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Blazons & Genealogy Notes

1) (Whitewindows, Sowerby, co. York; William Priestley, resident at York temp. Edward I., occurs as a juryman in a writ of enquiry respecting the fishery on the river Ouse; and another William Priestley was living in Sowerby 22 Henry VIII.). (Lightcliffe, afterwards Thorparch, co. York; descended from Priestley, of Whitewindows). Gu. on a chev. betw. three towers ar. issuing out of each a demi lion ramp. or, as many grappling-irons sa. Crest—A cockatrice ar. standing on the lower part of a broken spear lying fessways or, in the mouth the other portion. Motto—Respice finem.
2) Gu. a fess erm. Crest—A demi lion sa.

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

Priestley Origin:


Origins of Priestley:

This interesting surname is of an Anglo-Saxon source and is either a geographical name from Priestley in Bedfordshire, Prestolee (Somerset), Prestolee in South East Lancashire, or a geographical name from a person who lived in or near a priest's pasture. It acquired from the Olde English pre 7th Century "preost," which means bishop, priest, with "leah," which means valley, woodland, pasture, farmland. Geographical Surnames created in very old times provided easily identifiable outstanding names in the small areas of the Middle Ages. Habitational names were frequently given to local landholders, and the king of the palace, and especially as a source of recognition to those who departed from their mother town to settle to any other place. Early examples of the surname contain one Richard de Presteley in Yorkshire in 1297 and Walter Prestlegh in Somerset in the year 1327. In May 1671, Henry Priestley and Ann White married in Toddington, Bedfordshire. A Coat of Arms granted to William Priestley of Yorkshire circa 1272, is a red shield, on a chevron between three silver towers, issuing out of each a gold demi lion rampant, as many black grappling-irons


More common variations are: Preiestley, Prriestley, Priestly, Prestley, Pristley, Priestle, Preistley, Priestely, Priestlay, Preastley.


The surname Priestley first appeared in Yorkshire where they held a family seat from old times and their first documents found in the first poll rolls derived by the early Kings of Britain to decide the rate of taxation of their activities.

The very first recording spelling of the family was shown to be that of Samson de Presteleia, dated about 1198, in the "Pipe Rolls of Bedfordshire." It was during the time of King Richard I who was known to be the “Richard the Lionheart," dated 1189-1199. The origin of surnames during this period became a necessity with the introduction of personal taxation. It came to be known as Poll Tax in England.

United States of America:

Individuals with the surname Priestley landed in the United States in three different centuries respectively in the 17th, and 19th. Some of the people with the name Priestley who arrived in the United States in the 17th century included Joseph Priestley at the age of 24, landed in Virginia in 1683.

The following century saw more Priestley surnames arrive. Some of the people with the name Priestley who arrived in the United States in the 19th century included Abraham, Henry. James, John, Joseph, Patrick and Samuel Priestley, all came to Philadelphia between 1840 and 1870. Thomas Priestley arrived in Iowa in 1886.


People with the surname Priestley who settled in Canada in the 20th century included John Priestley, L Priestley and Miss M Priestley, all arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in the same year 1907.


Some of the individuals with the surname Priestley who landed in Australia in the 19th century included Joseph Priestley, an English prisoner from London, who shifted aboard the "Argyle" in March 1831, settling in Van Diemen’s Land, Australia. Alfred Priestley arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Abberton" in 1849. William Priestley arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Caroline Agnes" in 1850.

Here is the population distribution of the last name Priestley: England 5,646; United States 2,465; Australia 2,306; Canada 1,201; New Zealand 781; South Africa 657; Wales 587; Germany 235; Scotland 230; Brazil 207.

Notable People:

Arthur Priestley was an English Liberal Party leader and cricket player.

Briggs Priestley (1831–1907), was an English cloth designer and Liberal Party leader.

Julian Priestley (born 1950), is a Secretary-General of the European Parliament.

Mary Priestley (born 1925), is a British musician.

Philip Priestley (born 1946), is a British representative.

Dr. Priestley was a fictional inspecter.

Joseph Priestley (1733–1804), was a British philosopher, dissenting priest, a scholar of nature, chemist, professor, and political philosopher.

Maurice Priestley (1933–2013), was a retired professor of statistics at the University of Manchester.

Priestley Coat of Arms Meaning

The two main devices (symbols) in the Priestley blazon are the tower and grappling iron. The two main tinctures (colors) are gules and ermine.

The bold red colour on a heraldic shield is known as gules. It has a long history within heraldry, it is known that one of those who besieged the scottish castle of Carlaverock in 1300 was the French knight Euremions de la Brette who had as his arms a simple red shield.1. The word gules is thought to come from the Arabic gule, or “red rose” 2. Later writers associated it with the precious stone ruby and the metal iron 3, perhaps because of the red glow of iron in the heat of the blacksmith’s forge.

Ermine is a very ancient pattern, and distinctive to observe. It was borne alone by John de Monfort, the Earl of Richmond and Duke of Brittany in the late 14th century 4 It has a long association with royalty and the nobility in general and hence represents “Dignity” wherever it is found 5. The ermine pattern is white with, typically, a three dots and a dart grouping representing the tail of the furred creature.6. The ermine spot is sometimes found alone as a special charge on the shield.

Architectural items, from individual components to entire buildings 7 feature frequently as charges In a coat of arms. Not surprisingly, considering the times from which many arms date, fortifications are common. The tower Is a typical example of an object from the world of architecture adopted, albeit in a stylised form, for use in heraldry. It can be placed alone, or frequently with three turrets on the top, known as a tower triple towered, and can have doors and windows of a different colour. 8 In continental European heraldry they are often accompanied by pictorial effects such as armoured knights scaling them on ladders.

Given the martial nature of the origins of Heraldry, in the identification of knights and men-at-arms it can come as no surprise that mediaeval weaponry of all types are frequently to be found in a coat of arms 9. The grappling iron resembles a set of large hooks, familiar to use from many a castle siege in the movies! Its meaning needs little explanation beyond its military nature.

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  • 1 The Siege of Carlaverock, N. Harris, Nichols & Son, London, 1828, P180
  • 2 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 313
  • 3 Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53
  • 4 A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P69
  • 5 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P39
  • 6 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 28
  • 7 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 92
  • 8 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Tower
  • 9 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 89