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  • English Origins: The Cordingleys and the Taylors of Yorkshire

    George Redmonds

    Published Date : October-November 1988
    The Cordingleys have been established in and around Bradford in the West Riding of Yorkshire for approximately 700 years, and the contemporary telephone directory for the city lists over 70 members of the farnily. As the surname ramified at a comparatively late date it is hardly known outside Bradford, even in other parts of Yorkshire; only in Manchester, some 35 miles away across the Pennines, is it at all well represented and this fact may reflect the family’s involvement in the wool and cotton industries.

    The earliest references to the surname, all of which employ the preposition “de,” suggest that it was derived from a local place name. Richard de Cordunley, for example, was mentioned in the manor court roll of Bradford in 1354 and he or an immediate descendant was taxed in 1379 in the same township, in the hamlet known as Bowling. Unfortunately the locality responsible for the surname cannot now be traced, and may have been depopulated at the time of the Black Death.

    An alternative spelling of the surname was “Cordley,” used from the earliest times until the present century, but it is difficult to determine whether this was a genuine variant or whether it developed through association with a similar but quite separate name. Certainly there were generations of “de Cordleys” in a village not far from Bradford called Allerton Gledhow. On balance it seems likely that the two have a common origin.

    The modern spelling Cordingley was slow to develop. In 1411, John, the son of William Cordonley of Bowling was fined for being “a common player of knuckle-bones,” and a Thomas Corduley was listed in a Bradford muster roll of 1539. However, the subsidy rolls of 1524 and 1545 provide several references to “Cordyngleys” in Bowling and neighboring townships such as North Bierley and this soon became a conventional spelling. One of the more amusing variants occurred in Holbeck: William Accordingley (1588).

    We learn of an intended emigration by one of the Cordingleys from a surviving deed in the papers of a family called Taylor who lived at Gomersal, a village only four miles from Bowling. John Taylor was a merchant and he granted powers of attorney to Benjamin Cordingley of Bradford, also a merchant, in March 1795. According to the deed, Cordingley was “about to take a voyage to North America with intent to reside for some time in the State of Virginia, in order to transact his own private concerns there.” His intention was to work in partnership “with his faithful and proved Storekeeper, Robert Moore of Petersburg in Virginia,” so this man also may have had connections with Bradford. Taylor wanted the two men to act on his behalf in dealings with Cornelius Buck, a stuff manufacturer of Manchester in Virginia. He too was formerly a Bradford man. Taylor appears to have had trading connections with a number of firms and those named were Messrs. Blow and Barksdale; Messrs. Wills and John Cowper; Messrs. Amos and James Ladd; Messrs. David Ross and Company and Mr. Robert Draffm. None of these surnames suggests any Bradford link at all.

    As the Taylor family clearly had strong links with Virginia, it may be worth mentioning the special place these Taylors occupy in Yorkshire history. They were not gentry, but sufficiently well off to be a part of “that vast middle class that was to build the fortunes of England during the years of expansion.” They have achieved more recognition than similar families largely because of the hospitality offered by Mary Taylor (1817-93) to her schoolfriend after the two girls had left school in 1832. The schoolfriend was Charlotte Bronte, who in the novel Shirley used the Taylors as the model for the Yorke family. Their elegant red brick house, so unusual in the West Riding landscape, became “Briarmains” in the novel.

    Dr. Redmonds is editor of Old West Riding, a magazine for local history of the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. He will also he Course Director of time “Course in Family History for Americans” at tue University of Exeter, County Devon, England, in August 5-20, 1989.

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