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Blazons & Genealogy Notes

(France). Or, two bars gu. an orle of martlets ofthe last.

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

Origins of Merley:
The Merley name is habitational, acquired from any of many places so named like Morley in Cheshire, Derbyshire, District Durham, Norfolk, and West Yorkshire, and Moreleigh in Devon.  These place names acquire from the Old English words "mor," which means "marsh" and "le-ah," which means "a clearing in the woods. "It is only in the last few hundred years that the English language has regulated.  For that reason, early Anglo-Saxon surnames like Merley described by many spelling variations.  As the English language changed and combined components of other European languages, even educated people changed the spelling of their names.  Authors and priests in the Middle Ages spelled names they sounded, so it is common to find many variations that refer to a single person.  The variations of the name Merley include as Morley, Mawley, Morely, Moorley, Maughley, Morleigh, Moorley and much more.

More common variations are: Mierley, Mehrley, Merhley, Myerley, Mearley, Mereley, Merrley, Merleya, Moerley, Meurley.

The surname Merley first appeared in Derbyshire at Morley, a church, in the union of Belper, hundred of Morleston and Litchurch. "In Domesday Survey this place explained as one of the estates of Henry de Ferrers.  In 1235 the manors of Morley and Smalley were held by the abbot of Chester as of the fee of Hugh, Lord of Chester and Morley was afterwards held by a family who took their name from the place."  Some of the family appeared at Wennington in Lancashire in old times.  "William de Wennington was in possession of the estate, which about the 4th of Edward III.  (1330) passed to the family of Morley, of Great and Little Morley, with whom it survived until 1673." The township of Mearley in Lancashire played an important role in the family history.  "The main part of the township given by Jordan le Rous to Stephen afterwards called de Merley, whose daughter married Adam de Nowell, and carried the Hall and manor into that family, 38th of Edward III."

United States of America:
An inquiry into the early roots of North American families has revealed some immigrants bearing the name Merley as Catherine Morley, who came to Salem in the year 1630.  Henry Morley, who arrived in Virginia in the year 1635.  Robert Morley, who came to Virginia in the year 1653. Charles Morley, who came to Virginia in the year 1658.

Merley Coat of Arms Meaning

The main device (symbol) in the Merley blazon is the marlet. The two main tinctures (colors) are gules and or.

Gules, the heraldic colour red is very popular, sometimes said to represent “Military Fortitude and Magnanimity”1. It is usually abbreviated as gu and in the days before colour printing was shown in a system known as hatching by vertical lines 2. Although it may look like a French word it is normally pronounced with a hard “g” and may be derived either from the Latin gula (throat) or Arabic gule (rose).3

The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.4. 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 5. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.6.

The martlett is by far the most common bird to appear in British Heraldry, perhaps only equalled by the eagle, however it is not a species ever to be found in an ornithologists handbook! The word itself is though to have come from the French word merlette, the female blackbird and itself a similar type of charge used in French Heraldry. 7. Over time the image has become quite stylised, without visible legs or distinctive feathers. Wade suggests that this representation arises from “the appearance of the bird of paradise to ancient travellers” 8. Other bird species may be named in coats of arms (cornish chough is a frequent example) but in actual execution their appearance is often indistinguishable from the martlet.

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  • 1 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P36
  • 2 Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P52
  • 3 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P154
  • 4 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 27
  • 5 A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P85
  • 6 Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53
  • 7 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Martlet
  • 8 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P79