This interesting surname, with variant spellings Hedley and Headly, is of English locational origin from "Headley" in Hampshire and Surrey. The former was recorded "Hallege" in the Domesday Book of 1086, and the latter appeared as "Hallega" in the same source. The place name itself comes from the Old English pre-seventh Century "haep-leah", meaning "clearing overgrown with heather". There are also places called Headley and Headley Heath in Yorkshire and Worcestershire. Thus placenames were often used to distinguish people from one another and hence was a main factor in the origin of alot of surnames. One Nicholas de Heddeleg appeared in the Hundred Rolls of Salop in 1273, while the Placita de Quo Warranto recorded Cecilia de Hedlegh in Staffordshire in 1292. Willelmus de Hedelay was listed in the Poll Tax records of Yorkshire in 1379, as was one Margareta de Hedelay. A notable namebearer was Henry Headley (1765-1788) educated under Parr at Colchester and Norwich and Friend of Bowles at Oxford in 1786, who became a well-known poet and critic publishing "Select Beauties of Ancient English Poetry" in 1787. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Alan de Hedleg, which was dated 1273, Hundred Rolls of Salop, (Shropshire), during the reign of King Edward 1, "The Hammer of The Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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