This famous English name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational surname deriving from any one of the various places called Rowley in Devonshire, County Durham, Staffordshire and Yorkshire. The place in Devonshire is recorded as "Rodeleia" in the Domesday Book of 1086; that in Durham was recorded as "Ruley" in 1229; Rowley in Staffordshire was found as "Roelea" in the 1173 Pipe Rolls of the county; while the Rowleys in East and West Yorkshire are both recorded as "Ruley" in 1227 and 1246 respectively. All the places share the same meaning and derivation, which is "the rough wood or clearing", from the Olde English pre 7th Century "ruh", rough, overgrown, with "leah", thin wood, glade, clearing in a wood. One Rowley family can trace their descent from a William de Roulowe, listed in the Rolls of the Guild of Shropshire merchants in 1252, while other early recordings of the name include: Geoffrey de Roweleye (1280, Worcestershire), and John Rowley (1348, Nottinghamshire). The marriage of Thomas Rowley and Agneta Watson was recorded in Edmondton, London, on July 23rd 1559. An early Coat of Arms granted to a Rowley family depicts; on an ermine shield, a gold fret, on a red chief, three gold trefoils. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Ruelay, which was dated 1219, witness in the "Assize Court Rolls of Yorkshire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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