The one certain thing about this locational surname is that it originally developed from the village of Butterley in Derbyshire, or from some place now lost of the same name. The village has Olde English pre 10th century origins and the traditional translation is "the pasture (leah) which provided good butter (buter)!" Well indeed that may be so, but as one has to produce cream and milk first in order to make butter, it is more likely that the meaning is the field of butter cups, or even that it was a bright pasture, one south facing. The first village recording is that of 1276 when the spelling appears as "Buterleg" and then later in 1330 as" Butterleye" although the surname would seem to be much later. In fact the surname is one of a group which developed through (near) tragedy. In the 15th century a number of Enclosure Acts passed through Parliament enabling landlords to "enclose" the common grazing lands on which the tenants relied. This resulted in many people being forced to leave the area, but in so doing they took or were given as their surname, the name of their former village. Certainly Butterley spread quickly as a surname, in fact it was recorded in London (see below) before Derbyshire. How can this be? probably because of bad record keeping in areas far from London, but this is conjecture. Examples of the name include Theophilius Butterly, son of Richardi and Elizabethae, christened at St Brides, Fleet Street, on December 10th 1690, and John Butterley of Repton, Derbyshire, recorded there on September 30th 1708. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Katherin Butterley, which was dated October 31st 1569, married Nicholas Staples at St James Church, Clerkenwell, London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess" 1558 - 1603. 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.
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