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The Missing Link (c1480 - )

Thirty years on and there is still no clear evidence for Robert Stancefeyld of Felkirk's father, nor for his geographical origins. As much of the land in the area had previously been held by Bretton and Nostell Priories until the Dissolution, it is quite plausible that Robert moved to Felkirk to take advantage of the lands that were suddenly available around 1540 - the year when his eldest known son, also Robert, appears to have been born. If he did indeed gravitate to Felkirk then, he is unlikely to have moved very far. On the other hand, his forebears could have been in Felkirk for generations without generating any evidence.

This period, 1538 to be precise, also marks the beginning of Parish Registers, though few are available that early and those that are tend to have suffered damage over the years. There is nothing in the PRs of the surrounding parishes that leads me to suspect that my direct ancestors were residing in any place other than Felkirk during the mid-1500s.

Also, there are only a few manorial court records for that period in that area. Unfortunately, Felkirk did not fall within the Manor of Wakefield, which has almost continuous court records covering over 900 years.

Consequently, this particular webpage will focus on two things: (a) other Stansfields who were contemporaries of Robert and (b) one possible individual who may actually be Robert himself. The latter, with whom I shall start this exploration for a connection with the main Stansfield line, may only lead to yet another dead end - but that will become clear as you read on.

Robert son of Thomas son of Gefferey Stanfield of Wakefield, yeoman

At the present time, it appears that the best possible match for the father of Robert Stancefeyld of Felkirk is Thomas brother of Richard, skinner and Citizen of London. Of Thomas we know virtually nothing apart from the contents of Richard's Will of 27 June 1551 in the records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. Of Richard, however, we know a great deal.

Richard is allocated a number of pages in John Stansfeld's History of the Family of Stansfeld of Stansfield, though JS was unable to pin down how Richard fitted into the greater picture. He suggests that Richard may have come from a branch of the family in Blyth, but there is clear evidence that disproves this hypothesis.

Richard, skinner and Citizen of London, is in fact one of the best documented of all the Stansfields - and one of the most intriguing. I have no fewer than 30 records relating to events in his life and to his numerous properties. Some of these come from the records of the Worshipful Company of Skinners, others from his many property dealings and disputes, from his second marriage, and from a full copy of his lengthy Will (extracts from which are included by JS).

But the key find with regard to Richard's origins proved to be the record of his apprenticeship binding. This record was not referred to by JS at all, yet it seems likely that it would have been accessible to him. The apprenticeship binding is dated 25 Mar 1511, placing Richard with Thomas Clerke (London Metropolitan Archives CLC/L/SE/C/005/MS30719/001).

'The history of the twelve great livery companies of London' lists Richard Stansfield in ‘The Names of the Freemen Householders of the “Crafte of Skynners” from the Record in the Chapterhouse, 1537’ and he even became Master of the Skinners' Company in 1544 according to 'Some account of the worshipful Company of Skinners of London by' James Foster Wadmore.

Judging by the average age at which young men entered into apprenticeships during that period, Richard would have been born c1493. His apprenticeship binding records Richard's father as Gefferey*, late of Wakefield, yeoman. Said Gefferey is at present another dead end. There is, of course, Geoffrey from the main line who held Hartshead and Stansfield and who died in 1508, the same period as the death of Gefferey, yeoman, late of Wakefield. But there is a huge difference between a tenant in chief of two manors (Hartshead and Stansfield) and a mere yeoman (Richard's father). Frustratingly, all the circumstantial evidence points towards a familial connection between the two but, as yet, it remains undiscovered if it indeed exists.
*I have retained this spelling throughout in order to differentiate him from other Geoffreys.

Richard became immensely successful in his property dealings, judging by the evidence and, in particular, by his Will. It seems very likely that he was well connected from an early age, and between 1538-1544 he was involved in a court case with Thomas Firthe of Halifax, clothier, re detention of deeds for a messuage and land in Elland which he [Richard] claimed to have held for 40 years or thereabouts (National Archives C 1/1069/60). If the assumed year of his birth is anywhere near correct, this would have him owning land/property in his own right as a minor - a situation which could only suggest an inheritance.

He had other connections with people around Yorkshire too. In 1524 Richard witnessed a burial, accompanied by Richard Biston, at Bingley, Yorkshire (Baildon and the Baildons, a history of a Yorkshire manor and family). Some twenty years later, Richard Stansfield is mentioned in John Beyston's Inquisition Post Mortem as marrying his [John's] widow Elizabeth and a marriage licence is recorded in Feet of Fines Yorkshire, Part 1, 1486-1571 / Yorkshire Fines 1546-50 / 1548. It is assumed that Richard Biston and John Beyston were of the same family.

Richard was also recorded as one of the overseers in the Will, proved 12 Jan 1537, of Thomas Ferrand, Draper, of London who appears to have been the son of Robert Ferrand of Skipton (Publications of the Surtees Society Vol. CXVI).

