This unusual name recorded in the spellings of Willey, Wiley, Wyley, Wylie, and Wyly, is of English locational origin. It derives from the places so called in the counties of Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Devonshire and Surrey. The first five of these villages share the same meaning. This is from the Old English pre 7th "wilig", meaning "willow" and "leah", either a fenced clearing in a wood, or in some places a "water meadow". The village of "Willey" in Surrey derives its name from a different source. This is from "weoh", meaning a pagan temple, plus "leah", which in this case clearly means a clearing in a wood. The first recording of a placename is that of the Surrey village which appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles as early as 909 a.d. in the spelling of "Weoleage". Locational surnames were given either to the original Lords of the Manor as in the first recording below, or later to those who left their original homes to (usually) seek work elsewhere. Identification by their former homestead name being easy and convenient, although it often lead to distorted spellings. Early examples of the recordings include William de Wylly of Sussex in 1296, and Richard de Wyleye of Essex in 1390. Edmund Willie of Somerset was recorded in 1595, and Francis Willey in London in 1621. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John de Wylegh. which was dated 1201, in the Pipe Rolls of the county of Wiltshire, during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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