"Our local place-names tell us quite clearly that a number of birds and animals which are now extinct in the area were once well known here. The old word for the common kite, for example, was 'glede', and it appears in a large number of minor place-names, the wood frequented by kites became Gledholt, and the area of Beacon Hill which they favoured was Gledcliffe; a field in Kirkheaton was given the name of Gledwing, probably because of its shape. Quite obviously the surname Gledhill is derived from some such place-name and on the face of it Gledhill in Almondbury is the likeliest source.
Unfortunately the early history of the surname does not support such a theory. The first Gledhills are mentioned in the court rolls as early as 1275 and for well over 100 years their home was in Stainland. It is, of course, possible that a family taking its name from Gledhilll in Almondbury had moved to Stainland, but this would have been rather unusual at such an early date. It seems possible, therefore, that the source of the name is the spot in Elland now known as Gled Hall. As both Gledhill and Gled Hall have the same pronunciation in dialect it is not inconceivable that the earlier form of the Elland locality was in fact Gledhill. It might be significant that the surname Gledhill eventually gave rise to a number of variants ending in 'hall', e.g. Gledhall and Gleadhall.
Gledhill was already a comparatively frequent surname by the Poll Tax of 1379. There were three married couples taxed at that date, two in Stainland and one in Barkisland, and throughout the next century the name appears frequently in documents relating to these two villages. The Subsidy Roll of 1545 shows that they had maintained their hold there, for no fewer than ten families called Gledhill were taxed in the area between Sowerby and Elland. However, the same document also provides convincing evidence of the way in which the Gledhills had multiplied and spread. One family had moved north to Allerton near Bradford and another two had migrated down the valley to Hartshead and Thornhill. Significantly from a Huddersfield point of view, five families were living in villages close to the town, i.e. Marsden (2), Quarmby (2) and Rastrick.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the ramification of this surname, however, is the number of variant forms which have developed. When Gledhill became 'Gleddle' colloquially, it was assumed by many that the suffix was not 'hill' but 'dale', and in 17th-century Huddersfield records the usual spellings became Gleadall and Gleadell, both of which survive in South Yorkshire. As these forms spread to other areas further confusion took place and the suffix alternated with 'den', which has the same meaning, to give the much rarer forms of Gleaden and Gledden. There are in all a dozen Yorkshire variants of this very prolific family name".
More on the origins of the name of Gledhill from various sources and of Gledhill as a place name, and the origins of English place name elements such as Thorp, Holm etc. See 2005 email received from Dave Sykes.
IMPORTANT NEW THEORY Pre 1275 AD!!! ‘Gledehul from the Land of Bjorke - (Bjorkeland)’ is convincingly argued to be the genuine ancient Viking root of our name, as recorded in the 'Court Rolls of The Manor of Wakefield 1274-1297'. Our name can be shown to be from Viking times. See uncorrupted Viking influence in Yorkshire and the North to this day directly linking the originally recorded name to that language root. Solid evidence, with words and pronunciation guides from the Scandinavian tongues give real interpretation. This intriguing previously unpublished analysis certainly whets appetite for debate. You will be amazed!! Click here to read Peter Gledhill's article.
In his article "The Gledhill Family" Percy W. Gledhill gives details of the most commonly accepted origins of the name Gledhill, which is "the hill frequented by the Gledes; gledes are known as kites, ‘Kite Hill’". The glede is referred to in the Old Testament at Deuteronomy, Chapter XIV, v.13.
Gledhill on the Internet Surname Database. This webpage refers to the Wakefield Court Rolls of 1275. See the transcript of a 1275 court case mentioning a "Gledhill", actually William del Ghdehul.
Correspondents to this website have offered the following interesting though unlikely other possibilities:-
1. Steve Gledhill reports that "the family tree my father passed on to me is entitled 'The issue of James Gledhill and Sarah Ackroyd', compiled September 1935 by Eric C. Gledhill. At the end it states: 'An old Scotsman, some years ago, told me how the family name originated. The name Gledhill is pure Gaelic and any dictionary will show that 'Glede' means 'Falcon' 'Hawk' or 'Bird of prey.' His story was that there were two clans of 'Gledes' - the clan of the hills and the clan of the Lowlands - hence 'Gledhill'. The Gledes of the hills were robbers and used to swoop down on the Lowlanders like Hawks.' Ernest H. Gledhill."
2. Tom Gledhill writes "I have a Bible handed down from my father's aunt whose father came to the United States from Leeds about 1854. In this Bible is the comment 'First Gledhill was a Spaniard, in Spanish Navy who came to England and changed his name from Glezzael to Gledhill'".
