This name is of English locational origin from any of the several places named with the Olde English pre 7th Century element "leah" translating variously as "an open place in a wood, a glade or low lying meadow". Examples are Lee in Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Essex, Kent and Shropshire, also Lea in Cheshire, Lincolnshire, Wiltshire etc.. The name may also be topographic for someone who dwelled by a pasture or clearing. The surname is first recorded in the mid 12th Century, (see below). One, Turqod de la Lea appears in the 1193 "Pipe Rolls of Warwickshire" and a Richard de la Lee in the 1273 "Hundred Rolls of Wiltshire". On January 27th 1564, Ales Lea was christened in Bebington, Cheshire and on August 4th 1590, Ann Lea married Thomas Millington in Frodsham, Cheshire. Modern variants of the name include Lea, Leah, Lay(e) and Lye(s). Amongst the famous name holders was Benjamin Lay (1677-1759) who opposed Slavery in the West Indies. He later moved to Philadelphia where he worked with the Quakers. The Coat of Arms is a red field, a silver chevron charged with three torteaux, and a crest of a gold escallop charged with a red saltire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ailric de la Leie, which was dated circa 1148, in the "Early Northamptonshire Charters", during the reign of King Stephen, known as "Count of Blois" 1135 - 1154. 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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