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Blazons & Genealogy Notes

1) (Manley, co. Chester, and Erbistock, co. Denbigh; derived from one of the companions in arms of the Conqueror, whose name appears on the Battell Abbey Roll). Motto—Manus hæc inimica tyrannis. Ar. a dexter hand couped and erect sa. a bordure engr. of the last. Crest—A Saracen's head affrontée ppr. wreathed about the temples ar. and sa.
2) Or, on a bend. sa. three eagles displ. ar. Crest—A cross pattée az.
3) Or, on a bend sa. three dolphins ar.
4) Or, on a bend sa. three dolphins ar.
5) Purp. a sinister hand couped and erect ar.
6) Vair a maunch gu.

Origin, Meaning, Family History and Manley Coat of Arms and Family Crest


Manley is an English place name giving a location for where someone was from. The earliest definition means a common area much like the name 'green' might mean to a settler in New England. The old English spelling Mainleah, which is found in ancient 7th century Anglo-Saxon texts, translates as a clearing in a wooded area. During the middle ages, a surname helped to distinguish a person by either their type of work or by the place where they were born. This locator name became associated over time with powerful lords or the primary landowner of a region. People born on the lords property were not as a rule allowed to migrate to other locations, as a result they would oftentimes take the place where they lived, and use it as their surname. (Not until the middle of the 14th century were non nobles allowed to travel. The Bubonic Plague in England, destroyed the manorial way of life. And with its destruction serfs began traveling to other districts, and the early onset of a burgeoning middle class began.) The Manley surname is found predominately in the Cheshire and Devonshire regions of England.

The variations of the name can be spelled, Many, Mainleah, Manligh, Manelegh, and Manley. The first recorded instance of someone using the surname of Manley or Manligh was in the early 12th century during the time of King John Plantagenet, also known as Prince John 'Lackland' the younger brother to Richard the Lionhearted.

In the 12th century there is a record of a Roger de Manley living in Cheshire, next to the Welsh border. Manley Manor was a small, but prosperous holding having been granted to the Manley family by the Earl of Cheshire. The English and Welsh border region known in old English as a 'March' was an unsettled region of violence and rebellion. the Earl of Cheshire was one such 'Marcher Lord' who recruited heavily among peasants and free men to settle his border lands. It wasn't until Edward I conquered Wales in a six-year campaign lasting from 1277 to 1283 did the region stabilize.

It is important to note, Manley is also associated with Counties Connaught, Cork and Mayo in Ireland. After the English language became dominant in Ireland, names were spelled phonetically by their Norman lords. O'Maonghaile means son of Maonghal, which when spoken sounds like Manley. It is a very distinct linguistic drift which happened with some regularity during the seven hundred year administration of Ireland by the English. There are sounds which exist only in the Irish language and the same can be said of English. The English for instance have a 'J' sound as in the name of 'James.' The Irish do not. Hence the name of Seamus, which means James in Irish.

The Manley family of England might have started humbly in the time of the Norman conquest, but they did not remain so. They have remained solidly in what historians referred to as Yeoman stock. They were prosperous, they held land, and under the old English rules for having arms granted to them, they had an annual income of five hundred pounds.-Which qualified them as a member of English society where they could bear arms.

Locations named Manley:

There are two places in England named Manley. Manley, and Manley Common, both of whom are in Cheshire.

There are four states in the USA who have a place named Manley. Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois and Delaware.

Notable personages named Manley:

William Manley is considered to be the first Manly to have arrived in North America, specifically Massachusetts in 1690 with Royal Governor Winthrop. Historical records are vague about his life in the Massachusetts Colony. It doesn't appear he had a family, yet a Manley family existed after his death. William Manley spent the majority of his life living in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He died in 1733.

Captain John Manley. Considered by the US Navy to be one of the founding fathers of the service itself. He personally received his commission from Gen. George Washington. He personally captured five vessels under British command with just his crew. He orchestrated the capture of ten more vessels using the small flotilla he assembled from militarized merchant vessels and captured British ships. The most important vessel seized during the war was the HMS Polly. Which was full of gunpowder, ammunition and military stores. Its capture at the start of the war ensured the nascent continental army could continue to have arms and equipment when native supplies had run out. Capt John Manley also captured the very last British vessel to be seized in the American Revolution. The US Navy considers him to be one of the top commanders, they had at the time. In his honor three ships have carried his name.

Manley Coat of Arms Meaning

The three main devices (symbols) in the Manley blazon are the hand, eagle and dolphin. The three main tinctures (colors) are purpure, sable and or .

Purpure, as its name suggests is simply the colour purple, which, as Wade notes, is “the colour of sovereign majesty and justice” 1. It is actually quite rare, especially in early arms 2, and armigers should consider themselves fortune to have this noble tincture in their arms.

Sable, the deep black so often found in Heraldry is believed to named from an animal of the marten family know in the middle ages as a Sabellinœ and noted for its very black fur 3. In engravings, when colors cannot be shown it is represented as closely spaced horizontal and vertical lines, and appropriately is thus the darkest form of hatching, as this method is known 4. Although it may seem a sombre tone, and does indeed sometimes denote grief, it is more commonly said to represent Constancy 5.

The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.6. Along with, argent, or silver it forms the two “metals” of heraldry – one of the guidelines of heraldic design is that silver objects should not be placed upon gold fields and vice versa 7. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.8.

The hand, unless we are told otherwise is a dexter (right) hand shown palm outwards and fingers upwards.9. It demonstrates faith, sincerity and justice, and in the form of two right hands clasped can mean union or alliance10. There is a special form called the “Hand of Ulster” which is a sinister hand gules on an argent background (a left hand, red upon white). Originally the Badge of Ulster, the Province of Northern Ireland, it has come to be used as an addition to existing arms, in an escutcheon (small shield) or canton (small square) to indicate that the holder is also a Baronet.11

Where the lion is undisputed king of the animals, the eagle undoubtedly plays the same role in the realm of the birds, its use in this form dating back to at least the Roman period 12. They tend to be illustrated in quite some detail, especially in continental European arms, and have almost as wide variety of postures and accessories as the lion, well illustrated in the reference 13 as well as being just the eagle’s head or eagle’s leg. The symbology of the eagle is deep and complex, Wade devotes several pages to the subject 14, but suffice it say that it has long been associated with Empire and those held in high honour – any armiger would be pleased to have any form of Eagle upon their arms!

In the days before television and the internet it was a rare heraldic artist that had ever seen a dolphin for real, so we should not be surprised that the heraldic representation is not instantly recognisable. Despite this, we should not forget that these artists considered the dolphin to be the king of fish, playing the same role as the lion in the animal kingdom. 15 For reasons not immediately clear, Wade suggests that the dolphin was regarded as an “affectionate fish, fond of music”. 16

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  • 1 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P26
  • 2 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Purpure
  • 3 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Sable
  • 4 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 26
  • 5 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P35
  • 6 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 27
  • 7 A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P85
  • 8 Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53
  • 9 A Glossary of Terms used in Heraldry, J.B. Parker, 1894 P305
  • 10 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W Cecil Wade 1898 P92
  • 11 Heraldry Historical and Popular, Charles Boutell, 1864 P56
  • 12 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Eagle
  • 13 A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P235-238
  • 14 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P72-74
  • 15 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Dolphin
  • 16 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P83