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2,469 study surnames with us
and a further 6,271 variant names.
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About the study

Family history, genealogy and ancestry of the surnames Heppenstall, Heptinstall, Hepplestone, Heptonstall, Haptonstall, Heppinstall, Hempenstall and Heppleston.

The study was started in 2001 and grew out of my efforts to trace my own ancestry (Heppenstall was my mother's maiden name). However, to paraphrase the words of the old popular Lee Wiley song, I am now interested in 'Any Hep, Any Time, Any Place'.

Information about Heppenstall heraldry can be found here.

Variant names

About 12 true variants and over 100 alternative spellings of the surname Heppenstall are recognised and will be referred to as 'Heps' from now on.

In the 1881 census of England and Wales the seven most common variants were Heppenstall 32%, Heptonstall 18%, Heptinstall 13%, Hepplestone 7%, Heppleston 7%, Heppinstall 5% and Hepponstall 3%.

In the 2002 Office of National Statistics Database the seven most common variants in England and Wales were Heppenstall 31%, Heptinstall 23%, Hepplestone 10%, Heptonstall 9%, Heppinstall 9%, Hempenstall 8% and Heppleston 7%.

In the 1880 USA census the five most common variants were Heptinstall 18%, Hep(p)install 16%, Haptonstall 15%, Hep(p)enstall 13% and Heptonstall 7%. The surname Hippensteel and variants is found in the USA but is not included in this one-name study as it is considered to be an occupational surname of German origin (from hippenstiel: a maker of scythe handles).

As with most surnames, variants came about from differences in local pronunciation and errors in recording and transcription. I have learnt the hard way that different variants and spellings may be recorded in the same family and even in the same individual at different times.

Name origin

It is a locative surname derived from the village of Heptonstall which is near Halifax in the old West Riding of Yorkshire. Information about Heptonstall village can be found here.

The first examples of the surname were recorded in the Halifax area in the late 13th century. By the 15th century the name had appeared in the Pontefract area. The surname had dispersed widely in England and Ireland by the beginning of the 18th century although the majority were still in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Worldwide occurrences of the name are found in the 19th century with Australia, Canada and the USA at the head of the list after England and Ireland.

The place-name Heptonstall itself derives from the Old English 'hebdene' meaning rose-hip valley and 'stall' meaning stable, hence 'the stable in the valley of the rose-hips'. More on the derivation of the place-name Heptonstall here.

History of the name

There are a few Heps who have become famous outside their own circle of family and friends. Here are a selection in the order of their birth:

  • John Heptinstall (1657-1732) A music printer and publisher who lived and worked in London. Inventor of the 'new tied note' (quavers and semiquavers united in groups) and the publisher of much of Purcell's music. More about John Heptinstall here.
  • Lt John ('Jack') Hepenstal (1760-1802) Lieutenent in the Irish Yeomanry at the time of the 1788 Rebellion. A giant of a man who became infamous because of his practice of executing any suspected rebel he came across. He would put his cravat around their neck and then jog with them suspended behind his back until they were dead. More about Lt Jack Hepenstal here.
  • Rev Frederick Heppenstall (1834-1879) Born in Newark and studied classics at Cambridge. In 1875 he was appointed headmaster of the then failing Sedbergh School. Within a couple of years he had made it the foremost public school in Yorkshire. More about Rev Frederick Heppenstall here.
  • Sam Heppenstall (1842-1931) Born in Rotherham and worked in the steel industry there. Emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1863 and founded the Heppenstall Steel Co in Pittsburgh in 1898.
  • Col Maxwell Dopping-Hepenstal (1872-1965) Born in Ireland and trained at Sandhurst where he was a contempory of Winston Churchill. Colonel in the King's Own Gurkha Rifles. Awarded the DSO and the French Croix de Guerre in WW1. More about Col Maxwell Dopping-Hepenstal here.
  • William Heptinstall (1891-1971) Born in Pontefract. Well known British chef who owned the Fortingall Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland. Author of 'Hors d'Oeuvre and Cold Table' first published in 1959. More about William Heptinstall here.
  • Rayner Heppenstall (1911-1981) Born in Huddersfield and attended Leeds University. Became a famous novelist, poet, critic, BBC producer and criminal historian. Dylan Thomas and George Orwell were among his friends as a young man. More about Rayner Heppenstall here.
  • Prof Robert H Heptinstall (1920-) Born in Cumbria and studied medicine in London. Moved to USA in 1960. Author of 'Pathology of the Kidney' which was first published in 1966 and still remains the definitive text. Professor of Pathology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore until he retired in 1988.
  • Bernard Heptonstall (1925-) Born in Bradford. Actor who is known professionally as Bernard Hepton. Played Archbishop Cranmer in the 1970 TV series 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII'. He appeared with Michael Caine in the film 'Get Carter' in 1971.
  • Ray Heppenstall (1931-2004) Born in Pittsburg. Great grandson of Sam Heppenstall (see above). Racing driver and designer of the Howmet TX turbine racing car.

