Gresley History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Gresley surname was most likely originally created from a place name. There is a Gresley in Derbyshire and a Greasley in Nottinghamshire, both of which became habitation surnames. The two place names are in turn derived from the Old English "greosn," or "gravel," and "leah," meaning a "wood" or "clearing."

Early Origins of the Gresley family

The surname Gresley was first found in Derbyshire at Church Gresley or Castle Gresley which date back to c. 1125 when the were collectively listed as Gresele. Later years saw the place name evolve to Castelgresele in 1252 and later as Churchegreseleye in 1363. It is generally thought that the root Gresley was derived from the Old English word "greosn," which meant "gravel." [1]

As far as the surname goes, the Topographer of 1789 states "In point of stationary antiquity hardly any families in the kingdom can compare with the Gresleys." They are the only family in the county that trace back "to the house of Drakelow; descended from Nigel, mentioned in the Domesday, called de Stafford, and said to have been a younger son of Roger de Toni, standard-bearer in Normandy, it was very soon after the Conquest established in Derbyshire, first at Gresley, and immediately afterwards at Drakelow, in the same parish." [2]

One of the first records of the name was Sir Thomas de Grelly, who was knighted by King Edward 1st in 1306, and later Baron Gresly who was summoned to Parliament in 1308.

"The manor of 'Lulletune' [Lullington, Derbyshire] was in the Gresley family, in the reign of Edward I.; and the church was given by that family to the priory of Gresley, in the reign of Edward II." [3]

Childwall Manor in Lancashire "was given to Albert Grelley, Baron of Manchester, and in his successors the superior lordship of the manor continued to be vested. It is recorded among the members of the barony down to 1473. In 1306 Thomas Grelley demanded against Adam de Ireland and Avina his wife two messuages and an oxgang of land in Garston." [4]

Early History of the Gresley family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Gresley research. Another 187 words (13 lines of text) covering the years 1208, 1513, 1603, 1611, 1897, 1976, 1580, 1651, 1628, 1699, 1663, 1661, 1710, 1704, 1699, 1746, 1724, 1308, 1206, 1254, 1615, 1678, 1634, 1638 and 1641 are included under the topic Early Gresley History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Gresley Spelling Variations

Before the advent of the printing press and the first dictionaries, the English language was not standardized. Sound was what guided spelling in the Middle Ages, so one person's name was often recorded under several variations during a single lifetime. Spelling variations were common, even among the names of the most literate people. Known variations of the Gresley family name include Greasley, Gresley, Grysley, Grisle, Grysely, Grisley, Grelly, Gresly, Greseley, Greiseley, Grelley and many more.

Early Notables of the Gresley family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Baron Gresley of Derbyshire, summoned to Parliament in 1308; Sir William Gresley (1206-1254) of Drakelow, Derbyshire; and Henry Greisley (1615?-1678), an English translator. He "was the son of...
Another 35 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Gresley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Gresley migration to the United States +

To escape the political and religious chaos of this era, thousands of English families began to migrate to the New World in search of land and freedom from religious and political persecution. The passage was expensive and the ships were dark, crowded, and unsafe; however, those who made the voyage safely were encountered opportunities that were not available to them in their homeland. Many of the families that reached the New World at this time went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of the United States and Canada. Research into various historical records has revealed some of first members of the Gresley family to immigrate North America:

Gresley Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Jeffery Gresley, who arrived in Virginia in 1791

Australia Gresley migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Gresley Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Miss Rose Gresley who was convicted in Warwick, Warwickshire, England for 10 years, transported aboard the "Aurora" on 22nd April 1851, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Gresley (post 1700) +

  • Sir Nigel Gresley (1727-1787), 6th Baronet was an English land-owner, mine-owner and the builder of Sir Nigel Gresley's Canal, High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1759
  • James Stephen Gresley (1829-1908), English artist, the first of a line of artists Sandiacre, Derbyshire
  • Harold Gresley (1892-1967), British artist, awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in World War I
  • Frank Gresley (1855-1936), British artist who painted mainly landscapes, of which the best known are those of the River Trent at Swarkestone, Barrow upon Trent and Ingleby, Derbyshire, son of James Stephen Gresley
  • Sir Nigel Gresley (1876-1941), British locomotive designer of the age of steam


  1. ^ Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  2. ^ Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.
  3. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  4. ^ 'Townships: Scarisbrick', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, ed. William Farrer and J Brownbill (London, 1907), pp. 265-276. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/lancs/vol3/pp265-276 [accessed 21 January 2017].
  5. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 20th August 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/aurora


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