Woodley Coat of Arms

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Blazons & Genealogy Notes

Sable a chevron between three owls argent. Crest—An owl argent.

Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Woodley Name

This old and interesting surname, of Anglo-Saxon origin, is a locational name from Woodleigh in Devonshire, or Woodley in Berkshire, acquiring from the Olde English pre 7th Century “wudu” meaning wood plus “leah”, pasture, clearing, hence “glade in wood”. More common variations are: Woodlley, Woodeley, Woodly, Wodley, Woodle, Woodale, Wootlry, Woodtle, Woodlee, Woodtly.

The surname Woodley first appeared in Devon, where the family held a seat at Woodleigh, after the Norman Invasion of 1066. The very first recording spelling of the family was shown to be that of Aelfnod ate Wudeleage,  dated 1008-1012, in the “Olde English Bynames of Devonshire”. It was during the reign of King Ethelred 1st, who was known as “The Unready” dated 978-1016.  Surname all over the country became a necessity with the introduction of personal taxation.  It came to be known as Poll Tax in England.  Surnames all over the country began to develop with unique and shocking spelling varieties of the original one.

Some of the people with the name Woodley who arrived in the United States in the 17th century included Ann Woodley, who arrived in Virginia in 1623.  Thomas Woodley who settled in Barbados in 1663. William Woodley, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1683. People with the surname Woodley who landed in the United States in the 18th century included Andrew Woodley, who landed in Virginia in 1714.  Benjamin and William Woodley, who arrived in New England in 1772. Some of the people with the surname Woodley who arrived in the United States in the 19th century included George Woodley, who arrived in New York in 1822. People with the surname Woodley who landed in the United States in the 20th century included Ada Woodley, aged 31, who landed in America from Brighton, England, in 1907.  Christian Woodley, aged 2, who landed in America from Bermuda, in 1907.

People with the surname Woodley who landed in the Canada in the 18th century included Mr George Woodley U.E., (Woodlye) who settled in Saint John, New Brunswick c. 1784.  Mr George Woodley Sr., U.E. who settled in Canada c. 1784. Some of the people with the surname Woodley who arrived in the Canada in the 20th century included Harold G. Woodley, aged 34, who emigrated to Calgary, Canada, in 1908.

Some of the individuals with the surname Woodley who landed in Australia in the 19th century included Thomas Woodley, English convict from Southampton, who moved aboard the “Andromeda” in November 1832, settling in New South Wales, Australia.

Woodley Coat of Arms Meaning

The two main devices (symbols) in the Woodley blazon are the owl and chevron. The two main tinctures (colors) are sable and argent.

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 1A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Sable. 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 2Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 26. Although it may seem a sombre tone, and does indeed sometimes denote grief, it is more commonly said to represent Constancy 3The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P35.

Argent is the heraldic metal Silver and is usually shown as very pure white. It is also known more poetically as pearl, moon (or luna) 4Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 5A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P11.

Birds of great variety occur throughout heraldry, at least in name 6A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P233. The owl has long been associated with heraldry and is depicted in a clearly recognised aspect, always with its face to the viewer. 7A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Owl It comes as no surprise that previous generations of heraldic writers ascribed to it the traits of “vigilance and acute wit”. 8The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P77

The chevron is one the major shapes used upon a shield, known as ordinaries. The inverted ‘V’ of the chevron is perhaps thought to have originated to represent a military scarf folded on the shield 9A Display of Heraldry, J. Guillim, Blome, London, 1679, (various), or additional cross-pieces used to strengthen the shield and painted a different colour.10The Pursuivant of Arms, J. R. Planche, Hardwicke, London 1859. It has also acquired the meaning of “Protection… granted… to one who has achieved some notable enterprise” 11The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P45, possibly becuase of its resemblance to the roof truss of a house.

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References   [ + ]

1. A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Sable
2. Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 26
3. The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P35
4. Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53
5. A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P11
6. A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P233
7. A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Owl
8. The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P77
9. A Display of Heraldry, J. Guillim, Blome, London, 1679, (various)
10. The Pursuivant of Arms, J. R. Planche, Hardwicke, London 1859
11. The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P45