William Stenniford
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Recently, we had a most interesting e-mail from Joan van der Smissen, an Australian Stettaford who wanted to know more about Devonshire dialect and its effect on the name changes which seem to have taken place over the centuries in different parts of this county.

This is a very complex issue and it must be so difficult for people who live overseas to understand how such radical changes can take place within a single county on a relatively small island. We began by suggesting that Joan should visit

http://www.bbc.co.uk/devon/content/articles/2005/08/18/voices_august05_feature.shtml

where she could actually hear some samples being spoken.

Then we heard from Roy Hewitt that Eddie Lyons (who has written for us at www.devonheritage.org) had been taking photographs at war cemeteries in France and had noticed a strange version of the STENTIFORD name on the memorial to the South Wales Borderers and had captured the image for us.

 

William Henry Stenniford's Memorial

William Henry Stenniford was a Private in the 1st Battalion, the South Wales Borderers. He was killed on 10 June 1915 aged 30

and is remembered on Le Touret Memorial

İEddie Lyons

 

We began to research William Stenniford and through him, his wider family. Our first port of call was the 1901 Census where we found a family of STENNIFORDS headed by a Richard Stenniford who was said to have been born in Chorley. His wife, Maria, was said to come from Chamleigh while  the William who began this quest plus all the other children bar one, were born in Devonport, Plymouth .

When we went further back to the 1891 census, we discovered that their name had been entered as STIDFORD. This was obviously the same family at the same address with a head of household doing the same job as Richard did in 1901 at the local gas works and yes, it was the same Richard and Maria except that Richard's birthplace was given as Chudleigh as was Maria's.

So then back to the 1881 census. This time we discovered that their name had been recorded as HENNIFORD and that the birthplace of Richard and Maria was given as Chawleigh. What enabled us to discover their true identity was the fact that Richard's age seems to always have  been accurate and at that point we assumed that his place of birth was also accurate.

That led us to Chawleigh in the 1851 census where we found William and Elizabeth STENTIFORD (who we wrote about briefly in Issue 2). Their son Richard was baptised on 20 October 1850 and this was undoubtedly the same man. We traced his marriage at Chawleigh to Maria Tolley in the March Quarter of 1877 and the baptism of their first child, Jane at Chawleigh on Christmas Day 1877. Two more children were also born in Chawleigh but then, shortly before the census was taken in 1881, Richard and Maria made the move to Devonport and it was there that the William mentioned above, and his younger brothers and sisters, were born.

So a 60-mile move across the county triggered a series of name changes which finally became accepted by them as STENNIFORD and was brought into general use by them. When Richard died at the age of 60 at  his daughter Lily's home in Monmouthshire in the September Quarter of 1915, his death was registered in this form of the name. He was born and married as a STENTIFORD and buried as a STENNIFORD.

The descendents of Richard Stentiford aka Stenniford have continued to use the STENNIFORD variation  up to and including the present day.

 

Le Touret Memorial

Le Touret Memorial

Courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

 

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Last modiied: 30/05/2007