- Recorded as Matley, Motley, Mottley, Mutley and others, this interesting surname is of English origin. It is however found in Ireland from the fourteenth century appearing amongst the lists of landowners of County Wexford. The surname itself is locational and apparently from a now "lost" medieval village. It is estimated that at least three thousand such places have been "lost" in the British Isles, many if not all, giving rise to surnames. The prime causes of these "disappearances" was the enforced clearing of inhabitants to make way for sheep pastures, as well as the enclosure of the common lands, and the draining of the wetlands in the 14th to the 18th centuries. The placename is composed of the elements "motte", meaning a moated or fortified stronghold, or "mott", the old English word for a meeting place, and "leah", a forest clearing. Examples of the surname recording include Alyce Motley, christened on December 28th 1559 at St. Botolph without Aldgate, London whilst Amie Matley was christened at St Mary Whitechapel, Stepney, on December 12th 1647. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas de Motlawe. This was dated 1379, in the Poll Tax Records of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Richard 11nd and known as "Richard of Bordeaux", 1373 - 1399. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
Surnames reference. 2013.