This unusual and interesting name recorded as Cowdray, Cowderay, Cowdrey, Cowdry, Cowdery, Caudray, Coudray , Cawdery, and others, is of Norman-French origin, and was 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 word "coudraie", a hazel copse. In a sense the literal origin is the Latin "colurus", since it was from this word that the French form developed. It is also claimed that in some instances at least, the surname could be occupational in origin, and denote one who owned or managed a hazel copse, since the collection of 'nuts' was an important component of the winter diet of the medieval period. Early examples of the surname recordings include Richard de Coudrey who is recorded in the 1220 Curia Rolls of Hampshire, and Henry de la Coudrey is listed in the Staffordshire Assize Rolls of 1279. Other early examples include Sir Thomas de Coudray, also recorded as Sir Thomas Caundray, (so much for spelling), who in the time of King Edward 11 of England, 1327 to 1377, bore the following coat of arms - on a red shield, ten gold billets four, three, two, and one, a bend vair. 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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