Recorded in the spellings of Fawley, Fawly, Fowley and Frawley, this is a medieval English surname. It is locational from various places called Fawley in the counties of Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Herefordshire and Berkshire. There are three possible meanings. Those places called Fawley in Hampshire and Herefordshire derive from the old English pre 7th Century world “filithe”, meaning a hay field, with “leah”, a clearing in a forest, whilst Fawley in Buckinghamshire has for its first element the old English word “fealg”, meaning fallow land, although quite why a place should be (apparently) permanent fallow land is not logical.
Fawley in Berkshire has the word “felam” as its prefix, which possibly denotes a forest frequented by fallow deer. There is no such place recorded as Frawley, and the records suggest that the intrusive “r” was probably added to Fawley in London area as an early aid to pronunciation. Examples of the surname recordings taken from surviving registers of the diocese of Greater London include: Thomas Fowley, who married Jone Fletcher at St Margarets, Westminster, on May 27th 1543, Richard Fawly, a witness at the church of St Christopher le Stocks, on August 19th 1593, William Fawley who was christened on May 29th 1692 at St. Brides church, Fleet Street, and Andrew Frawley, the son of Andrew and Catherine Frawley, who was christened at Endell Street lying in hospital, on April 18th 1771. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to “develop” often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.