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The variations in the surname spelling is quite extensive with over 70 variations noted from various publications and parish records, the most popular being ILSLEY which from the latter part of the 17th century to the present became the standard version for many families. Previous to that HILDESLEY seemed to have been the spelling adopted by the original family, with examples of the other variations including ILSLEYE, EASLIE, ILSLEYE, ILSELEYE, ELESELY, YELSELY, YELDESLEY, and HILDERSLEY. HILDESLEY, HILDERLEY, HYLDESLEY, ILDESLEYE and ILSELY.

In my family it is the HILDERSLEY variant which is used with the occasional HILDESLEY. This variant can be traced back to 1786 when a Francis HILDERSLEY married Martha Girton in Ealing, Middlesex. Francis's origins are unknown and, so far, it has not been possible to connect him with other early or even contemporary HILDERSLEY or HILDESLEY families. What is known is that Francis and Martha are the progenitors of all living HILDERSLEYs and their 19th century descendents have been extensively traced; their 20th century descendents are still unfolding.

There are various references to a Reverend Mark Hildesley and his descendent became Bishop of Sodor and Mann. In an 18th century biography that line was linked back to King Edward III. were also an Admiral John Hildesley and a Colonel Francis Hildesley of the Guards Mark's grandsons. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries there were a number of HILDESLEY families in and around the City of London. We also find some HILDERSLEY families in and around Guildford and Worplesdon in Surrey in the mid 18th century and one in Bedfordshire.

One Francis HILDESLEY was gentleman usher to Prince Frederick, quarterly waiter 1736-57, earning £100 per annun in the Household of Princess Augusta 1736-72

Reference has also been found to a HILDERSLEY in the North Carolina Will extracts 1670-1790 and another reference to a Francis HILDERSLEY is in the Lancashire Record Office: Lancashire County Quarter Sessions Petitions [QSP 2792-2807]. PETITIONS at Salford: Epiphany 1822, FILE - Bill of costs of prosecution of Francis Hildersley - ref. QSP/2794/193 - date: c1822. Where he fits in has yet to be discovered.

No doubt many of the variations of spelling can be attributed to a combination of the local accent and the dubious spelling ability of many of the parish clerks and rectors. The spelling of the village of Ilsley at that time was probably with similar variations, which developed from the original name of Hildes-laeg or Hildeslai, originating from the 9th Century. It seems the Danes were in the process of invading England and the Anglo-Saxons stood and had a massive battle with them, beat them and drove them back - hence the name Hildeslai which means battle site - now known as Illsley (east and west).




In 1316 Gilbert de Elsefeld held the 'vill' of East Ilsley. Almeric de St Amand was lord of the manor of East Ilsley and from this date the two manors of East Ilsley were apparently united under the name of East Ilsley. In 1086 Henry de Ferrers held 3.5 hides in Ilsley with Roger (?) as sub-tenant. In the first half of the 13th century this fee was held with Frilsham in Faircross Hundred by Oliver d'Eincourt, husband of Maud Peche. Subeoffment of a whole or part was apparently made to the Ilsley or Hildesley family, of whom Reginald de East Ilsley was holding lands in the parish about the middle of the same century, for which he owed suit of court at Maud Peche's court of Frilsham. This holding, which continued in the Hildesley family, is called the manor of ILSLEY in the 18th century. In 1428 John Hildesley was holding a quarter of a knight's fee which another John Hildesley had formerly held, and later in the century the property was held by William Hildesley. The prinicpal seat of the Hildesley family was Crowmarsh Gifford in Oxfordshire, and in the 17th century Little Stoke. The William Hildesley of the reign of Henry VII held land both at Ilsley and Beenham, and was succeeded by a son and heir Edward, who is described as of Crowmarsh Gifford, though the orginal seat of the family at Ilsley remained with him and his descendants. His younger brother John, yeoman of the longbows to Henry VIII, took part at least of the family estate of Beenham. William Hildesley, the son and heir of Edward, married Margaret Stonor, daughter of John Stonor of North Stoke, and died in 1576. On her mother's death in January 1606-7 the youngest daughter Katharine placed a brass to her parent's memory in Ilsley Church. The Hildesleys adhered to the old religion, and Walter Hildesley, who had succeeded his father William in 1576, soon came under the operation of the penal laws. On the Recusant Roll of 1592 his Berkshire estate, which included '2/3rds of Illesley or Hildesley Farm and other property, is returned to the crown and leased to a groom of the queens chamber. The remaining Hildesley then had to pay a lease rent to this groom.

