Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Variants: Ashele, Asshelegh, Assheleye
Category: 1 - A study where research using core genealogical datasets and transcriptions is in its early stages.
Contact: Miss Janet Ashley
The ASSHELE One-Name study is a sub-set of a much larger collection relevant to my family name. ASSHELE occurs in some of the earliest written documents that exist and I became curious about the origins of the name and the people who were identified by it. The research has been in progress for several years and is dependent on accessing primary and secondary sources and published transcripts of documents from the time before parish registers were in use.
Research has revealed that several Asshele individuals once held great influence and power over land and property. Some were able to gift land to religious houses. However senior family lines appear to have become extinct through lack of male heirs and, since early records primarily recorded the rich and powerful, written evidence to establish any junior lines is not expected to be easy.
The aim of this study is to investigate whether or not any junior line survived into more recent centuries.
The number of name holders in the study is small - possible no more than 200 at present, including variants, - and was registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies in 2017.
The registered variants of the name are ASSHELEGH, ASSHELEYE and ASHELE
The emergence of a surname by reference to a place eg. 'de Asshele' and 'atte Legh', is well known. Another possible explanation for the habitual uses of a surname is that it reinforced a close family relationship with the personal name of a parent; and contenders in the 11th and 12th century may have been Asser or Ascerus. Thirdly the Norman-French influence on speech and dialect after 1066 should not be ignored. In particular the invaders struggled to pronounce the English 'sh' and substituted with 'ss...' writers diligently recording their masters speech, a phonetic transcription, and this may have contributed to the more than 50 variant forms of the name that this researcher has found in early documents; 'Ass - he - leye/le/legh' etc. In conclusion, while there is no one obvious candidate for the origin of the surname, the research journey into the past reveals fascinating insights into the lives of those we consider our ancestors.
[More information on the influence of accent on surnames can be found in: Two Early London Subsidy Rolls, ed. Eilert Ekwall ([s.l.], 1951), pp. 25-34. british-history.ac.uk]
1299-1300; Agnes de Assheleye became a nun and received Royal Assent for the position of Abbess of St Mary Winchester.
1303; John de Asshelegh was Coroner and sheriff for Devon. He was in declining health, described as ‘infirm’, and he died in 1304. Below is short biography.
c1320-1340; Robert de Asshele was a trusted retainer of Edward III and held the position of Kings Justice, collecting taxes and hearing cases at county assizes held in towns around the country.
1361; Isabel Dassheleye was a ‘damsel of the chamber,’ recorded in the Black Prince’s Register.
China; The Xinjiang Ashele (Habahe Ashele) Zinc and Copper mine opened in 2004. The mine is named after the Ashele Cu-Zn deposit which was discovered in 1986 in the Ashele Basin.
India; Ashele village, is situated in Maharashtra, and has population of c23,000.
19th and 20th century Familysearch.org lists a small number of families in USA and Canada
1841-1911 no registered UK births or deaths
1841-1901 no registered UK marriages
1620-1840 [research in progress]
1518-1620 UK birth or death: 4 + 10 variants = 14 [research in progress]
1518-1570 UK marriages; 2 + 5 variants = 7 [research in progress]
1276-1560 ASSHELE = 109 additional occurrences of the surname in documents, and
ASSHELEYE (30), ASSHELEGH (30), ASHELE (4) = 64 variants.
The surname has been recorded in North America in the 20th century and in China and India as a place name.
During the 16th and 17th century this surname was recorded in Devon and London.
14th - 16th century, Norfolk and surrounding counties were a focus for the surname.
The aim is to develop a dedicated website for the data currently held, while continuing to research further.
At present the focus is on the UK.
Sir John de Asshelegh, knight, c1237 - 1303
John de Asshleye was born about 1237 . He was knighted before 1284, holding the manor of Ashleigh in Devon for the service of 1 knight’s fee, with various other lands mentioned later in this history.
In 1285 John de Asselegh held 1 fee in Asselegh of William Albemarle, and the same William held it of Richard son of Stephen of Ringmore [Ridmor, Rademore], and the same Richard of Milisent de Montalt, i.e. of the honour of Totton then held by Milisent .
At some point during his life Sir John was appointed Coroner for the County of Devon and he held this position until his death. He held considerable influence and power over life and death issues that affected people at all levels of Devon society.
A Treasury Deed of 1284 between Sir John de Asshelegh, knight and Alina de Shelston the widow of John, son of John de Shelston, appears to be an agreement that confirms to Alina ‘by way of dower’ the demesne of Cokflete and other interests in the manors of Schelston and Wynneston, at a yearly rent of 12s .
Shortly afterwards we discover that John has a wife called Alianora, for between 1284-86 when Johannes de Aslewe/ Ayslegh is described as ‘rectius’ [rector or justice] of Asshlegh, he also holds lands in Wyneston jointly with his wife; This last is possibly the ¼ fee of Wyneston mentioned above and still held by Johannes de Asshlegh twenty years later in 1303 . This suggests Alina de Shelston, widow, at some time was married to Sir John de Asshelegh, knight, thereby bringing these properties into the family.
1297 Sir John de Asshleye of Washbourne [als Barton or Bauzan], Devon, aged 60 years and more, appeared as a witness in a proof of age inquisition at Westminster. 
By 1303 John has reached about 70 years of age and his infirmity was recorded in the Close Rolls .
Sir John de Asshelegh died of old age in September 1304 .
 Cal. Inq. p.m. iii, 1297, 328-9.  Ibid 203-4.  Cat. Anct. D. I, 1284, 24.  Feudal Aids 1284-1431, 1303, 353.
 Cal. Inq. p.m. iii, 328-9. 25 Edw I, 1297.  Close Rolls, Jan 21, Dumfermline, 1303, m16, 118.
 Close Rolls, Oct 1, Lazenby (Leysingby), 1304, m5, 174.
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