The Yorkshire & Avon Stanfords in the 13th and 14th centuries

"Within two hundred years of Hastings, people bearing the name of Stainford held land all over the North and West Ridings of Yorkshire. Indeed, by the turn of the 13th century, the Stainfords had spread as far east as York itself, where William de Stainford in 1270 is appointed Sheriff of York."

Upriver from Giggleswick lies the modern village of Stainforth, but [in the 11th century] it was a Saxon hamlet going by the name of Stainfordenburgg, which the Norman scribes, writing in Latin, shortened to Stainford. It was a place of no great importance, except that the stone-built hall commanded the ford over the river carrying the York to Lancaster road, and when the bridge was built later, the tenant knight may have extracted a toll. Today, a seventeenth century farmhouse, built like a keep, occupies the site and retains the name of Knight Stainforth Hall, probably so called after the long succession of knights bearing the name 'de Stainford' who lived there.

From the way the Stainfords spread out over the next four generations into the surrounding area suggests that these knights were landowners of some importance. Arriving with the Conqueror as a soldier of fortune with no family connections, the first knight almost certainly married a Saxon girl of good birth, the eldest son carrying on the title, the younger sons acquiring land through marriage or purchase, probably marrying a second generation Anglo-Norman girl, gradually becoming wealthier, and moving up the social ladder as gentry of some standing.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century the principal landowner in the district was Hugh, son of Adam de Stainford, a tenant of Elias de Giggleswick, Lord of the Manor of Giggleswick and Langcliffe, who owned the high ground in Stainforth from the Langcliffe boundary to Fornagill. Hugh owned the remaining part, known as Stainforth-under-Bargh, and this is borne out by the fifteen charters which transferred his property to Sawley Abbey, which was founded by William, Lord Percy, in the reign of Henry I. The name of Nigel de Stainford occurs as a witness, and one Nigel follows another as landowners in Stainforth-under-Bargh until the last Nigel de Stainford died in 1303 and willed his estate at Nields Ing to the Abbey.

Indeed, within two hundred years of Hastings people bearing the name of Stainford held land all over the North and West Ridings of Yorkshire, as their signatures on several charters and tax records attest. A Henry de Stainford witnessed a document dated 1270 concerning the Manor of Elslack, near Skipton, and a little later, Robert, son of Gamel de Stainford covenants to make an annual payment to Sawley Abbey for the rest of his life. Indeed, by the turn of the century, the Stainfords had spread as far east as York itself, where William de Stainford, a kinsman of Henry de Stainford, in 1270 is appointed Sheriff of York, the King's representative in the city, holding judiciary and executive powers. From then onwards they continue to move outwards from their cradle at Stainforth. In the year 1302 Knights' fees due for the parish of Kirkby, near Ripon, record that another Robert de Stainford held one hide of the three caracates of parish ploughland, and a few years later at the beginning of the reign of Edward II in 1307 the Nomina Villarum records that Nigel de Stainford, Nicholas de Bolinbroke and Lady Margaret de Neville are Lords of the Manor of Gargrave, four miles northwest of Skipton. But as their dispersal continued the old ancestral home at Stainforth and Giggleswick, the birthplace of the northern family, passed into other hands following the death of the last Lord of the Manor of Stainforth Scotan, Robert de Stainford, in May 1390.

This Robert de Stainford, who in 1379 paid a Poll Tax of twenty Marks, a large sum reflecting his high social standing, was the founder of the Stainford Chantry in Giggleswick Chapel, but did not live to see the completion of his endowment. His Will, dated 16 May 1390, gave instructions for his burial in the precincts of Giggleswick Church, and left the bulk of his estate to his surviving daughters, Margaret and Agnes, of whom the eldest, Margaret, was married to Sir Richard Tempest, Knight, who thereby inherited the manor and lands. In addition, he bequeathed Margaret's daughter, Margaret Tempest, one hundred Marks as marriage portion; twenty Marks to the daughter of his nephew Robert de Stainford, Junior, who appears to have predeceased him; and to Giggleswick Church such a sum in silver to finish the building that he had begun. It is interesting to note that the old Saxon coinage, the Mark (equivalent to 8 ounces of silver, subdivided into twenty pennies to the ounce) was still the currency of the North, three hundred years after the Conquest. Sir Richard Tempest and the Abbot of Sawley Abbey are residuary legatees, Sir Richard and John de Standen are the executors of the Will that was proved on the 31st March 1393. The bequest to the Abbot of Sawley was charged with the annual payment of the endowment of the Stainford Chantry, and indeed the Abbey Accounts show a yearly payment 'to the Chaplain of Gygylswek 4 with wine and wax'.

The bequest to Sawley Abbey is significant because a William de Stainford was Abbot there during the reign of Henry IV, as a fine oak altar screen in the Sherburn Chapel verifies. The Latin inscription forming part of the carved decoration reads, 'Dedicated and Communal Effort made this work in the time of our Lord Abbot, William Stainford. Anno Domini 1393.'


The prosperous northern family of Stainford are now joined by John, the illegitimate son of Peter de Stanford, a scion of the Stanford family that held the estate on the River Avon in Leicestershire prior to 1066. As a result of outstanding bravery on the field of battle in 1346, John fitzPeter, a descendant of Leuric of Stanford, was granted a substantial acreage of land in Hatfield Chase on the River Don, and a crest to wear on his helmet when he took part in tournaments. The crest of a broken sword held in a gauntlet, awarded personally by Edward III, together with the motto, 'Non Deficit Alter' ('Not Found Wanting Another Time'), links him directly with Leuric and the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings, proclaims that Leuric's disgrace had been expunged, and that the Stanford family honour had been fully restored. The northern Stainfords did not fight at Hastings, only Leuric's clan did; and while two hundred and eighty years after that awful defeat seems a long time to be haunted by the shame of Leuric's disgrace, the stigma burnt so deeply into the soul of his descendants that its removal was like the lifting of a curse.

This first contact between the two wings of the family, the Stanfords and the Stainfords, would develop over the next two hundred years and eventually blend into one, with variations of spelling of their name on the way. John fitzPeter adopts the name 'Staynford' on the charter granting him his new lands, but was fully aware of his origins, and how this remarkable transformation of Stanford family fortunes came about.

Not Found Wanting, pp.20-22

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