Recorded as Spencelayh, Spencley, Spensly, Spenclay, and possibly others, this is an English locational surname. It is particularly well recorded in church registers of Northern England from the mid 16th Century, and is a locational name from one of the estimated three thousand villages and hamlets that have now disappeared from the maps of the British Isles since that time. Enforced clearing and dispersal of the former inhabitants to make way for sheep pastures in the 15th Century was a prime cause of these 'disappearances', along with natural causes such as the Black Death of 1348.The original place is believed to have been in Yorkshire, and the component element are the Medieval English personal byname Spence developed from 'spence', a worker in a larder, plus 'leah', a glade or open place in a wood. On November 18th 1566 Ann Spenceley, an infant, was christened in Linton in Craven, Yorkshire, and on July 4th 1613 the christening of Margaret Spenceley took place in Dalton in Furness, Lancashire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Johanne Spenclay, (marriage to William Johnson), which was dated June 11th 1547, Oswaldkirk, Yorkshire, during the reign of King Henry V111 'Bluff King Hal', 1509 - 1547. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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