This name is a transposed variant spelling of the English locational name from any of the several places called Cowley, found in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Devonshire and Staffordshire, recorded respectively as Cufanlea, Couela, Couelegh and Covelav in Anglo-Saxon Records for the various counties, dated 949 to 1066. They derive their names from the Old English pre 7th Century 'Cufan Leah' meaning 'the wood or clearing (leah) of Cufa' the byname form 'Cufl' meaning block or stump. Cowley in Gloucestershire, appearing as Kulege in the Domesday Book of 1086 is so called form the Old English 'Cu - leah' meaning 'clearing where cows grazed'. Two in Derbyshire recorded as Collei in the Domesday Book, derive their first element from the Old English 'col' meaning 'charcoal'; hence 'clearing where charcoal was burned'. Finally, Cowley in Middlesex translates as 'leah in a cofa' i.e. recess or creek. William Cowley, aged 20 yrs., who embarked from London on the ship 'America' bound for Virginia, was one of the earliest recorded namebearers to settle in the New World. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Osbert de Couela, which was dated 1167, 'The Pipe Rolls of Oxfordshire', 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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