This unusual surname is of early medieval English origin, and is a locational name from a place thus called north of Oldham in Lancashire. Recorded as "Cowleshagh" in 1422, and as "Colleshawe" in Documents of Lancashire, dated 1558, the component elements of the placename are the late Middle English "colie, co(a)lly", dark, black, from the Olde English pre 7th Century "colig" (char)coal, with the Middle English "shaw", from the Olde English "sceaga", shaw, copse, grove. Locational surnames, such as this, were originally given to local landowners, and the lord of the manor, and especially as a means of identification to those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere. In the modern idiom the surname is variously spelt: Cowlishaw, Coleyshaw and Collishaw. Recordings from Derbyshire Church Registers include, on August 7th 1547, the marriage of Margaret Cowlishaw and Henry Atkin in Derby, and on July 16th 1609, the christening of Marye Cowlishaw, an infant, in North Wingfield. The marriage of David Cowlishaw to Alice Woodhall took place in Bolton le Moors, Lancashire, on August 29th 1799. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Phillip Cowlisha, which was dated October 22nd 1540, a christening witness, at Morley, Derbyshire, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Bluff King Hal", 1509 - 1547. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.