The Stanford Smith Papers

One of the objectives of our society is to create a comprehensive collection of archives, containing every known reference to our surname through the centuries. These can be grouped under various headings:

  • Parish register entries
  • St. Catherine’s House – births, marriages and deaths
  • Wills, administrations and inventories
  • Census Returns
  • Monumental Inscriptions
  • Newspapers
  • Public Record Office
  • Directories
  • Books and Manuscripts

Compiling such a collection will be an ongoing process, and the speed with which it is formed will obviously depend upon the contribution of our members. The St. Catherine’s project is our first major research undertaking, and will form an essential part of the society archives.

The purpose of this article is to say something about our first archive acquisition, which is a full transcript of the Stanford Smith letters of the 1950s. So who exactly was Stanford Smith, and what sort of information does his correspondence contain?

Harry Stanford Smith was born in 1887, only son of Harry Smith, auctioneer of Brighton and Hurstpierpoint. His Linfield connection came through his maternal grandmother, Emily Hobden, who was one of the many children of William and Harriet Linfield of Storrington in West Sussex. William, in turn, was the eldest son of Peter Linfield (1734 – 1791), farmer and butcher of Storrington, and carried on the butchers’ business which his father established in 1780. Peter Linfield originally came from the parish of Nuthurst, where his ancestors had lived for several generations.

Before retiring around 1950, Stanford had worked as an estate agent and surveyor in Brighton. He was unmarried, and I would imagine his genealogical researches gave him many hours of pleasure in a fairly lonely retirement, for apart from a sister in Epsom, whom he visited occasionally, Stanford had no close relatives to occupy his time.

Once his research had progressed some way, he made contact with two distant cousins, Evelyn May Page of Storrington, and Katie Linfield of Steyning, to tell them of his discoveries (and to find friendship?) He also wrote to my grandfather, Arthur Linfield, believing him to be another descendant of his great grandparents, William Linfield and Harriet Stanford, who had married in 1803. This was to prove a mistake, and it was a great disappointment to him that he was unable to find a connection.

Subsequent research has shown that Stanford was actually quite close to finding this link, yet somehow it continued to elude him. The Nuthurst parish registers hold the answers: they tell us that Peter Linfield, who moved away from the parish in 1760 to West Chiltington, had an older brother, William, born 1727. William stayed on in Nuthurst, where he married Sarah Penfold in 1756, and raised a family: it is through their son James, born 1760, that my branch of the Linfields descend.

As for the content of his letters, this can be divided into three main areas:

(1) The descendants of William Linfield and Harriet Stanford, his great grandparents.

(2) The ancestry of Harriet Stanford, and her connection with the Stanfords of Preston Manor.

(3) The early history of the Linfields (all spellings imaginable!) to a time before the Norman Conquest.

The detailed family tree he produced in 1953 is, in effect, a summary of this research and is also contained in the Stanford Smith archive. The tree is constructed on two sheets of paper: one shows the 13 children of William and Harriet, and their descendants. Stanford’s letters give us many details of these Storrington Linfields which would have been lost forever had he not recorded them. The other is a much more ambitious document which reputes to show the descent of these Linfields from a Saxon Burgess of London and judge, Aelnoth. Somehow or other, these early Linfields managed to retain some of their lands after the Conquest at a place called Linkfield (now known as Redhill) where they were lords of the manor until sometime in the 14th century.

The surname derives, therefore, from the manor of Linkfield in Surrey, and it was from here that the family dispersed, some going apparently to Lingfield, also in Surrey, others into the county of Sussex.

The Sussex Linfields settled predominantly in the beautiful areas of the Weald, with the heaviest concentration being in the parish of West Grinstead. Certainly the evidence from the parish registers, beginning in the 1550s, and the considerable number of Linfield wills from this period, would seem to suggest that West Grinstead may well have been the original settlement for the various branches of the family that later developed in Sussex.

Going backwards from Peter Linfield (1734 – 1791), Stanford worked through the Nuthurst registers until he established a direct line from William Linfield, husbandman of Nuthurst, who died in 1578. Without any evidence to support it, he then conjectures that William was the son of Richard Linfield of West Grinstead, who was listed in the Lay Subsidy Rolls of 1524. He then ingeniously uses whatever fragmentary evidence he has discovered in the Public Record Office to link together a succession of names to form a pedigree going back to Saxon times. Obviously, what he has done is highly conjectural, and Stanford admits this. Nevertheless, he does attempt to justify his methods: “At a period when the population was so small and nearly stationary (only doubling in about 300 years) and Lewes and Horsham consisted of about 40 households each, people of the same name and living in the same place were certainly related, so I think the foregoing genealogical tree is not too far out.” No doubt there is a certain element of truth in such a statement, but it is a gross oversimplification which cannot be applied universally.

In general, his work on the Nuthurst and Storrington trees is correct, although there are one or two errors and omissions (these have been rectified on a more recent version of his tree.) Nevertheless, despite my reservations about his attempt to construct a family tree before the advent of parish registration, I do believe he is probably right in his conclusion that the family originated at Linkfield in Surrey, from where they adopted the name. It is interesting to note the various spellings of the name encountered in the early records: Lynggefelde, Lingefelde, Yengefolde, Lullyngefolde, Lynkfield, Lynkfeld. It was not until the middle of the 13th century that surnames were generally adopted in England, and there is certainly no evidence that the Linfields came from Lindfield in Sussex or anywhere else. The name need not have necessarily come from a recognizable place, of course, and may have derived from an area of flaxfields where early members of the family worked. But I still think Stanford is essentially correct in making the connection with Linkfield in Surrey.

In this article I have tried to give a clear idea of the content and value of Stanford Smith’s research into the history of the Linfield family. He was the first person to look at the Nuthurst and Storrington parish registers, and to construct a detailed family tree which summarized his findings. He looked at a number of wills and other documents to obtain further information, and although there are some errors and omissions, his pioneering research was thorough and fairly accurate. It is when he goes back to beyond the beginning of parish registers in the mid-16th century that we need to treat his research with caution, at least as far as his family tree is concerned, because it attempts to show relationships which are entirely conjectural and not supported by documentary evidence. But I cannot argue against his conclusions about the origins of the family to Linkfield, although to attempt to go back even further beyond the beginning of a definite surname to Saxon times, is really pure invention (yet interesting nevertheless!) His main importance to our group is that he has left us with an excellent collection of papers and family trees which are invaluable for reference purposes.

If you would like to see Stanford’s collection of papers, please get in touch with Alan or myself. We can also arrange for copies to be made, but there will be a charge to cover our costs. I would be most interested to receive comments from our members about Stanford Smith and his work; I hope I have treated him fairly. His name will appear again and again in this journal!

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