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The surname Dudley

This originates from the place name Dudley, which derives from the Anglo-Saxon Dudda's leah, meaning a woodland clearing owned or lived in by Dudda.
The family names of the Norman barons of Dudley were Fitz Ansculf and Paganel. In the Middle Ages the Sutton family inherited the estates and the title of Lord Dudley and gradually dropped the Sutton in favour of Dudley as their surname. Other branches of the family appear to have used Dudley from the start.

By the Tudor period this practice was well established and notable figures from collateral branches of the family included John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who installed the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey (who was married to his son) as Queen of England, and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, one of Queen Elizabeth's court favourites.
In 1628 Frances Sutton, heiress to the Barony of Dudley, married Humble Ward, son of William Ward, jeweller and goldsmith to the court of King Charles I. In 1643 Frances became Baroness of Dudley in her own right and soon afterwards her husband was created Baron Ward of Birmingham. Their heirs combined these two titles and became Lords Dudley and Ward. In 1763 John Ward was created Viscount Dudley and Ward and his grandson, John William Ward, became the first Earl of Dudley in 1827. When he died childless the earldom became extinct but was revived in 1860 in favour of William Ward who had inherited the estate. The Earldom of Dudley is still held by the Ward family.
It is possible that a person with the name Dudley is a descendant of the Sutton family or its branches;  however, it is more likely to have been adopted directly from the name of the town. In many cases this would have occurred when an individual left the town; so, John from (or de) Dudley eventually became just John Dudley. The earliest recorded uses of the name in this form are in nearby parts of Staffordshire and Worcestershire. This accounts for the fact that the name is not very common in Dudley itself.

My Dudley

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