The name Seppings, originally from East Anglia, England, is thought to have derived from the nickname ‘Sevenpence’, someone not very tall.* One of the earliest listed is John Wolman Sevenpens (1403) in the Calendar of Norwich Freemen 1317-1603: Edward II to Elizabeth Inclusive under Henry IV. In 1524, the name was recorded in the form Sevenpennys and Sevynpenys. Through the centuries, Seppings has been spelt Seppens, Sippins (1540), Sypphinge, Sibbinge (1548), Sibbynge (1552), Seppins (1625), Sipins (1674), Sepens (1674), Sipping (1694), Sippons (1761), Sepings, Sippings and Sepping.
In Our Family History (1989), Faith Packard wrote, ‘It may have originated in north Suffolk as it appears in documents from the Halesworth – Blythburgh area in the 14th and 15th centuries. The parish registers of Fakenham in North Norfolk and the parishes round about have frequent mentions of the name from the beginning of the registers in the mid 16th century.’ In Suffolk, the Seppings name was referenced in 1540 when Nycholas Sevenpennys held lands and a family seat as Lord of the Manor.**
In Fakenham, Norfolk, where the Seppings name is deeply rooted, a fire damaged the town on 4 Aug, 1738 and, unfortunately, the early parish registers were lost and in them ancestral information on the Seppings. Other historic documents shedding light on the Seppings name may also have perished in the Norwich Central Library fire in 1994.
If you have the name Seppings in your family and you come across another Seppings you will be related. ‘The name never became widespread,’ wrote Faith Packard in 1989. ‘Though Seppings families are still met with in Norfolk the current London Telephone Directory lists only one Sepping and one Seppings.’ I met that one Sepping in a philosophy class he and I attended at the University of London, 1988.
There are various family history sites on the internet which estimate the numbers of Seppings on record. In 2017, ‘Ancestry’ claims to have 14,107 historical documents with the Seppings name, including 4,751 Births, Deaths and Marriages, 4,089 Census and Voter Lists, 160 Military Records and 112 Immigration Records. ‘My Heritage’ lists 3,141 people with the Seppings name and 917 with the name Sepping. 55% of Seppings lived in Great Britian, 18% in the United Kingdom, 18% in South Africa and 9% in Australia.
‘Research My Name’ states the Seppings name has been established in Europe for nearly 100 years, originally from Britian. They claim records dating back to 1131 suggest there was a contingency of Seppings’s in the county of Leicestershire, though I have not been able to verify this. Neither can I find a reference to their assertion, ‘It is written that a late 18th century Seppings could out drink a Rhino.’ Perhaps so. Many Seppings have been known to enjoy a drop. I agree with their conclusion of Seppings Traits. ‘The Seppings family are well known for their happy personalities.’ Although not all have had happy lives, just look at those smile lines. Listen to a Seppings laugh.
It is interesting to learn that all Seppings were law-abiding – at least there are no criminal records to be found. What the Seppings family name does carry is an extensive military history. Fifteen Seppings men, mostly from England, served in the First World War. Francis Edmund Henry Seppings of Wagga Wagga, NSW, was in the 1st Light Horse regiment at Gallipoli. Edmund Henry Seppings, the first Seppings to arrive in Australia was a Lieutenant with the Royal Navy, as was his father, John Milligen Seppings whose only brother, Sir Robert Seppings, naval architect, is a name well regarded in the history of shipbuilding and one of the most highly commemorated as a surveyor in the Royal Navy.
‘Seppings Blocks’ was a name given, in 1800, to the invention by Robert Seppings, then master shipwright assistant in the Plymouth dockyard, of a device which reduced the time and labour required for inspecting and effecting repairs to the lower hulls of ships in dry dock.
There were two ships named Seppings. The first Seppings, a barque of 393 tons, left Calcutta in 1839 and arrived in Port Jackson, 1840, via Port Phillip, carrying a cargo of sugar and 18 convicts from India, with four soldiers. The second, Sir Robert Seppings, a 628 ton ship, arrived at Van Diemen’s Land from Woolwich, England, in 1852, with 220 female convicts.
In 1826, Major Edmund Lockyer, first cousin of Sir Robert and John Milligen Seppings, hoisted the British flag at Albany and, on claiming Western Australia, an act which officially brought the whole of the Australian continent under the control of the British Crown, he named the freshwater lake there, Lake Seppings. There is a Seppings Island off the west of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, and a Seppings Hill in Ewes, Scotland. Seppings Peak can be found on the island of Naungdaw, Rakhine, Myanmar. The Eskimo village, Kivalinagmiut, on the arctic coast between Point Hope and Cape Krusenstern, was named Seppings Cape by Cpt. F. W. Beechey, in 1827, while exploring the Bering Straight. Seppings Lagoon, Alaska, is on the shore of Chuckchi Sea, 22 miles NW of Kivalina, Kotzabue-Kobuk Low.
