This interesting and unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and has two possible interpretations. Firstly, the name may be a topographical surname for a dweller by the priest's wood or clearing, from the Olde English pre 7th Century elements "preost", a priest, and "-leah", a wood, clearing; that is a wood or clearing belonging to the Church. However, the surname may also be of English locational origin from any of the various minor places called Priestly, in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, and especially in Yorkshire.These placenames are composed of the same elements as mentioned above. Variants of the surname in the modern idiom include Priestley, Pressley, Presslee, Presslie and Prisley. The surname itself first appears in records in the late 12th Century (see below), while other early recordings include: Richard de Presteley (Yorkshire, 1297); John de Presle (London, 1311); and Richard de Prestele (Sussex, 1327). Sarah, daughter of Robert and Mary Presley, was christened on March 7th 1676, at St. Sepulchre's, London. The Coat of Arms most associated with the name depicts a chevron between three silver towers issuing out of each a gold demi lion rampant, and three black grappling irons on a red shield, with the Motto "Respice finem" (Regard the End). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Samson de Presteleia, which was dated 1198, in the "Pipe Rolls of Bedfordshire", during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "Richard the Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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