Pilley Name Derivation and 12th Century Origins

The place name Pilley derives from two Old English words, "pil" meaning a wooden stake and "leagh" being a lea or clearing in a wood. The meaning therefore is a clearing in a wood where you could find stakes e.g. for house building. There are three locations in England called Pilley of which I am aware; one near Barnsley inYorkshire, one in Gloucestershire and the third a hamlet on the Hampshire coast in the New Forest about 1 mile north of Lymington.

The following information was kindly sent to me by David Willcock of Leeds, who traced his wife's Pilley ancestors back to James Pilley born in 1625 at Wentworth, South Yorkshire. Many Pilleys including my mother's line descended from Yorkshire stock of the late 12th century. Land at Tankersley on the outskirts of what is now Barnsley in Yorkshire was owned in the 12th Century by a family called de Pilley. Their descendants had migrated from Yorkshire to Derbyshire by 1646, to Nottinghamshire by 1799 and to Lincolnshire by 1770. There were Pilleys in London by 1509, in Hertfordshire by 1621 and in Essex (Chelmsford area) by 1690.

The Pilleys of Devonshire, Gloucestershire (by 1727) and Worcestershire (by 1760) may have been differant stock to the Yorkshire Pilleys and may tie in with Gilbert de Pilleighe of Somerset. Hampshire Pilleys are unusual as entries do not begin until 1785; perhaps they were named after a person from Pilley rather than vice-versa.

Reverend Hunter's Pedigree of Pilleys 1150 - 1547

In 1828 the Reverend Joseph Hunter wrote a History of South Yorkshire in which he gave a pedigree of Pilleys of Pilley from 1150 to 1547 when the line became obscure. As far as I am aware no-one has yet been able to trace their Pilley family back to this line, i.e. only 84 years after William the Conqueror landed at Hasting. The following narrative was recorded in the Reverend Hunter's History of South Yorkshire. (comments in parenthesis are mine).

Parish Of Tankersley - Pilley

Pilley lies to the west of Tankersley, near the head of the Rockley Valley. Before the Conquest Elric was lord, who had 2 carucates (what is a carucate?). By whatever process Tankersley passed to the Lacis, as chief lords, and the family of Fitz-Swein as the mesne(what does this mean?), by the same process Pilley passed also. And we find here, as at Tankersley, a family seated, who derived their hereditary denomination from it; a family which had much longer endurance, though it never rose to the rank and consequence which the de Tankersleys obtained. It has not been discovered that the lords of this little manor ever assumed the distinction of coat-armour.

The first of these subinfeudatories, to whom the Pilley charters, of which there are many in Dodsworth's abstracts of the Wortley evidences, ascend is Godardus, who was contemporary with Hen. II. His name occurs in a single deed, by which Robert, son of Hugh, son of Godard de Pilley, makes an agreement with Juliana de Rockley, concerning an assart in the north part of the town of Pilley, which deed is dated 26 Henry III, and has among its witnesses the name of Sir Henry de Tankersley. In recent inquisitions the manor of Pilley is said to be held of the Rockleys, in soccage (what is this?) and by 3 1/2d. rent. Brooke, the Somerset herald, has compiled a pedigree for the descendants of this Robert, chiefly from the abstracted evidences of the Pilley property, which follows (............ will be added to this website at a later date).