New thoughts on our roots


A chance glance through the index of a book of old maps of the 1700s in a local bookshop led us hotfoot to the Salisbury district of Wiltshire to see if the village of SHRAPEL still existed.


Tucked on the edge of the 'hundred' of IDMISTON the old maps clearly shows this now non existent place as SHRAPEL which caused my mind to go into overdrive as the possibilities opened up before me. Marking the exact spot on the modern maps was not too difficult and our journey took us to a small area just off the A30 called The Common nestling on the lower slopes of a hillside. This proved to consist of a pub and a few houses linking a string of small villages on the edge of the bleak and daunting Salisbury Plain.


Pulling up the hill a mile or so away from The Common we reversed into a small lane. Purely by luck, as it happened, we almost collided with a sign laying well back off the main road which said "TO SHRIPPLE LANE". Out of the car and on foot led us along a path at the top of the hillside high above The Common. Eventually the path split, turning sharp left where another sign said "TO SHRIPPLE". Plunging down this seemingly long but leafy lane brought us right down the hillside emerging eventually at the rear of the pub right back on The Common. En route we passed a small group of old buildings one of which is known as SHRIPPLE COTTAGE.


So here, renamed SHRIPPLE, is probably where the village of SHRAPEL used to be. I can find no documentation as yet to support this apart from logic, the locals to whom I spoke could not help, nor could the local Record Office.


So where is our possible connection? The village of SHRAPEL lay within the Hundred of Idmiston and I already knew of RICHARD SHRAPNELL of WELLOWE whose will of 1587 told me that he wished to be buried in the churchyard at IDMISTON. The village of WELLOWE is many miles the other side of Salisbury Plain close to Bradford-on-Avon and Norton St Philip, home of our first HENRY and forefather of many of us today.


Since my visit to the area I have been back through the original previously unsearched parish records of IDMISTON Parish Church. This lies but a few miles from SHRAPEL. I have now discovered that a large family of SHRAPNELLs lived in and around the IDMISTON area spanning over 200 years from the 1500s. Most of these DO NOT appear in the I.G.I. or other indexes.


The family died out in the early 1700s but it is the clear link between RICHARD of Wellowe and HENRY of Norton St Philip from whom most of our roots come that is of great interest. Further research, it is hoped, will clarify the matter.


Besides that, we have the very speculative concept of the roots of our name itself. Was the village of SHRAPEL the home of our early SHRAPNELL ancestors from which it may have taken its name, or was it the other way around? Remember that until the 1400s the majority of the population only had Christian names, otherwise being identified by the addition of their trade or place of living. Guess we shall never know, but it is an exciting idea, apart from being an alternative or add on to the Flemish weavers theory!