This very unusual and interesting name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational surname deriving from a place called Clayhill, either that now in Avon, near Bristol, or a "lost" place which was perhaps situated in Devonshire. An estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets are known to have disappeared in England since the 11th Century, due to such natural causes as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, or to the widespread practice of enforced "clearing" of land to create sheep pastures during the height of the wool trade in the 15th Century. The placename, Clayhill, derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "claeg", clay, with "hyll", hill. The name has generated a variety of surnames, ranging from Clayill and Clayal, to Cleal(l) and Clel(l)e. One Alsopp Cleell was christened in Bideford, on June 18th 1645, and the marriage of William Cleal and Elizabeth Meecham was recorded in South Perrott, Dorset, on October 29th 1759. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Clelle, which was dated February 10th 1572, christened at Oakford, Devonshire, 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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