HISTORY - HOW LEONARD STANLEY GOT ITS NAME

In early times most of Britain was covered in dense woodland and forest. There were however stony places where no trees could grow and this was where early man built his settlements. These areas were known as "stanleys"' - an ancient word for 'stony ground', derived from 'stan' (pebble/stone) and 'leah' (clearing). Clever eh? A number of other words meaning rocky, also give there names to local places including Stantone - the former name of the neighbouring village of King's Stanley and Standish. 

 

Unfortunately as we are dealing with such early history there is a little confusion as to the original name because the Domesday Book entry for the village refers to it as Stanlege. Never mind it was a good theory. 

 

So lets try and imagine the village as it was in these earliest of times. The Romans had been defeated by the Germanic tribes swarming over the Tiber, and Britannia was left to return to its tribal roots as the Ancient Britons, and the Romans (the ones who couldn't find a boat)  fought it out with the invading Anglo-Saxons. 

 

Around the year 1000 a Saxon church dedicated to St. Swithun (Bishop of Winchester who died in 952) was built (see "A History of Leonard Stanley as told in bricks and mortar"). St. Swithun was associated with apples and rain - folklore has it that if it rains on St. Swithun's day it will rain for forty days and nights, which is probably why the village fete - traditionally held on St. Swithun day has been moved to July.

 

Anyway, we digress.  Saxon society was rich and inclusive, although the common people spent most of their time scratching out a living from the soil. The website of Minchinhampton village provides an excellent view of life in Saxon times and is worth a look. We do not know specifically what went on  in Stanlege/Stanley until William the Conqueror arrived on the scene from Dozule (evidence of this is a little thin but it's a real coincidence that he should hail from our present-day twinned village in France!).

 

William, once established in England, was having a bit of trouble with the Danes and was having to pay protection money. They were not the laid back, free-loving Scandinavians we know today but a bunch of hairy thugs bent on drinking and fighting there way across the country, much to the distress  of the locals. So, in order to keep up his payments, and to check he was getting what he should in the way of taxes from his loyal subjects, William commissioned the Domesday survey and produced the Domesday book .  

 

In producing the Domesday book William gave us a snapshot of the history (late 11C). Having said that, the entry for Stanlege/Stanley does not appear very exciting (this will be of no surprise to the kids on the playing field). According to the book Stanlege/Stanley existed with twenty-five people in it and they owned a couple of ploughs. Anyway, following the survey the local Saxon landlords, Godrich and Wirmond, were dispossessed and half the taxes from the Stanley's were paid to the Lord of the Manor, Richard de Bercklai (Berkeley) for Stanlege/Stanley and the other half kept by the King for Stantone/Stanley - hence the change of name to King's Stanley - get it? No Richard did not have a son called Leonard - we'll come to that in a minute.

 

So it's here that it gets a little bit interesting. It was one of Richard de Berkeley's decedents who established a cell to the Benedictine abbey at Gloucester dedicated to  St. Leonard, or Lienard (died 599).  St. Leonard was a Frankish ex-nobleman much renowned for his piety (no, that's not making pies) and for the delivery of captives - a shield depicting the chains of St. Leonard can be seen in the present day church. St. Leonard also specialised in 'women in confinement' - another sort of delivery I suppose! So it's probably at this point that the village was known as Stanley St. Leonard's. And, eventually this became abbreviated to Leonard Stanley. 

 

Anyway, that's a short explanation as to how Leonard Stanley got it's name. Anyone with a better theory should e-mail the webmaster.

 

For a more authoritive and detailed history of Leonard Stanley from "BRITISH HISTORY ON-LINE" Click here Logo for British History Online

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