This name achieved fame during the period of the English Civil War (1640 - 1651), Bartholomew Gidley of Gidleigh, Devon, rendering a particular service to King Charles 11, in the period before his restoration in 1660. This probably refers to the King's escape after the battle of Worcester in 1651, when for three weeks he was hidden in the Devon-Dorset area. The family received as a reward the grant of arms and a silver medallion in 1671. The origination is from the hamlet of Gidleigh deep in the forest on the edge of Dartmoor between Chagford and Okehampton. The place is ancient and even today, mysterious. It was first recorded in 1156 a.d. as 'Gidelia', the translation from the Olde English being 'the place (leah) of the Gydda tribe'. Geddinge in Kent and Gedding in Suffolk have the same meaning. The Gidleys of Gidleigh held large estates in Devon, the spelling of their surname being interchangeable. However in or about 1690 the spelling settled as Gidley. The village was 'enclosed' in the 16th century and many tenants were dispossessed and scattered around the country. These people took (or were given) as their surname, the name of their former village. Examples of the surname recordings include Bartholomew Gidley who married Joane Northleigh at Alphington, Devon, on November 27th 1637, whilst on October 1st 1678, another Batholomew, who himself was the son of Bartholomew (but which one?), was christened at Gidleigh on October 1st 1678. The blazon of the coat of arms of Gidley of Gidleigh has a gold field, charged with a black castle inside a black bordure bezantee. The crest is a gold eagle. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Bartholomew Gydleye, which was dated April 27th 1548, christened at South Tawton, Devon, during the reign of King Edward V1, known as 'The boy king' 1547 - 1554. 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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