Walter Hildesley was apparently succeeded by his younger brother William, who died in 1623 the farm was seised and he left a son William. He was forced to mortgage the farm earlier and when this was compounded the property was seised. William was succeeded by his son Francis of Ilsley and Little Stoke, who died in March 1665, again leaving an heir William, 11 years old. This last William died in 1706 leaving a widow who remarried and no male issue. The title devolved to 3 co-heirs and then died out. The remaining lands and titles sold 1803 to a Mr Deare.


Beneham (xiii cent); Beynham (xvi cent).

The parish of Beenham lies to the south-west of Reading. The little village lies some distance from the church of St Mary and the vicarage. Beenham Stocks to the north-east of the church, contains a few houses, the chief being Stocks Farm, so called from the village stocks. Further south is Hall Place Farm, formerly in the possession of the Hildesley (or Ilsley) family and mentioned in 1591.


Hildeslei, Eldeslai (xi cent); Hildele, Odesle, Hildeslegh, Estylstod, Estyldesly, Estchildesley, Esthildesle, Estillesley (xiii cent); Ildesle, Hilderle, East Tillesley, Yildersley, Hillesley (xv cent); Illyssley, Estillysley (xvi cent); Estilsley, Estillsley, Illesley, East Hillesley, East Islesley, East Ilsley (xvii cent).

The parish of East Ilsley covers an area of 3,017 acres, of which 1,082 acres are arable land, 1,328 permanent grass and 80 acres woods and plantations (Henry VIII). The soil is chalk and gravel with a subsoil of flint and chalk, and the chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, turnips and seed-hay. A large part of the parish is occupied by downs used for sheep walks. The parishioners have the right of cutting furze upon several of these downs and the use of 200 acres as a cow common, but Banager Scrubs, the old horse common, has now been ploughed up. As recently as 1852 there were still common fields and the 50 acres constituting the vicar's glebe were scattered about in the open fields of the township.

The village, which is 2 miles from Compton, is prettily situated in a hollow in the downland. The church stands on high ground overlooking the village from the south. The Manor Farm, for many years occupied by the family of Hildesley, stands between the common and the rectory.

Ilsley Hall originally built by the Moores who owned the manor in the 17th Century and was the residence of Capt E E West. The village still maintains its reputations with regard to sportsmen and publicans.

East Ilsley is chiefly noted for its sheep fair, which is one of the largest in England. Almeric de St Amand lord of the manor in the reigns of Henry III and Edward I, set up market here on Tuesday, which he claimed under a charter of Henry III. In the middle of the 18th century no less than 80,000 sheep being penned in one day and 55,000 being sold, the yearly average amounting to 400,000.

MANORS In 1086 two holdings in Ilsley, consisting of 1 hide and 10 hides respectively were in the possession of Geoffrey de Mandeville, with Saswall or Sewall as subtenant.

Some of the earliest confirmed records for ILSLEY that have been found to date are in the parish registers at Burghfield, Berks, it is probable that his descendants originated from the area of the villages of Ilsley some 14 miles to the west. The oldest reference found so far is to a Roger de East Ilsley who held lands in the parish in he middle of the 13th century for which he owed suit of court at Maude Peche’s court of Frilsham. A couple of entries in the "Wiltshire Inquisitions Post Mortem" in connection with Richard de TURBERVILLE ade reference to an "Inquisition made at Newbury on Sunday next after the feast of St John on 12 Edward I (1284) where John de ILDESLEYE was one of the twelve jurors" and "at a hearing into the serjeanty charter Reginald de IRDESLE was ne of eleven plus witnesses, dated 8 October 43 Henry III (1259)". In 1428 a John HILDESLEY held a quarter of a nights fee which had previously been held by another John HILDESLEY, later in the same century a William HILDESLEY held the same property.

The families holdings were considerably extended during these centuries as at the time of Henry VII a William HILDESLEY held lands at both Ilsley and Beenham and his son Edward lived at Crowmarshe Gifford just across the Oxfordshire border. William was Edwards son and heir and lived at Crowmarsh Gifford where he married Margaret STONER the daughter of John from North Stoke and then moved across to Ilsley to take up the family seat at Hildesly Farm, or as it was also known, Manor Farm. The Stoner family had owned Beansheaf Manor in Tilehurst since 1316 and so was another of the important families in the area. The family's coat of arms was described as "Or, two bars gemelles sable, in chief three pellets" with the crest being "on a mural crown a griffin’s head between two wings expanded argent".

In the early 17th century it looks as though the main family seat moved across the River Thames to North Stoke. It was another William that had lived at North Stoke Manor at the end of 17th century but unfortunately when he died he left no male issue, the estate being divided between three daughters. It is possible that he still owned the estate at East Ilsley at the time of his death because this was sold by an Emireta Letitia HILDESLY along with Robert VERNON and his wife Frances to John HEAD in 1718.

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