But of particular interest with regard to Robert Stancefeyld of the parish of Felkirk is the connection to the Goldthorpe family and properties which Richard acquired from them in the area around Felkirk, notably the adjacent parish of Darfield. The first record we have is of Richard Stannifield, citizen and skinner of London being owed £100 by William Goldthorpe of Shepley, gentleman, in 1531 (National Archives ref C 241/283/15). Following this, on 7 May 1540, Richard "...purchased an annuity of £20, for forty-five years, from Thomas Goldthorpe, out of his manors of Goldthorpe, Billingley, Bolton, Bamborough and Shepley" (History of the Family of Stansfeld of Stansfield p368). JS goes on to record the purchase in 1542 for £290 from Thomas Goldthorpe of "the manor of Shepley, the hall, a messuage, miln, cottage, and all lands, manorial rights, profits of courts, leets & c. with all deeds" (p307 & p368). Shepley is roughly 12mls W of Felkirk.

Richard Cooke, grandson of Richard Stansfield, later sold a moiety [share] of the manor of Shepley on 25 Aug 1571 to John Savile of Stanley, near Wakefield (JS p368). This is not the only connection to the Saviles. There is also a connection through the Manor of Ardsley dated 1546:

"To alienate the Manor of Ardsley (formerly belonging to the Priory of Monkbretton). Conveyances and Assignment of lease: Richard Andrews and William Romsden to Thomas Sayvell of Eclisley, July, 1543; Sayvell to Richard Stansfeld, March, 1546; Thomas Sayvell of Welburn to Martin Byrkheade, Aug 1560" (National Archives ACM/SD/147-151).

Ardsley also crops up later in the affairs of Richard's descendants:

"from Lord Gilbert Talbot to Richard Cooke esq, Stansfeld Cooke gent, & Elizabeth his wife. Manor of Ardesley & 12 messuages, 12 cottages & a mill with lands in Ardesley & Derefeld. A warrant against John Coke esq, Isabel his wife, & the heirs of Isabel, & against Richard Stansfeld esq & his heirs" (Feet of Fines (Yorks) 1583).

That there were connections to the Saviles doesn't come as a surprise, as there were many branches of the Savile family in Yorkshire and most of these held lands aplenty. There was also a long-standing connection to the Saviles, as evidenced by the King's Bench records of the Pilkington-Savile/Stansfield Feud [see Back Stories in the main menu]. But I also suspect that there was a Savile link close to Richard Stansfield's birth, which might also help to explain his claim to property in Elland at an early age.

Returning to the lands around Felkirk, the village of Goldthorpe lies on the south side of Thurnscoe immediately SE of Felkirk and the following records are especially worth noting:

Darfield, Yorkshire, England
Plaintiff: Richard Stannysfeld. Deforciant: Thomas Goldthorpe, gent. A messuage with lands in Dorfeld (als. Darfeld). Feet of Fines Yorkshire, Part 1, 1486-1571 / Yorkshire Fines 1546-50 / 1546, Michaelmas Term, 38 Henry VIII.

1548 July 1
Milnehouse [? Millhouses, Darfield, Yorkshire]
Richard Stannffeld of London, esq. to John Wylkynson. Right and title to one messuage and appurtenances in Byllyngley and Milnehouse now in the tenure of Robert Hopkynson. National Archives Quitclaim CM/362. Former reference: B9 b48.

A messuage with lands in Darfeld, Byllyngley & Mylnehowse [?Millhouses].
Plaintiff: John Wylkynson & wife Eliz. Deforciant: Richard Stansfeld esq & wife Eliz & John Coke [Cook] esq & wife Isabel [Richard's daughter]. Feet of Fines Yorkshire, Part 1, 1486-1571 / Yorkshire Fines 1546-50 / 1548, Michaelmas Term, 2 Edward VI.

So Richard skinner and Citizen of London put together a portfolio of properties (Ardsley, Darfield, Billingley, Goldthorpe, and Bolton upon Dearne) which grouped together very nicely, all placed just a stone's throw south of Felkirk parish.

Is it possible that Richard's brother Thomas occupied one of these properties? And that Thomas's son Robert moved north a couple of miles to live in Felkirk parish? That is a possibility that cannot be ignored, given the absence of evidence to date. But, if so, it is odd that there is no mention of it in the records. In addition, there are two further connections within the immediate area which also need to be mentioned:

In 1493 there is a record of a Joan widow of Henry Stansfield in Kinsley, just E of the northern tip of Felkirk parish. No other trace of this couple can be found.

In 1521 there is a record of Robert Stansfield, gentleman, accused of trespass on land between Darfield and Wombwell. That he is recorded as a "gentleman' most likely makes this the son of Geoffrey of Hartshead and Stansfield rather than the brother of Richard, skinner.

Finally, as regards the possible connection between Richard, skinner and Citizen of London, and Robert Stancefeyld of Fekirk, it should be noted that Richard bequeathed the sum of £5 to his brother Thomas in 1551. (Their other brother Robert wasn't mentioned in the Will and may already have been deceased.) The same amount was also bequeathed to Thomas's son Robert. It would have been sufficient to provide him with some security but not necessarily enough to elevate him to a whole new level. So, hardly a princely sum, especially considering the value of property and other sums of money bequeathed by Richard to other people. But it means that Thomas's son Robert would likely have had financial status which is commensurate with that of Robert Stancefeyld of Felkirk, judging by the fact that the latter held a six-acre farmstead in 1556 and that he actually wrote a Will, which last fact alone suggests that he considered himself to have had some status, albeit fairly humble. Equally, Robert of Felkirk's lifestyle does not seem out of step with what one might expect of a son of a third son of a yeoman.

