Recorded in several spellings including Astley, Astle, and Astell, this ancient and noble English surname is first recorded in the 13th century, but its origins are much earlier. It derives from the pre 7th century descriptive topographical words 'est leah', meaning the farm or perhaps settlement, to the east (of the main village). As such the origination is from such places as Astle in Cheshire, or any of the villages called Astley in the counties of Lancashire, Shropshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. These places are variously recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Hesleie and Estleia, and show the inablity of Norman-French trained clerks to master local dialects and to correctly spell English place names. Locational surnames were usually, as in this case, first held by the local lord of the manor. We know from the surviving charters and rolls of the medieval period that Andrew de Astley, the first lord Astley, was recorded in the Hundred Rolls of the county of Warwickshire in the year 1295, whilst a Thomas Astley appears in the register of the 2nd Dunstable Tournament in 1334. Sometimes the name was given to former inhabitants of a village who had moved to another area, and were thereafter best identified by the name of their birthplace. It is not absolutely clear when the surname was first recorded, but in the register of heraldry known as Jenyns Roll, which is dated about the year 1275, one Robert Astley of Warwickshire is recorded as holding arms with the blazon of azure, a lion passant Or. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop", often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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