Three unexpected Cornish surnames

These three surnames don’t look Cornish. Yet two thirds of Spriddles and Stidefords in the UK in the 1800s were found in Cornwall, while one third of the Stenlakes/Stanlakes were also Cornish, with most of the rest in Devon.

Spriddle is suggested to be a nickname, from the words for a spirit or for a small pole. John Spriddle was baptised at Morval near Looe in 1586. The name appears to have spread from there over the course of the 1600s, although a couple of examples of Spridell were briefly encountered much further west at Breage around 1610. By the eighteenth century this family name had migrated eastwards, with the majority of Spriddles huddled together on the Rame peninsula.

Stenlake is most likely to have come from a placename on the western slopes of Dartmoor – Stanlake, meaning a bog with a boundary stone or other prominent rock. The first instance of the surname in Cornwall was a Japrett or Japrell Stenlake, married at Boyton, close to the Tamar, in 1619.   In the 1700s Stenlakes were still clustered near the border, with one exception at Liskeard. In east Cornwall the spelling usually remained Stenlake. But as the name moved west into mid-Cornwall, it was spelt Stanlake and also gained an inventive number of variants, from Standlake to Stanluck.

Stideford, or Steddiford (the original spelling), is a Scillonian name. It was present on the Isles of Scilly from the 1740s and probably earlier. From there it spread into West Penwith with occurrences at Madron in 1780 and a presence at St Ives in 1861. What it might mean remains a mystery, although it looks as if it should come from a placename. Moreover, is there any connection with the name Stentaford? This appeared at the other end of Cornwall in the early 1600s at Calstock, where it was still found in the 1700s. However, Stentaford had entirely disappeared by 1861.

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