MEDIEVAL STUFFYNS

 

This charming devil is one of many at St Edmunds church, Mansfield Woodhouse. The word gargoyle derives from the Latin throat gargle as this is the sound it makes as the rainwater is discharged. Its not just a fancy drainpipe though, ancient civilisations used them to guard against evil spirits, the tradition being carried on into church architecture.

In the early 13th Century, Robert Stuffyn held the Charter (Deeds) written by King John to land in Woodhouse. The Stuffyn's were Agisters of Sherwood Forest, controling grazing rights and upholding Forest Law.

By the 14th Century, through marriage, later generations of Stuffyns had gained other lands in the area, including Shirebrook where Robert's son, Hugh Stuffyn had been granted land for life, even if his wife predeceased him - this is the area considered to be Stuffynwood. Another Woodhouse Stuffyn, Richard, gained the Manor of Tapton through marriage to the Brimmington's of Chesterfield, however, he also had no male heirs and the Manor came to the Durant family. This explains why there are numerous mentions of Stuffyn in Chesterfield's historical land transfer records.

The most successful of the Woodhouse Stuffyns was Robert who became a very successful wool merchant in Newark, the centre of the regions wool trade industry. Robert was appointed by Edward III to manage the Crown's wool trade and subsequently became a very wealthy man, his success rewarded with a knighthood. His wealth managed to buy him the Stuffyn Chantry at St Edmunds, Mansfield Woodhouse, in order for appointed chaplains to prey for his soul and that of his wife and forebears. This act may have been caused by a little remorse suffered when he was granted permission by King Edward III to remove houses built on his lands in MW. Why he should have done this is not known nor what became of the inhabitants.

Robert Stuffyn of Newark founded the chantry in 1344. He made various benefactions to the Austin Priory of Felley for which the Prior undertook to find a chaplain and pay him 'six silver marks each year' to pray for the souls of Robert, his wife Alice, forebears and for the souls of all the faithful, at the altar of the Blessed Virgin in Mansfield Woodhouse. Chaplains were appointed until the mid 18th Century.

Not officialy recognised as the Stuffyn Chantry but not many historians would dispute that this medieval carved stone impression is that of Robert Stuffyn and his wife Alice.

The Black Death pandemic in the mid 14th Century was reponsible for a sudden one/third decline in the population. It would have been a miracle if the Stuffyn's hadn't been affected, moreover, the deaths of landowners without male heirs provided an excellent oportunity to wed into a fortune. By 1400 lands at Shirebrook (Stuffynwood) were in the posession of John Stuffyn, a Derbyshire tax collector. Ralph Stuffyn also a tax collector was recorded as owner of lands in Woodhouse.

The absence of Stuffyn entries in the Mansfield Woodhouse Parish registers post 16th Century confirms that they had departed, the land passing to the Digby's. Collateral branches of the Stuffyn family dispersed to Newark and Nottingham areas. The Shirebrook Stuffyns, however, continued to live at Stuffyn Wood in the Pleasley Parish as confirmed by the register. (Shirebrook was part of the Pleasley Parish until 1904). The farmhouse at Stuffynwood has timbers dated to 1470, which would place it in the era of John and Joan Stuffyn.

Here's a list of the Stuffyn entries in the Pleasley Parish Register dated 1553-1963 the names are spelled as recorded in the register. The recorders would usually write phonetically before official registers arrived in 1837 when recorders were obliged to be literate!.

The register began in 1553, the house at Stuffynwood has been dated to 1470 leaving a gap of 70 years or so, if you take Edmund's birth date as around 1540.