There follows below a summary of the known facts regarding the two Roberts:

Robert of Felkirk: known facts
- Will dated 1556, proved 1559.
- Married twice.
- First unnamed wife buried Felkirk.
- Second wife named Alice.
- Children: Robert, John, George, Margaret, Meriall (in order listed in his Will; the boys at least will be in chronological order).
- Eldest surviving son Robert b.1540, still living 1604, d.1617. (There is no evidence to prove that this was Robert senior’s son but the dates and location fit and there does not appear to be another Stansfield family in the parish at that time.)
- In his Will Robert senior leaves his farmhold with income of my lands to Alice my wife, along with 6 acres of tilled land, 6 loads of hay, and 2 cows.
After Robert’s death between 1556 and April 1559 (when his Will was proved) his widow Alice remarried to John Roebuck whose Will of 1567 describes her as formerly a widow of Felkirk with children from a previous marriage, including a son George Stanffeld (third son after Robert then John), also named in John Roebuck's Will. If the farmhold Alice inherited went with her in her marriage to John Roebuck, this may account for eldest son Robert Stansfeild junior’s occupation in 1604 aged 64 as a linen weaver, having left the family farm. However, as his youngest brother George received a bequest in John Roebuck’s Will, one might assume that George maintained a higher degree of contact with his mother and stepfather than did his older brother Robert.
- Sixth child Anne appears to have been born after Robert senior’s Will was written, as a sister Anne is mentioned in Robert junior’s Administration record – unless Anne was fathered by John Roebuck and Robert junior still counted her as a sister. "Sister" could also mean "sister in law".

Robert son of Thomas brother of Richard, skinner: known facts
- Thomas was the brother of Richard, skinner, the latter bequeathing £5 to Thomas in his Will of 1551, an additional rider adding: If he dies then between his children by his last wife. The same amount was also left to Thomas's son Robert.
- Their other brother was Robert, who wasn’t mentioned in Richard’s Will( though his only known child [Richard] was). The assumption is that their brother Robert pre-deceased Richard.
- Their father, according to Richard’s apprenticeship binding dated 1511, was Gefferey, yeoman, late of Wakefield. Whether this meant Wakefield itself and its outlying communities or the vast area covered by the Manor of Wakefield is not known. To date, no further record of this Gefferey has been found. The only other Geoffreys known for this period are (a) Geoffrey of Stansfield Hall and Hartshead Hall, gentleman, abt 1430-1508 (IPM) and (b) Geoffrey, Tenant in Chief of the Manor of Heasandford d. abt.1499.
- Richard appears likely to have been the eldest. If he was of average age (18) when he was apprenticed in 1511 then he would have been born 1493. This would make him 58 when he died. Eldest or not, he was clearly a very shrewd businessman who cultivated a wide range of influential contacts.
Thomas is known to have had 4 children: Robert, John, Richard and Cicely. The three younger children were each left £10 in Richard’s Will, when the boys reached age 22 and when Cicely reached age 20 or married. However, Robert was only bequeathed £5, which suggests that Robert was older and more established and/or that he may have been a product of his father's first marriage and thus treated differently for some reason

Contemporaries of Robert Stancefeyld of Felkirk
For the sake of completeness, there follows a list of Stansfield males who were alive in the early 1500s and therefore possible additional candidates, even if highly unlikely, for being Robert of Felkirk’s father:-

Thomas of Erringden & Erringden Park d.1558, son of Edward d.1534
Robert, gentleman of Wombwell in 1521, poss son of Geoffrey of Stansfield & Hartshead & K Ashton
John b.abt.1460 d.aft.1508, son of Geoffrey of Stansfield & Hartshead & K Ashton
Thomas b.abt.1496 d.1550, son of Ralph & Agnes
James b.1494 d.1539, son of Ralph & Agnes
Gefferey, yeoman of Wakefield d.bef.1511
Richard, skinner, b.abt.1493 d.1551
Robert, brother of Richard, skinner, b.abt 1495
Hugh of Wadsworth & Elland b.abt.1459 d.1535
James of Stansfield, son of Hugh & Johanna
Thomas of Erringden, son of Hugh & Johanna
Gilbert, chaplain at Heptonstall, son of Hugh & Johanna
Same father as Ralph of Otley d.1555
Same father as John of Ledsham d.1568
Same father as Christopher of Rothwell marr.1548
Same father as William of Rothwell d.1559
Same father as Elizabeth of Rothwell marr.1548
Humphrey who married Margaret

Other than that which has already been discussed, there is no evidence at present for any of the above being the father of Robert Stancefeyld of Felkirk.

My thanks to researcher Joanne Backhouse for her collaboration and guidance regarding the Stansfeld family and Calderdale.