- Recorded as Wesley, Westley, Westly and Wellesley, the family name of the dukes of Wellington, this is a locational surname. For ever associated with the non conformist preacher John Wesley (1703 - 1791), it originates from any or even all of the various places in England called Westley or Westleigh, from the Olde English pre 7th century word "west", usually meaning to the west of a main settlement, and "leah, a parcel of land in a forest cleared for agriculture, essentially a farm, although it may also mean a water or low-lying meadow. Places thus named include Westley, a parish in West Suffolk, recorded as "Westlea" in the Domesday Book of 1086; or Westleigh in Devonshire, also recorded in the Domesday Book of the same year. Locational surnames, such as this, were originally given either to the lord of the manor, or to those who left the village to settle elsewhere. Early examples of the surname include: Adam de Westeleg of Lancashire, in 1242, and Richard de Westleye of Warwickshire, in 1332. The surname as Wellesley was a late creation, in the 18th century, Garrett Wellesley, the father of Arthur, !st Duke of Wellington, being recorded as Wesley until 1798. The reason for the change may have been to disassociate the family from Wesleyanism. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Wlmar de Westle. This was dated 1095, in Feudal Documents from the abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, during the reign of King William 11nd, known as "Rufus", 1087 - 1100. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
Surnames reference. 2013.