Yardley


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Yardley is a composite of the Old English gerd or gyrd, meaning "pole" or "stick" which described a holding of some thirty acres, and leah, meaning a "wood" or "clearing."  It became a place-name - in Warwickshire, in Northamptonshire, and in Essex - and then a surname.

The surname spelling came first with a "G" (Richard de Gerdelai), then with an "E" (William de Erdeleleg) and a "J" (Adam de Jerdeleye), before establishing itself with the "Y" prefix during the 14th century.

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Select Yardley Ancestry

England.  The place-name Yardley in present-day Birmingham dates back to 972 and is probably the basis for many Yardley surnames.  The 19th century distribution of the Yardley name showed the main cluster of the name in the West Midlands - in Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and extending up into south Staffordshire. 

Yardleys in this area have included:
  • Thomas Yardley and his family who held Gorcott Hall near Studley in the 1500's and early 1600's
  • John Yardley who was vicar at Seighford from 1581 to 1616
  • William Yardley who was christened at St. Peters, Wolverhampton in 1621
  • John Yardley who married Mary Hill in Old Swinford in 1733 (Yardleys of this family moved to Birmingham in the mid 19th century)
  • George Yardley who was recorded as being burned to death in his cabin in Eccleshall woods in 1783
  • and Myrah Yardley who was born in Cradley in 1834 of an old chain making family.  
Staffordshire  Another place-name origin for Yardley has been the village of Audley in north Staffordshire.  These Yardleys trace back to John Yardley of Staffordshire in 1402 (legend has it that an earlier Yardley was a witness to King John's Magna Carta in 1216).  The Bishop of Lichfield's Staffordshire listing of 1532 showed one Yardley family and six Yeardleys in Audley.  Yardleys were later to be found in Ravensclough and Gayton, villages near Leek.

London  Ralph Yeardley of Audley had made his way to London and prospered as a merchant tailor during Elizabethan times.  The family became wealthy and owned a number of mansions in the city of London.  From this line came Sir George Yeardley, an apprentice to the Merchants' Adventurers Company who went on to become the first governor of Virginia.  Another relative, William Yardley from Staffordshire, also made the journey to America, but later.

From this line also, it would appear, came the Yardley perfumiiers of London; Jonathan Yardley who obtained the royal warrant to supply soap to London in the 1620's, and William Yardley the owner who established the Yardley soap company in 1801.  Yardleys of London, now under different owners, still flourishes as a seller of traditional soaps and perfumes.  Its story has been recounted in E.W. Thomas's 1953 book The House of Yardley.
 
America.  Sir George Yeardley was part of the rescue party which, shipwrecked off Bermuda, finally arrived at the struggling Jamestown colony in 1610.  He stayed. married Lady Temperance Flowerdew, was three times governor of the colony, and died in 1627.  His descendants in America are Eardleys.      

William Yardley was a persecuted Quaker minister who had left his home in Ravensclough, near Leek in Staffordshire, for a safe haven provided for him by William Penn in America.  He departed with his family on the Friend's Adventure in 1682, part of a Quaker fleet bound for Pennsylvania.  They settled in what came to be called Yardley township, Pennsylvania.  There were to be Yardleys there until the late 1800's.  Robert Yardley, born in Yardley in 1850, became a Republican member of the US House of Representatives.

Captain Thomas Yardley, born in North Carolina in 1775, moved to Tennessee and fought in the War of 1812.  His family were to be found in Rutherford county, Tennessee.   John Yardley, born in Wednesbury in the West Midlands and raised by his grandparents, discovered the Mormon church and emigrated to Salt Lake valley in 1852.

AustraliaWilliam Yardley, a stationer in south London, had been sentenced to death for burglary in 1785. His sentence was later commuted to life transportation and he was onboard the Second Fleet which arrived in Australia in 1790.  Later accounts show him receiving a conditional pardon, living with his common law wife Caroline Edwards, but dying in 1805 in suspicious circumstances at his home in Hawkesbury.

Other Yardleys who came to Australia were:
  • William Yardley from London (and related to the soap Yardleys) who came on the Barrackpore to Melbourne in 1853 and married Clara Ford there.
  • William Yardley and his family from Aston Hall in Birmingham who came in 1883 and settled in Brisbane (William was a blacksmith and his wife Fanny ran a local produce store)
  • and Fanny Yardley from Staffordshire who married Edward Ashley and moved to Victoria in the early 1900's.
Select Yardley Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


Select Yardley Names


Sir George Yeardley arrived in the colony of Jamestown in 1610 and was the first governor of Virginia.
William Yardley gave his name to the Yardley perfumery company that was founded in London in 1770.
Norman Yardley, born in south Yorkshire, was the captain of the English cricket team in the late 1940's.

Select Yardleys Today
  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous in West Midlands)
  • 1,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).



PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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