This is a locational surname of Old English origins. It derives from some place originally known as 'Hesli', and describing a hazel wood or grove. 'Hazel' was a popular tree in the early British landscape, providing nuts which formed a core part of the winter diet. The disappearance of the hazel tree may also account for the development of this surname now recorded as Hisley, Isley, Hesley, and Eslie! It is possible that the surname does derive from the village of 'Hessle' in Yorkshire or from 'Hazelgrove' in Cheshire, but is more likely to be from a totally 'lost' village, as the majority of early recordings are in London. In the post medieval period, when much of England changed its farming methods from arable to grazing, people were dispossessed and tended to make their way to London, the place with streets paved in gold! In so doing they took or were given as their surname, that of their former home, and spelling being at best primitive, lead to variant forms of the surname. In this case examples include Katherin Isley, who married Reynaldus Beysley at St Martins in the Field, Westminster, on February 6th 1591, and William Hesleye, who married Katherin Gryse at the church of St Nicholas Acons, London, on April 13th 1600. Another recording is that of Charles Hisley, who married Amy Hogg at St Leonards Church, Shoreditch, London, on November 20th 1837, in the first year of the reign of Queen Victoria. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Anne Esley, which was dated March 12th 1583, who married George Delves at St Margarets, Westminster, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as 'Good queen Bess', 1558 - 1603. 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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