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Catchpole is a rare surname, being a type of tax collector in medieval England. The name is a combination of Old English (cace-, catch) and medieval Latin (pullus, a chick). It derives from the image that people who owed tax were as difficult to catch as farmyard hens.[1] The Catchpole name is from Dorset, Southern England.

At that time, tax-gathering was contracted out, a system called tax farming. The catchpole paid a lump sum to be authorised to collect taxes from a given area or population, and was then able to keep whatever he could extract, using almost any method he came up with.

Later, the duties of the 'catchpole' were those of a legal official, working for the bailiff. He was mainly responsible for collecting debts, using methods hardly more restrained than those of his tax gathering forebears.[1]

The suggestion that the name derives from a long wooden pole with a noose or barbed fork on one end, used to apprehend those who owed money, is incorrect. However 'catchpole' is the name of such a tool, used still today, mostly by animal control officials to ensnare uncontrolled animals such as aggressive dogs.[1]

Notable people with this surname[edit]

In fiction[edit]


  1. ^ a b c World Wide Words: Issue 825: 30 March 2013, 'Catchpole'