Name frequency

In the 1881 census of England and Wales there were 1,186 Heps giving a prevalence of 43 per million population or 1 in 23,000.

In the 2002 Office of National Statistics database there were 3,567 Heps in England and Wales giving a prevalence of 71 per million population or 1 in 15,000.

In the 1880 USA census there were 326 Heps giving a prevalence of 7 per million population or 1 in 154,000.

In the 1930 USA census there were 599 Heps giving a prevalence of 5 per million population or 1 in 205,000.

Distribution of the name

In the 1881 census the English county with the greatest prevalence of Heps was the West Riding of Yorkshire with nine times the average national prevalence. The hottest spots were in the Pontefract and Hemsworth areas. 1881 prevalence map here.

In 2002 the English county with the greatest prevalence of Heps was West and South Yorkshire combined (roughly equivalent to the old West Riding), which had nine times the national prevalence. The hottest spots were in the Wakefield and Huddersfield postcode areas (Wakefield, Dewsbury, Hemsworth, Featherstone, Pontefract, Knottingley, Castleford, Huddersfield, Brighouse, Marsden, Holmfirth, Denby Dale, Kirkheaton, Kirkburton and Almondbury). 2002 prevalence map here.

In the 1880 USA census the states with the greatest prevalence of Heps were North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Iowa and Rhode Island, each of which had over three times the national prevalence.

In the 1930 USA census the states with the greatest prevalence of Heps were Alabama, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, each of which had over three times the national prevalence.


The study contains all Hep entries from the England and Wales GRO BMD Indexes 1837-1940 and grants of probate 1858-1940.

Other data include:

Complete extracts of the IGI, British VRI and the 1841-1911 censuses for England and Wales.

Most of the index entries of the PCC and PCY wills before 1858.

Some British parish register entries of baptism, marriage and burial.

Complete extracts of the 1790-1930 USA censuses and Social Security Death Index.

Complete extracts of the 1851-1911 Canadian censuses and some Ontario births, marriages and deaths.

The study also includes over 160 reconstructed or submitted family trees.


A Heppenstall and variants Y-chromosome DNA project has been registered with the main test companies. More information can be found here.


Heppenstall Archive at The Guild of One Name Studies here.

Heppenstall DNA Project here.

Ancestry Heppenstall Mailing List here.

Genforum Heppenstall Mailing List here.

Ancestry Heptinstall Mailing List here.

Genforum Heptinstall Mailing List here.

Ancestry Heppleston Mailing List here.

Ancestry Heptonstall Mailing List here.

Genforum Heptonstall Mailing List here.

Genforum Hempenstall Mailing List here.

Retained study profile

This study is no longer registered with the Guild, but this profile page has been retained at the member's request. Please note that neither officers nor members of the Guild are able to answer any questions about this study.