This is an English surname. Although rare it is quite well recorded in the surviving church registers of the city of London in the spellings of Gradley, Gradly, and the very rare and possibly extinct forms of Grodly and Grudley. The first known recording is probably that of Joyce Gradley, who married William Haryson at Christ Church Greyfriars, in the city of London, on June 14th 1563. The surname is clearly locational, however unless it be from the hamlet of Gridley in Devonshire, no such place in any of the known surname spellings, has been identified in the gazetters of the British Isles in the last two hundred years.Johan Gridley is recorded in the village of Winkleigh, Devon, on February 24th 1627, but there are no known recordings in any of the other "likely" spellings in this county. Experience would therefore suggest that this surname originates from a now "lost" medieval village, perhaps one that was evacuated after the great plagues of the late middle ages. However a more logical if less interesting explanation is that the growth of the English textile industry in the late 17th century onwards, also encouraged many land owners to change their farming systems. This lead to them develop extensive sheep flocks for their wool. Sheep required far fewer workers, and so the land owners used the legal, if immoral, process of land enclosure, to fence off the common lands of the village. This prevented tenants from grazing their meagre flocks and herds, and achieved the desired effect of driving them out of the village, to seek homes and jobs elsewhere. The etymology of the surname is also unproven. The name appears to mean "The fenced enclosure or farm (leah) of Grada". The Dictionary of English Place Names suggests that there was an early saint called Grada, but if so he was so obscure as not to be recorded in the Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
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