" is made up from the initials of "North, East, West and South" implying that it referred to information gathered from all points of the compass!

At this point it ought to be mentioned that there is also some very slender evidence that in a few cases the name "Chapel" could have been an occupational name based on the French word "chapeau" meaning a "hat" and would have been applicable to a maker of head-gear.

There certainly was a proliferation of chapel buildings, not only in these Islands but also on the Continent. Native versions of the name include "Chappell", "Chapple", "Chapel" "Capel" and, curiously, in the West Midlands particularly, "Capewell."

Immigrants from the Mediterranean brought versions with them such as "Cappello' and "Cappilla" and from Northern Europe, such as "Kappell." When William of Orange came over from the Netherlands in 1689 to become William III of England, he was accompanied by a follower called "Keppel" and with whom many people of that same name may very well be associated.

Here in Bakewell the name "Chappell" is well-known on account of our own Mr. Warwick Chappell whose establishment in King Street is a centre of attraction for those interested in things old and curious.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 26th August 1996.

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