The hamlet of Cowlishaw, within the township of Crompton, in the parish of Prestbury, Lancashire, is the place of origin of this habitational name, now centred in Nottinghamshire. It is found in a variety of spellings including Cowlishaw, Coulshaw, Colishaw, Collishaw and Cowlinshaw, the latter form being popular in America. The very diversity of spellings and the spread of the name suggests that at some time in its history, the hamlet was forcibly "cleared", either as a result of war or disease, or most likely as a result of the Enclosure Acts of the 15th to 18th Centuries. This enabled landlords to seize the common lands, and expel the inhabitants, who were usually replaced by sheep farming. The name is of Olde English pre 10th Century origins, and translates as "the wood (shaw) of the Cola tribe", the earliest known inhabitants of the region. The name recording examples include: Alice Caulisha, who married Joseph Walker at Radford, Nottinghamshire, on May 9th 1630, and Samwell Collishaw of Lenton, who was a witness at the christening of his daughter, Ann, on November 30th 1692, in the reign of William of Orange (1689 - 1702). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Alicia Covlshawe, which was dated April 9th 1606, christened at Beeston, Nottinghamshire, during the reign of King James 1 of England and V1 of Scotland, 1603 - 1625. 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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