This interesting name is of Anglo-Saxon origin and can be either a locational or a topographical surname. If locational, the name derives from one of the two places called Manley in Devonshire and Cheshire. The placename means "the common wood", derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century "(ge)maene", common, shared, and "leah", a wood, or glade in a wood. The meaning is a wood for the use of all, as in our modern "commons", shared land available to all the people. Locational surnames were usually acquired by a local landowner, or by the lord of the manor, and especially by those former inhabitants of a place who had moved to another area, and were thereafter best identified by the name of their birthplace.As a topographical surname, Manley, or its variant forms Many and Manleigh denotes residence by such a "common" wood. In some cases, the modern surname may derive from a medieval nickname from the Middle English "mannly", virile, brave. One Thomas Manley, from Cheshire, is recorded on the Register of the University of Oxford of 1577. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Manelegh, which was dated 1202, in the "Fees Court Records of Devonshire", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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