The first recorded spelling of the family name dates from the Pipe rolls of Richard 1 (the Lionheart), dating from 1191, recording a Robert de Hertlay. Pipe rolls (so named from the ‘piping’ shape of the rolled parchments) recorded the financial records of the English Exchequer, the yearly audits of accounts, payments and debts presented to the Treasury. The Hartley family has lived in Lancashire and West Yorkshire ‘… from time out of mind’, and ‘Hartley Country’ is spread across Cumbria in the North, through Blackburn, Burnley, Nelson and Colne in East Lancashire, down through Trawden, Wycollar, Haworth, Todmorden and Bacup in the South, to Leeds, Bradford, Halifax and Sheffield in Yorkshire.
The name has two elements; ‘Hart’ and ‘ley’. ‘Hart’ is an old word for a deer or stag, ‘ley’, or ‘lea’, is a clearing or meadow. ‘Hart’ has many correlations in other languages; Heort and Heorot in Anglo-Saxon, Hert in Dutch, Hjort in Old Norse Norwegian and Swedish, and Hjortur in Icelandic. The name pre-dates by far the Norman Conquest of 1066, and place-names bearing the Anglo-Saxon name Heortlea were renamed by the Norman French as Hartley (in, for example, the 1086 Domesday Book). Heort (or Hertha) was a Germanic Earth Goddess; places cleared for her worship were the Hertha-lea. The name does not, as some sources say, come from those who lived in, and cleared, land for the tending of deer. It is the other way about; they lived at the clearings made for Hertha. Heort derives from a common Germanic root: Herutaz. This in turn can be traced back from the Proto-Indo-European kerud, ker and kera, cognate with the Latin cervus – horn.
In the great Old English heroic epic poem Beowulf, the legendary Danish King Hrothgar built a great mead hall, which he called Heorot – The Hall of the Hart.
healærna maést· scóp him Heort naman
the best of royal halls; he named it Heorot
Beowulf : Line 78.
The Hart, or Stag, was the ancient Germanic symbol of Kingship. A stag adorns the Royal sceptre found at Sutton Hoo.
In Norse mythology Hertha was the wife of Odin and mother of Thor. She was an Earth Goddess revered by the Germanic tribes of the Estii, the Lombards, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. Some, but not all, Hartleys are descended from these ancestors. DNA testing shows them to have the rare Y-DNA I1-Z140+ British Isles haplocluster (positive for M253+ Z58+ Z140+). Dr.Kenneth L Nordtvedt Ph.D, Professor Emeritus at Montana State University USA, the leading researcher into Haplo-I1, has estimated that the most recent common ancestor (the MRCA) [paternal line] of this Hartley line was born about 2,000 BP (Before Present). This MRCA was part of a small male lineage, descended from a tiny marginal group of about six individual males sharing Haplogroup I Y-DNA from Northern Europe dating from 20,000 to 2,000 years ago. From this it is safe to assume they were Viking traders and settlers from Scandinavia who settled in the East Lancashire area. In 1881 93% of Hartleys in England lived in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Easier transport links and social mobility means that figure has fallen, but even today 73% of Hartleys still come from the two counties.
|Distribution of Haplo-I1 Hartleys in Europe. Links to HartleyFamily.org.uk|
There is a valley running west from Haslingden to Blackburn called Haslingden Grane. Grane comes from the Old Norse Grein ‘small valley forking off from another’, that other valley being the Rossendale Valley, (not, as some erroneously think, from the ‘grain’ used in illegal distilleries to make alcohol – although there was a thriving whisky industry here in the 19th Century). A road runs over the Grane – a notorious accident black spot – and at about half way along the road, on the banks of Calf Hey reservoir, are the remains of Hartley House. An inventory from 1625 shows the possessions of one John Hartley, who owned livestock, wool, combs, cards and spinning wheels. At its height 1,500 people lived along the Grane.
Grane is not the only Old Norse word used in place names in this part of Lancashire. Blackburn, along with other places, has quite a few ‘gates’ – Northgate, Moorgate, Astley Gate, Bottom Gate, Pleckgate et al – but these are not ‘gates’ in the sense of ways cutting through a city wall. The word ‘gate’ is Old Norse for ‘a street’. Byr, Old Norse for a secondary or outlying farm, was an obvious substitute for the Old English burh in the Danelaw, and is found in Kirkby, Crosby, Formby, Ribby, Sowerby and others.