Recorded as Lay, Lea, Lee, Lees, Leese, Leigh, Leighe, Leagh, and according to the famous International Generalogical Index, the rare forms of Lahee, Leagas, Leage, League, Leyh, and others. If so and howver spelt this ancient and widely distributed surname is of Olde English pre 7th century origins. It is either a topographical name from residence in a glade or wood-clearing, and deriving from the word "leah", or locational from any of the various places named Lee or Leigh. These include Leigh in Berkshire, Cheshire, Dorset, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, appearing respectively as Lege, Lega, Lege and Lalege in the Domesday Book of 1086 for the above counties. Leigh in Lancashire is recorded as Leeche in the Cockersand Chartulary of 1276. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, providing easily recognizable names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Locational surnames were originally given as a means of identification to those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere. Early examples of the surname recordings include: Liffild de Lega of Essex in the year1176, and Pagan a la Legh of Yorkshire, in the Pipe Rolls of 1208. A notable bearer of the name was Sir Thomas Leigh, Lord Mayor of London in 1558, the first year of the reign of the famous Queen Bess, Queen Elizabeth 1st, 1558 - 1603. A coat of arms has the blazon of a gold shield with a red lion rampant, the crest being a hand proper grasping a broken tilting spear. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ailric de la Leie. This was dated 1148, in "Early Charters from Northamptonshire", during the reign of King Stephen, known as "Count of Blois", 1135 - 1154.
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