Godfrey Staniforth of Beighton

Above: The top of Brook Lane, taken in October 2017, the area to the left of the road would have been the ‘Missen Yard’

There are many mysteries when it comes to the Staniforth family, this particular one concerns a Godfrey Staniforth. When referencing the parish records of Beighton, prior to William Staniforth of Sloade Lane moving to the parish and establishing the many lines found in the village today, there exists some earlier Staniforth’s.

The first Staniforth to appear on the parish records at Beighton are the children of Godfrey Staniforth. Very little is known about Godfrey and, as far as we can tell, his name has never been mentioned in any publications. On the list of baptisms Godfrey has four children named, the first is Mary Staniforth, born 12th January 1655, this Mary then appears on the burials list on the 2nd February that same year, it should also be noted an earlier burial the year before shows a Mary Staniforth, daughter of Godfrey being buried on the 11th April 1654. There is also a still borne burial for an unnamed daughter on the 10th January 1654. Mary Staniforth, daughter of Godfrey appears again on the baptism list for the 13th August 1659, this daughter appears to have survived as there is no later burial.

Abigail Staniforth, wife of Godfrey later appears on the burial list for the 8th April 1655, however there are still two baptisms with Godfrey listed as the father after this date, Josiah Staniforth on the 26th August 1660 and Abigail 13th May 1662. Godfrey then appears on the burial list on the 7th February 1664. As the earlier Beighton parish records are incomplete, it is hard to work out where Godfrey originated, or if he remarried, there are Godfrey Staniforth’s in neighbouring Eckington parish, however, none of those are the Godfrey that appears on the Beighton parish records.

As was noted earlier, Godfrey Staniforth may very well have been born in Hackenthorpe as he is not found on neighouring parish records. It was unfortunate that the earlier Beighton records where lost as it could be very likely that Godfrey was a descendent of a William Staniforth that appeared to be in the village in 1600 owning land at the Missen Yard. William is first mentioned on a manor rental record from that year as a freeholder for a ‘house and croft with missine yeard’ ‘measuring 4 acres, 3 roods and 5 perches’. This particular plot of land stood on the east side of Brook Lane which would later become allotments during the First World War, and then went onto contain bungalows and houses. ‘Missine’ likely meant ‘Middle’. In 1633 we see the name again with the title Militaria Terra next to it on a list of freeholders of Hackenthorpe. This term ‘Militaria Terra’ meant land that was held in Knight Service. This land was essentially owned by the sovereign, but was given out in exchange for forty days of military service. This was part of the Normal feudal system, also given was the necessary arms, armour and horses. William would also have been involved with ‘Castle Ward’ which was essentially guard duty, and his heir would have to become a ward or be given in marriage.

This system remained in place until 1662 when it was abolished. Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) maintained that owning such land through knight service was a ‘badge of gentry’

Although little more is known about William of Missen Yard due to the records being lost, it is possible that Godfrey Staniforth whose children later appear on the baptisms of St. Mary was a descendent. We later see mention of the Missen Yard two centuries later in 1782 when a survey and a plan was made.