This unusual and interesting name is of Old French, Norman origin, introduced into England after the Conquest of 1066. It is a locational name from places in Normandy, called "Coudrai", in Seine-Maritime, and "Coudray" in Eure, or from the place in Sussex called Cowdray. The latter is recorded in the 1279 Assize Rolls of Sussex as "la Coudreye", and shares the same meaning and derivation with the French placenames, that is, "the hazel copse", from the Old French "coudraie", hazel copse, a collective from "coudre", hazel tree, from the Latin "colurus".In some instances the surname from this source could also be topographical in origin, denoting residence near a hazel copse. One Richard de Coudrey is recorded in the 1220 Curia Rolls of Hampshire, and Henry de la Coudrey is listed in the Staffordshire Assize Rolls of 1279. The modern surname can be found as Cowdray, Cowdrey, Cowdry, Cowdroy, Cowderoy, Cowdery and Coudray. London Church Registers record the christening of Mary, daughter of Nathaniel and Mary Cowdery, on July 6th 1719 at St. Nicholas Cole Abbey. A Coat of Arms granted to the family depicts, on a red shield, ten gold billets four, three, two, and one. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Engelram de Coudrai, which was dated circa 1170, in the "Chartulary of Rievaulx Abbey", Yorkshire, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. 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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