This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is either a topographical name from Priestley in Bedfordshire, Prestolee (Somerset), Prestolee in South East Lancashire, or a topographical name from residence in or near a priest's meadow. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "preost", priest, parson, with "leah", glade, grove, meadow, pasture-land. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognizable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Locational names were originally given to local landowners, and the lord of the manor, and especially as a means of identification to those who left their place of origin to settle elsewhere. Early examples of the surname include: Richard de Presteley (Yorkshire, 1297) and Walter Prestlegh (Somerset, 1327). On May 12th 1671, Henry Priestley and Ann White were married in Toddington, Bedfordshire. A Coat of Arms granted to William Priestley of Yorkshire circa 1272, is a red shield, on a chevron between three silver towers, issuing out of each a gold demi lion rampant, as many black grappling-irons. 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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