Dictionaries of names indicate that the surname COPE has several origins. One from the occupation or trade, i.e. a Cope maker or seller; another from someone who wore an outstandingly fine Cope (a Middle English word meaning long cloak or cape), and finally, from the location of a family, based on the Saxon word COP, meaning a "Rocky outcrop on top of a hill." It is therefore almost certain there were several different families with the same name originally and that not all Copes had a single ancestor. The locational derivation on its own would certainly be a good reason why there seem to be so many unconnected families with the same name, even if they are spelt with slight variations. Typical alternative spellings are CAPE, COAP, COAPE and COPP. The name COPE was first documented in Saxon times and therefore has to be one of the earliest of surnames. The Saxons lived along the Rhine Valley and as far North East as Denmark. Their leaders were Hengist and Horsa and when they came to England, settled mainly in Kent. Initially a Walter Cape (sic) is mentioned in the Kent Pipe Rolls of 1190 but the families gradually moved northwards and westwards. The major titled families were those of Hanwell, Brewerne, Bedhampton and Northampton; those of America, Ireland and London emanated from the Hanwell line.
Strangely, the largest proportion of Copes now lives in U.S.A., closely followed by the United Kingdom; there are much smaller groupings in places such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada plus a few in Ireland. Within the U.K. the name is fairly well distributed but there are, or have been, concentrations in the West Midlands /Staffordshire, Essex, London and Gloucestershire, the last of which is the grouping I’m interested in. I have been unable to establish the source of the families in Gloucestershire, though a descendant of the Hanwell Cope established a line in Iccomb near Stow-in-the-Wold, but more about that a bit later.