Hercules Stuffing christened 1st December 1564, Pleasley, father - Edmund.
William Stuffing christened 16th November 1569, Pleasley, father - Edmund
Ann Stuffing christened 3rd May 1572, Pleasley, father - Edmund

Frances Stuffen christened 22nd November 1587 Pleasley, father - Hercules
John Stouffing christened 26th August 1590 Pleasley, father - Hercules

Marye Stuffinge christened 30th October 1614, Pleasley, father – John, mother - Bridget
Eliz stuffyn christened 4th December 1615, Pleasley, father - John
Sara Stuffin christened 23rd March 1616, Pleasley, father - John
John Stuffin christened 23rd March1616, Pleasley, father - John
James Stuffin christened 10th October 1619, Pleasley, father - John
Frances Stuffin christened 13th February 1625, Pleasley, father - John
Bridget Stuffin christened 23rd September 1627, Pleasley, father - John

Mary Stuffin christened 26th February 1642, Pleasley - father John, mother Mary
Hercules Stuffin christened 28th March 1649, Pleasley, father - John, mother - Mary

1700 – last of the Stuffyns at Stuffynwood died.

In 2003, post conquest, historical documents involving land transfers, marriage contracts, wills & testaments concerning Mansfield Woodhouse, arrived at the door of Toronto University in two packed suitcases after a house clearance of a recently deceased family member. The family member's ancestors were the Hall family of Woodhouse, who bought the Mansfield Woodhouse Manor after the male line of Digby's ran out, who in turn had gained the manor from the Stuffyns. The main line of the Hall family held the high ranking Sheriff of Nottingham title, a younger brother emigrated to Canada and explains why the documents have turned up there.

Here is a summary of Stuffyn records from the collection that have been translated by Medieval Latin experts. You can find scans of the records here: The Stuffyn Papers

22nd April 1468 –The Will & Testament of Joan & John Stuffyn, Mansfield Woodhouse.
18th October 1472 - John Stuffyn. The sale of land & buildings in Mansfield Woodhouse.
28th May 1477 - John Stuffyn. Transfer of land in Mansfield Woodhouse.
9th August 1480 - Ralph Stuffyn. Transfer of land in Mansfield Woodhouse held in trust to Simon Digby
1490’s - Alan Stuffyn. Payment agreement for land.
1511 - Ralph Stuffyn. Transfer of land&buildings in Nottingham.
3rd april 1512 - Ann Stuffyn. Transfer of land to her son Robert & Simon Digby.
25th April 1512 - Robert Stuffyn. Transfer of Manor lands in M.Woodhouse & Warsop to Simon Digby.
17th May 1512 – Annuity from Simon Digby to Anne Stuffyn
1516 - Title deeds to various Stuffyn owned lands.
1st March 1516 – Testimony that Simon Digby gave land at Stuffyn Wood to John Stuffyn.
11th November 1516 – Simon Digby to John Stuffyn land at Stuffyn Wood


Toronto University’s brief summary of the Stuffyn documents, is that the Stuffyns were the main land owners in Mansfield Woodhouse from post conquest period to the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Manor passing out of the family possession in 1513 when Robert Stuffyn assigned all his manor lands and tenements in Mansfield Woodhouse to Simon Digby, who in return would look after his widow, Anne Stuffyn, until her death.

In my opinion the Mansfield Woodhouse Stuffyn line had run out of male heirs, consequently, the Manor of Mansfield Woodhouse was left in Trust by Ralph Stuffin to a young Simon Digby, probably the son of Ralph’s daughter. Robert Stuffyn, the Trustee, was most likely from the Shirebrook branch of the family, retaining the lands until his death. I suspect that John Stuffyn was the rightful heir to the land at Shirebrook, gaining it back from Simon Digby in 1516 after Crown examination of the Stuffyn title deeds. The Digby's evolved into a very important & illustrious family. The Digby's built Park Hall at Mansfield Woodhouse, less than a mile from Stuffynwood. The chantry chapel at St Edmunds displays a monument in stone to Sir John Digby and his wife, Lucia, staunch supporters of King Charles I. He died 1684. His grandson died without a male heir, and the estates were sold in 1736 to John Hall, Esq.

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