This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin and has two possible sources; the first is locational from a now "lost" place thought to have been in Bedfordshire. The second source is topographical and was used to describe a person who lived at "the enclosure in the wood". The name is derived from the Old English pre 7th Century "sceaga", a wood, and "leah", an enclosure; both sources have the same origin. An estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets are known to have disappeared in Britain since circa 1100, due to such natural disasters as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, or to the widespread practice of "clearing" large areas of land to make sheep pastures during the height of the wool-trade in the 14th and 16th Centuries. Among the sample recordings in Bedfordshire are the christening of Michael Shawley at Riseley, on August 5th 1621, and the marriage of John Shawley and Elizabeth Eaton on October 12th 1753, at Sunton. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Wilmoth Chauly (marriage to Jasper Northom), which was dated November 24th 1597, Yarcombe, Devonshire, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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