There is a Seppings Road in Norfolk, England, and in the Bangalore district of Karnataka, India, where Edmund Henry Seppings’ brother, Vice Admiral William Lawless Seppings, served in the military cantonment of the British Raj. In Albany there is a Seppings suburb and a Lake Seppings Drive. There is a Seppings Close in Wilburton, Ely, Cambridgeshire; a Seppings Way in Norwich, Norlfolk; and a Seppings Court in Flagstaff Hill, South Australia.
Various businesses have displayed the Seppings name. A Public House in Norfolk had the name Hogge and Seppings from 1861 into the 1920s. W. J. Seppings Butchers, makers of the famous Seppings sausage, was established in 1919 and still supplies meat to Suffolk and Norfolk from the original shop in Beccles. J. Seppings’ Boot Repairs in Yerong Creek, south of Wagga Wagga, NSW, was destroyed by fire in 1923. There was a Sepping’s Universe Cycle Store in Sydney, NSW, in the 1950s, which expanded to several stores and were run by three generations of Sepping. Alan J Sepping Pty Ltd was a Bicycle Accessories & Repairs shop in West Ryde, Sydney, until 2015.
The Seppings name is found as a fictional character, the butler ‘Seppings’, in the award-winning British comedy Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, and as Samuel Seppings, a ‘stolid-looking working-man’, called as a juror in Chapter 15 of The Red Thumb Mark by R. Austin Freeman. At Dripstone and Mumbil, NSW, in the 1930s, locals played tennis there for the Seppings Cup.
In the first generation of Australian Seppings there were four girls born. One died. The two boys, Edmund Henry Seppings and Francis Merewether Seppings carried on the Seppings name. Edmund Henry Seppings, my great-grandfather, had ten children. Three girls were born and it seems only one survived (though I don’t know when she died). My grandfather, Edgar Shelley Seppings, had five boys and of the three girls born, two survived. From the five boys, three daughters and ten sons were born. All survived. Those ten sons produced fifteen daughters and ten sons. One of those boys has had a son and the name Seppings lives on in a new generation. My grandfather’s brothers produced six sons between them, but of their five sons, one has died and only one boy is born to the current generation.
Francis Merewether Seppings had four sons and four daughters. His boys had five daughters and eight sons between them. The eight sons had five girls and six boys. For some reason, one of Francis Merewether Seppings’ sons, Francis Obediah, dropped the last ‘s’ on his Seppings name and so there is a branch, living in Sydney, with that spelling.
The names Lockyer, Milligen and Staines, from maternal lines, were repeatedly used as middle names for Seppings boys. As was Merewether – due to a family connection. Seppings has been used for a middle name in the Armstrong, Beloe, Buck, Clitherow, Codner, Colthurst, Cosens, Godfrey, Harper, Harrison, Hook, Howlett, King, Laws, Lock, Mitchell, Moore, Noye, Puttock, Tayton, Tirard, Wilson and Wright families, in England, usually with Robert as the first name. Seppings was also used as a first name in the Hook family. The Seppings name appears hyphenated for the famous artist, Henry Charles Seppings-Wright (1850-1937) and there is currently a Sooväli-Sepping as well as several Sepping in Estonia.
Of all the preferred names in Seppings families, John Milligen was used five times (2 were lieutenants), and in the Laws and Puttock families. Robert Seppings was repeated five times, straight, and once with Seymour added. William was used nine times; Thomas, five. Edmund, Edward, and Francis were used four times each. The most popular girl’s names were Charlotte and Mary. Some of the female names, such as Mary Seppings (nee Rapley), acquired the Seppings name through marriage. When my mother, Joan Katherine Webster (b. 1929), married my father, Edgar Shelley Seppings, she took on the same name as his sister, Joan Catherine Seppings, who died as a baby one month before my mother was born.
In the 1800’s, when a child died, the next born of the same sex was usually given the same name. Edmund Henry Seppings named his first son after himself (there was also another Edmund Henry in the Burma branch) and named his first daughter after Grace Darling, an English lighthouse keeper’s daughter who, in September 1838, became famous for seeing the shipwrecked Forfarshire off the Northumberland coast and helping to rescue nine survivors in a lifeboat. Grace Darling Seppings died in her first year but the name was given to the next daughter who survived. Edmund Henry Seppings’ son, Edmund Henry, named his first born daughter Grace Darling as well, but she, too, died in infancy.
My father, Edgar Shelley Seppings, had the same name as his father, the middle name was attributed to one of the most influential English Romantic poets. Shelley was radical in his poetry as well as in his political and social views. Sentiments not lost on the Seppings family or in the passing of time.
*Dictionary of English Surnames by P. H. Reaney
** ‘Research My Name’ website
Our Family History (1989), Faith Packard
‘Seppings Name’ image cropped from Seppings Coat of Arms grant doc. (1825)
‘Seppings Road – Norfolk, England’ photograph by Katherine Seppings (2001)