The Staffords of Eyam

by C. E. B. BOWLES, M.A.

This article was published originally in the Derbyshire Archaeological Society Journal, vol. 30, 1908; pp261-295.

This transcription by Rosemary Lockie © 2000-1


IV. - RICHARD DE STAFFORD, called senior in the manuscript so frequently mentioned, viz.: “The Proceedings taken in Winster Church with a view to a divorce of Richard de Stafford, jun., and Isabella his wife, the daughter of Richard de Eyam”. [Page 266] The divorce was that of his own son, which he was bent on bringing about, and he, whether conscientiously or not, makes use of the weighty authority of the Church to annul a marriage which undoubtedly was within the prohibited degrees, though the consanguinity was hardly such as to warrant a separation after marriage, had there not probably been some other cause for such a serious step. A glance at the pedigree will show that the relationship between man and wife was no nearer than that of third cousins. Whether or not any ulterior reason existed will probably now, however, never be known.

The evidence was taken in Winster Church on the 5th of November, 1308, and was such as would be obtainable only from those who were able, on account of their age, to give their personal knowledge of the links in the genealogical chain. The most valuable evidence was given by a relation of the family, one William le Proude, of Foolow, who said he was sixty years old, and well remembered Ingram de Stafford, his own grandfather, who was the great-grandfather of Isabella de Eyam, the wife of Richard de Stafford, jun., one of the offenders. He, however, had no personal remembrance of his great-grandfather, Richard de Stafford, the common ancestor of both husband and wife, but forty years ago he had known his name from his mother, as also the fact that he was the father not only only of his own grandfather but also of the grandfather of Richard de Stafford, senior, who had instituted these proceedings. This evidence was corroborated by Philip de Hope,[16] William le Chapman, of Hope, Eustace de Leam, Richard del Hawe, and Richard Freeman, all of whom were sexagenarians.

It would seem that in consequence of these proceedings the marriage was duly annulled from evidence to be found in the Stafford Plea Rolls - through it may possibly be only a friendly fine and recovery. In any case it throws further light on this pedigree, for there we find that in the Michaelmas[17] Term, 11 Edward II. (1317),

[Page 267]
“Roger son of Richard de Stafford the elder and Isabella daughter of Richard de Eyam for a messuage and the third of two parts of six bovates of land in Eyam as his right and inheritance, and in which she had no entry except through Roger son of Richard de Stafford the younger who had demised the tenements to her, and of which he had unjustly disselsed John de Stafford the brother of the said Roger (the plaintiff) whose heir he was. Isabella called in warranty Roger son of Richard de Stafford the younger”.

From this entry we learn that less than ten years after the proceedings in Winster Church, which had led to the divorce, not only was Richard de Stafford the elder dead, but Richard the younger - presumably his eldest son and successor - was likewise dead, leaving by Isabella de Eyam a son, Roger Stafford, who, but for the divorce of his parents, would have succeeded to his grandfather's estates; that not only had this divorce rendered him illegitimate, but it had precluded his mother from deriving any benefit from the maintenance which had been provided for her; and that on the death of his father without legitimate issue the estates had devolved on the next in succession, his uncle John, who had died without issue, leaving his brother, Roger de Stafford, his heir, who was now suing Richard's divorced wife for a portion of his legal inheritance. Richard de Stafford the elder, therefore, had died between the years 1308 and 1317, having had issue:-

  1. Richard de Stafford, the younger, who, as we have seen, had married his third cousin, Isabella, daughter of Richard de Eyam, from whom he was divorced, and by whom he had issue Roger, deprived, by the divorce of his parents, of his inheritance.
  2. John, who inherited the estates, but who must have died without issue.
  3. Roger de Stafford, who succeeded to the estates on the death of his brother John.
  4. Cecilia, the only daughter of whom we have any knowledge. This is obtained from the following:-
“Rodgr Morteyn Lord of Eyam gaf Cecill ye daughter of Rich. Stafford land medowe and bygyng[18] and oder parcels &c a Eyam and boundez theym in the dede - Serche ye dede beryng date xxxiij yere of Kyng Edward (1304) paying chefe by yere 2d”.[19]

[Page 268]

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