This unusual and interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from some minor, or unrecorded place, perhaps a lost village, believed to have been situated in 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 seven to ten thousand villages throughout Britain. The component elements of this placename are the Olde English pre 7th Century "cruc", cross, or the British (pre-Roman) "cruc", hill, with the Olde English "leah", wood, grove. Locational surnames, such as this, were originally given as a means of identification to those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere, and were subsequently known by the name of their former village. Regional and dialectal differences gave rise to several variations on the original spelling of the name which, in the modern idiom, is found as: Crichley, Critchley, Crutchley and Critchlow. On November 21st 1594, Alicia Critchley, an infant, was christened in Penkridge, Staffordshire. A Coat of Arms granted to the Critchley family is a shield divided quarterly red and silver with a black martlet in the second and third quarter, the Crest being a harp vert. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Nicholas Crycheloe, which was dated February 1539, witness at a christening, at Alstonfield, Staffordshire, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Bluff King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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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