It is usually assumed that surnames were first formed, or used in a hereditary sense of the term, in the 12th and 13th Centuries. It is also acknowledged by students that surnames were formed basically from three sources. Firstly, the locality from where the original surname bearer lived, or resided. Secondly, the job which was performed by the person involved, and thirdly, a nickname such as a description of a face, body or clothes etc. We find many examples throughout the country which are very easily recognised as relating from the aforementioned examples. A fourth source of course can be added, as when the Christian name of a person, eventually became the surname of that Family.
Let us, initially look at the situation regarding Archery, both as an industry and as a military use. The number of persons' surnames associated with this is numerous, Archer, Fletcher, Bowman, Bowmaker, Bowbender, Arrowsmith, and so on. There are nicknames, such as Short, Long, Cruikshanks, to name but three. If we look at the Poll Tax for the year 1364, at the Village of Firbeck in the County of South Yorkshire, we find a lady by the name of Randywife, which I think I will leave to your imagination, but I have not yet seen where this name was carried forward by future generations.
The study of Surnames is a science of its own, so, therefore, I will leave this to the more qualified writers than myself to pursue, and stick to the name of Stratford, which of course, what the reader and myself are most interested in.
In England and Ireland, there are several places which incorporate the name of Stratford, and not always have a family taken the name of the place. Just the opposite. there is at least one case where the place was named after the Family of Stratford.
Let us look at each individual place which I have found evidence of origin in my research.
The most obvious one of course, is Stratford upon Avon, in Warwickshire. It is stated by early historians, and the evidence is in old authoritative documents, that there was a place called Stratford, or Stretford, here in Roman Times, and even before. There certainly was a settlement of some kind as shown by the Documentation and remains excavated in recent times.
The meaning of the name Stratford, is fairly obvious, in as much as that a street crosses at this point over a river or ford. Actual proof regarding a Family which took the name from this Town of Stratford, which, incidentally I am descended, is Robert De Stratford, the father of John and Robert De Stratford, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Chichester respectively. The name was certainly in use in 1269, although there could be some doubt as to whether their name was actually Stratford at the time of their birth. It is recorded that ' A Kinsman of them, Ralph Hatton De Stratford `was Bishop of London at the same time. Some historians of the Town of Stratford upon Avon, state that John and Robert Hatton, the probable sons of Robert Hatton, took the suffix of De Stratford. If this is so, why did they not keep the name of Hatton, the same as Ralph? Or, on the reverse side of the coin, why did Ralph not drop the name of Hatton, like John and Robert did? My other argument regarding this subject, is that Robert Stratford was one of the reputed original Burgesses of the Town of Stratford upon Avon, in 1269, and this has been confused with Robert De Stratford, Bishop of Chichester, his son or grandson, whose effigy and body lie in Chichester Cathedral, having died in 1362.
My opinion, based on the evidence to hand, is that the mother of John and Robert De Stratford, was Elizabeth Hatton, and Robert De Stratford was his father. John De Stratford, whilst Archbishop of Canterbury, established a Chantry which was endowed by the nearby Manor of Ingon, dedicated to Thomas O'Beckett, ' for the praise of God and for the souls and health of myself, Robert my brother, and for the souls of Robert and Elizabeth, my father and mother, and for the good health of my Lord, King Edward, and that of my successors' in the Parish Church of Stratford upon Avon. If this be the case, and bearing in mind he is not mentioned in the Endowment, Ralph Hatton De Stratford, could possibly be the brother or, even more probably the nephew of Elizabeth Hatton.
In order to confuse the issue further, I have seen it stated from a most reliable source, that John and Robert De Stratford were the sons of Ralph and Isabella Haddon, but I think the dedication of the Chantry in the Stratford Upon Avon, Parish Church must take first place in trying to establish the truth in the matter.
It can be assumed at this time also, because of the influence of John De Stratford, Archbishop of Canterbury, that Henry De Stratford, a Clerk in the Chancery, must have been another brother, or a very close Kinsman as likewise Thomas De Stratford, Dean of Gloucester Cathedral, at the same period. Again, why, if their name was Hatton or Haddon, was it not recorded as such?
Never the less, it was accepted by the King of Arms, in the 1543 Herald's Visitations of Gloucestershire, that the afore mentioned John De Stratford was the head of the Pedigree in 1314, from which my descent has eventually been established.
Another place to incorporate the name of Stratford, is Water Stratford, and again we have early distortion of the name through documentary evidence. During the 11th Century, this was found to be spelled, as Stradford, Stratforwe, Straford, West Stratford, and Stratford during the 13th and 15th Centuries.
Its early history is really not important as far as I am here concerned, with the surname of Stratford, but in 1080, Water Stratford was held by Robert Doley of Turdtin, and his successors seemingly took the surname of Stratford.
In the year 1235 William De Stratford, held a Knight's Fee, and again in 1240, along with his son, another William De Stratford, were witnesses to a Deed, whilst the elder William was described as Lord of Stratford. During the Reign of Henry the Third, William De Stratford, the son of William De Stratford, granted lands to Biddesdon Abbey. From 1279 until 1286, William De Stratford, held the Village consisting of eight hides, and his brothers Richard, Robert, and Water are mentioned in the same Deed. William must have died before 1302, for he was succeeded by his son John, who held the Estate until his death in 1346.
The Deeds, again cause some confusion, as he left the Estate to his Widow, Isabella and his three daughters, Elizabeth, Joan and Eleanor, but in 1359, William De Stratford, the son of John, the son of John, the son of John, recovered the Manor from Isabella. This William De Stratford left no living issue as his brother, Thomas was named as his heir, and eventually the Manor was reclaimed by the descendants of the three daughters of John De Stratford in 1437.
The Church of Water Stratford, was given by William De Stratford to Luffield Priory and confirmed his Grant in the year 1217.
We can see by the Pedigree shown above the number of descendants who could have used the Surname of Stratford, if all the named persons left living issue, and the confusion of tracing Pedigrees from some Deeds and Documents.
One place including the name of Stratford, where there is no confusion as to the former Pedigree is Stratford upon Slaney, in Ireland, near to the Town of Baitinglass.
Robert Stratford, one of the younger sons of the Stratford's of Merevale Hall, Near Atherstone, in Warwickshire, settled with £500 in Ireland in 1660, and his grandson, Edward, the second Earl of Aldborough, founded the Town of Stratford upon Slaney, and named it after the Family. Its prime function at the time was to provide cottages and workshops for the purpose of housing labour for the manufacture of Irish Linen, which, at that time, was a lucrative trade and industry.
All the other places including Stratford as part of the name, I have not, as yet, found evidence that any person took their Surname from that place.
The only other information that I can enlighten the reader with at this time is that it is stated in the Concise Dictionary of English Place Names, that all places which use or used the name of Stratford, were built on Roman Roads, which passed through the Region, and include amongst the terrain a street across a ford.