This ancient and interesting surname, of Anglo-Saxon origin, is a locational name from Woodleigh in Devonshire, or Woodley in Berkshire, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th Century “wudu” meaning wood plus “leah”, pasture, clearing, hence “glade in a wood”.
The surname dates back to the early 11th Century (see below). Further recordings include Osbert de Wudeleg (1198) in the Pipe Rolls of Devonshire, and Walter de Wodeleye (1332) in the Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire. Church Records include the christening of Isable Woodley on June 10th 1560 in Woodbury, Devonshire, and the marriage of Edward Woodley to Alyce Sharpe on December 14th 1590 at St. Michael Bassishaw, London. George Woodley (1786 – 1846) was a poet and divine. He edited the “Royal Cornwall Gazette” (1808), and was a missionary of the “Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge”, in the Islands of St. Martin and St. Agnes Scilly (1820 – 1842). He was perpetual curate of Martindale (1843 – 1846), and he published poems, essays and other writings. A Coat of Arms granted to a Woodley family is black, a chevron between three silver owls, the Crest being a silver owl.
The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Aelfnod ate Wudeleage, which was dated 1008 – 1012, in the “Olde English Bynames of Devonshire”, during the reign of King Ethelred 1st, known as “The Unready”, 978 – 1016. 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.