Recorded in several spelling forms as shown below, this is an English locational surname. It originates from some minor or unrecorded place, believed to have been situated in the county of Staffordshire, because of the high incidence of recordings in that county. The widespread practice of enforced "clearing" of rural lands to make way for sheep pastures from the 15th Century onwards, along with natural causes such as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, was responsible for the disappearance of an estimated five thousand villages throughout the British Isles. The component elements of this placename are the Olde English pre 7th Century "cruc", meaning cross, or the British (pre-Roman) "cruc", meaning hill, with the suffix "leah", describing an enclosure or farm in a wood or forest. Locational surnames, such as this, were originally given either to the family of the local lord of the manor, or as an easy means of identification to those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere. Lack of education and local dialectal differences gave rise to several variations of the original spelling which is now found as: Crichley, Critchley, Cratchley, Crutchley and Critchlow, an early example being that of Alicia Critchley, who was christened on November 21st 1594 at Penkridge in Staffordshire. The first recorded spelling of the family name in surviving church registers is believed to be that of Nicholas Crycheloe. This was dated February 1st 1539, when he was a christening witness, at Alstonfield, Staffordshire, during the reign of King Henry V111, 1509 - 1547. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop," often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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