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The Ancient History of the Distinguished Surname Worley


The ancient chronicles of England reveal the early records of the name Worley as a Norman surname which ranks as one of the oldest. The history of the name is closely interwoven within the majestic tapestry as an intrinsic part of the history of Britain.

In-depth research by skilled analysts into ancient manuscripts such as the Domesday Book ( compiled in 1086 by William the Conqueror ), the Ragman Rolls, the Wace poem, the Honour Roll of the Battel Abbey, The Curia Regis, Pipe Rolls, the Falaise Roll, tax records, baptismals, family genealogies, local parish and church records, shows the first record of the name Worley was found in Lancashire where they were descended from Wyamarus Whalley, who accompanied William the Conqueror, from Normandy, and was the Standard Bearer at the Battle of Hastings. The Conqueror gave him the lordship of Whalley in the county of Lancaster.

Many alternate spellings were found in the archives researched, typically linked to a common root, usually one of the Norman nobles at the Battle of Hastings. Although your name, Worley, appeared in many references, from time to time the surname included Whalley, Whaley, Walley, Whally, and these changes in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son. Scribes recorded and spelled the name as it sounded. Typically a person would be born with one spelling, married with another, and buried with a headstone which showed another. All three spellings related to the same person. Sometimes preferences for different spelling variations either resulted from a branch preference, religious affiliation, or sometimes nationalistic statements.

The family name Worley is believed to be descended originally from the Norman race, frequently but mistakenly assumed to be of French origin. They were more accurately of Viking origin. The Vikings landed in the Orkneys and Northern Scotland about the year 870 A.D., under their King, Stirgud the Stout. Thorfinn Rollo, his descendent landed in Northern France about the year 940 A.D. The French King, Charles the Simple, after Rollo laid siege to Paris, finally conceded defeat and granted northern France to Rollo. Rollo became the first Duke of Normandy, the territory of the north men. Rollo married Charles’ daughter and became a convert to Christianity. Duke William who invaded and defeated England in 1066, was descended from the first Duke Rollo of Normandy.

Duke Willaim took a census of most of England in 1086, and recorded it in the Domesday Book. A family name capable of being traced back to this manuscript, or to Hastings, was a signal honour for most families during the middle ages, and even to this day.

The surname Worley emerged as a notable family name in the county of Lancashire. By the 15th century they had branched to Somerset at Norton Hall, Hinton House in Hampshire, Norton in Leicestershire, and Cotgrave and Kirton in Nottingham. General Edward Whalley was one of the signers of the death warrant for beheading King Charles. He was first cousin of Oliver Cromwell. On the restoration of the monarchy General Whalley fled to America where he died in 1679. Other junior branches of the family became sympathetic to the cause of Charles ll and at the time of the Restoration Charles ll included William Whalley of Norton Esq, worth £1,000 his list of those eligible for the award of the order of the Knights of the Royal Oak, later abandoned to avoid opening up old animosities. Prominent amongst the family at this time was General Edward Whalley.

The surname Worley contributed much to local politics and in the affairs of England or Scotland. During the 11th and 12th centuries many of these Norman families moved north to Scotland. Later, in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries England was ravaged by religious and political conflict. The Monarchy, the Church and Parliament fought for supremacy. Religious elements vied for control, the State Church, the Roman Church and the Reform Church. All, in their time, made demands on rich and poor alike. They broke the spirit of men and many turned from religion, or alternatively, renewed their faith, pursuing with vigour and ferocity, the letter of the ecclesiastical law. Many families were freely “encouraged” to migrate to Ireland, or to the “colonies”. Nonbelievers or dissidents were banished, sometimes even hanged.

The settlers in Ireland became known as the “Adventurers for land in Ireland”. They undertook to keep the Protestant faith. In Ireland David Whalley settled on Whalley’s Hill, in county Armagh.

The democratic attitudes of the New World spread like wildfire. Many migrated aboard the fleet of sailing ships known as the “White Sails”. The stormy Atlantic, small pox, dysentery, cholera and typhoid took its toll on the settlers and many of these tiny, overcrowded ships arrived with only 60 or 70% of their passenger list. The migration or banishment to the New World continued, some voluntarily from Ireland, but mostly directly from England or Scotland, their home territories. Some clans and families even moved to the European continent.

In North America, migrants which could be considered a kinsman of the family name Worley, or variable spellings of that same family name included General Edward Whalley who settled in Massachusetts’ Bay, and died there in 1679; Naomi Walley arrived in Pennsylvania in 1684; Elizabeth Walley settled in Virginia in 1650; George Whaley settled in Virginia in 1663; William Whaley settled in Boston in 1847; Oliver Whalley settled in Virginia in 1698; John Whally arrived in Philadelphia in 1848. From the port of arrival many settlers joined the wagon trains westward. During the American War of Independence some declared their loyalty to the Crown and moved northward into Canada and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.

There were many notables of this name Worley, Rev. John Whale; Professor William Whalley, Chemist; Hyde Whalley-Tooker, Lawyer.

In the process of researching this distinguished family name we also traced the most ancient grant of Arms from the branches which developed their own Arms.

The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms found was:

The Crest was:

A whale’s head.

The ancient family Motto for this distinguished name was:

“Mirabile In Profundis”

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