The Staveley Name


A wood where Staves are gotSmith's Old Yorkshire gives the origin of the name Staveley from 'staef' (a staff, stick or pole) and 'ley' (from the old English word for a meadow or field). One interpretation of the amalgamation is that it is believed to indicate where a staff or pole would have been fixed in the river showing where it was fordable and hence a community would have formed. (Stafford would have derived its name in a similar manner). A simpler translation is 'fenced-in field' - a lea (or ley) with staves round it, and some have suggested it's meaning to be 'the meadow by the post'.

However, an alternative spelling, 'leah', means a wood, hence the translation 'a wood where staves are got' (English Place Names by Ekwall). It should be remembered that the stave/pole/staff, call it what you will, was an item of immense importance in times gone by. It formed the basis for weapons of war, such as spears and axe handles and most importantly of all, when made of yew, the English longbow. In addition to these they were used for a wide variety of fundamental domestic uses, such as handles for agricultural implements, and other utensils. The pieces of wood, the staves, also went together to form barrels and drinking vessels. Settlements would undoubtedly have formed around or near the availability of such timber. A thousand years ago, at the time of the Norman invasion, people were usually known by their given name, i.e. Richard. The name of their village was then often added, particularly if they were a person of rank who may have moved about a good deal or had been granted land by the Crown; hence Richard de Staveley, (showing the Norman-French influence), which later became Anglicized to Richard Staveley.

There are four places named Staveley in England. The largest being in Derbyshire, a few miles north-west of Chesterfield, near Worksop and not far from the Yorkshire border. There is a Staveley south of Ripon, which puts it quite close to places with a long history of Staveley associations. Another of equal or perhaps greater importance is Staveley in Cumbria (in the region formerly referred to as Westmorland, a few miles east of Windermere. Finally, there is a Staveley-in-Cartmel, a few miles from Grange-over-Sands. It can therefore be taken that all our original ancestors came from, or became associated with, one of these four places mentioned and that both the Staveley in Cumbria and more importantly the Staveley near Knaresborough, are both generally accepted as the very first origins of the family name. As mentioned, there is some evidence that the villages of North and South Stainley, (Staneley) are also corrupted versions of the name or vice versa, especially given the close family associations. South Stainley is in fact only three miles from the village of Staveley. The other place, which also gave rise to Staveleys, was Staleybridge in Cheshire (though originally just called Staley until the 19th century).

Author: Peter Staveley


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