Variations of the Name
In his article "The Gledhill Family" on the origins of the Gledhills and their name, Percy W. Gledhill gives 22 other versions of the name: Gladhill, Gleadall, Gleddall, Gleddale, Gleadhill, Gleddel, Gleddil, Gledal, Gleddol, Gladall, Gladdell, Gladell, Gledel, Gleadle, Gleaddall, Gledehill, Gleidhill, del Gledehill, de Gledhill, de Gledehill, Gleydehyll and Gleydhill.
Michael Webb, a descendant of Gervas (Jarvis) Gleadall, has reported several other variations within Gervas's own family. Gervas's father was James Glading. James had children who bore the surnames of Gleading, Gledhill, Gleding, Glading, Gleaden, Gledding, and Gleadall! Successive generations of Gervas's descendants bore the surnames Gledall, Gledding, Gleaden, Gledden and finally Gliddon, Michael Webb's mother's name! Not only that, but Gervas Gleadall was Gledding on his death certificate! Gervas Gleadall was transported to Australia as a convict - see his story on my page Gledhill Odds & Ends from Around the World.
"A dictionary of English surnames" by Percy Hide Reaney, Richard Middlewood Wilson, 1958:
Gledhill, Gledall, Gleadell, Gleadle, Gladhill: Adam de Gledehyll 1277 Wak (Y); Robert Gledall, Gledhell, Gleydell 1571-1603 RothwellPR (Y); Launcelot Gleadell, Gladall 1600-10ib. From Gledhill (WRYorks).
Old Pronunciation: Old parish registers spelling it Gleddle might give a clue to the usual pronunciation of the name.
Gledhill as a Place Name
Map of the original "Gledhill Country" in the West Riding of Yorkshire
Dave Sykes has in his family tree a John Spivey who lived at Gledhill, Almondbury, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, in the early 1700s.
This is probably Glead Hill which is shown on a map produced by team of volunteers led by Dave Sykes and based on the first Ordnance Survey engraved about 1851. Contact Lloyd Gledhill for a copy of this great map.
Dr. George Redmonds, in his "Almondbury -- Places and Place-Names", page 53, mentions Gledhill Hill and nearby Berry Brow and Tunnacliffe Hill, all of which were settled at about the same time. He feels that Gledhill Hill was named after Geoffrey Gledhill who married Margaret Armitage in 1573.
Gledhow (Allerton Gledhow) is a district of Leeds, Yorkshire. It is also the name of a suburb of the country city of Albany, West Australia.
Gleadless is a few miles south-east of Sheffield, Sth Yorkshire.
Gleadless: A D Mills in the Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names 1991 gives the definition "probably 'woodland clearings frequented by kites' Old English gleoda + leah".
Gledhill/Gledholt/Gleadless: Eilert Ekwall in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names 1960 for Gledhill and Gledholt says "See Gleadless". Under Gleadless he gives "YW [Gladeleys 1277, Gledeleys 1300 Goodall, Gleydlys 1473 BM] Gledhill YW nr Halifax [Gledehul 1275 Wakef], Gledholt YW nr Huddersfield [Gledeholt 1297 Subs]. First el. OE glida, gleoda 'kite'. Second OE LEAH, HYLL, HOLT." Ekwall's volume is considered the "bible" by place-name enthusiasts. (These last two items kindly contributed by Dave Sykes). OE=Old English. Ekwall's volume is considered the "bible" by place-name enthusiasts, and is recommended by Dr. Redmonds.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia on the Web (a very useful source, but its Gledhill article very limited):
"Several English places with names based on Old English glede meaning kite (bird):
* Glead Hill at Euxton, near Chorley in Lancashire
* Gled Hill at Kirkthorpe, East Wakefield, Yorkshire
* Glead Hill at Almondbury, South Huddersfield, Yorkshire
* Glead or Gled Hall at Elland, Yorkshire"
I believe that the last four items above are shown on 1854 maps.
Gledhills descended from just one Gledhill ancestor?
Surname Specialist George Redmonds in his 1973 book "Yorkshire West Riding" argued that many of the distinctive names of the West Riding - such as Ackroyd, Barraclough, GLEDHILL, Murgatroyd and Sykes - each started with just one man in the Middle Ages.
Lloyd Gledhill's comment: DNA research in recent years on various surnames shows that the name was taken by more than one unrelated family originally. Early findings in the Gledhill DNA project indicate the same with the Gledhills.