This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 12th July 2004, reproduced by kind permission of the author, the late Desmond Holden.

The “What's in a Name” series was a regular feature in the Advertiser over the period 1993‑2004, taking a refreshing look at the derivation of some typically Derbyshire surnames.

Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames, and do not indicate any particular interest on Desmond's part in the genealogy, descent, or family history of individuals bearing the surnames featured.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

“In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves.”

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called STEBBING?

A reader, recently settling in our area and hailing from Lincolnshire, has asked about this name. A point of interest in the inquiry was whether "Stebbing" (or "Stebbings") was special to that county. This would seem doubtful: the telephone directories covering Lincolnshire list only 3 under "Stebbing" and for "Stebbings". Even in the London area there are no more than 11 for "Stebbing" and 18 for "Stebbings". On the other hand there are a few more included in the directory covering Essex which is consistent with the surname having been derived from a placename in that county - but even so, hardly sufficient to make really special anywhere.

It is certainly an old name. It appears as "Stabinga" in the Domesday Book and assumes something like its present-day spelling in 1212 as "Stebinges". The site which furnishes the surname is in Essex. Following the reorganisation of local government in 1972, the north-western portion of that county was designated as the County District of Uttlesford, and in which, among another 52 places was included the Parish of Stebbing. ("Uttlesford" was the old English designation for the area and appears as such in the Domesday Book). It can be located quite easily being some 6 miles west of Braintree and is strung along a minor road which follows the course of Stebbing Brook for most of its way. It joins the River Chelmer at Felstead.

The meaning of the place name is not perfectly determined but the best opinion has it that it could involve a personality named "Stybba". It would seem that he might have been a considerable landowner because it is accepted that when the suffix "-ing" is affixed to a personal name, it can nearly always be interpreted as "the property of the descendants of (a named person and in this case Stybba"). It is interesting to speculate whether the family's landed interests extended into the similarly-named site in Huntingdon some 65 miles north-west of Stebbing, ie. Stibbington. There also is persuasive evidence that "Stybba" could have enjoyed some standing in the community at least a century before the invasion of the Normans because his name features in a charter dated 960 A.D. (King Edgar ?)

An alternative interpretation of the name is advanced in that "Stebbing" is based on the old English word "stybbing" which is applicable to a wooded site which has been cleared and leaving only the "stubbs" of the former trees. This interpretation would be better supported if related site names were to be found in adjacent sites - as in the case of Stubben Edge near Ashover here in Derbyshire. It is recorded as early as 1319. It is submitted that the first choice "the place of Stybba's people" is to be preferred.

Variations in the spelling are not significant: a final "-s" simply representing the old English genitive and in this case indicates a parent/child relationship. Otherwise, apart from "Stebbing" the only forms in the records are "Stebbings", "Stebbens" and "Stebbins".

The earliest record is dated 1207 and describes an "Edith de Stebbing" and, not surprisingly, of Essex. Some significance may attach itself to the suggestion that the family had links further afield in adjacent counties since Thomas Stebin is mentioned in 1274 in the records extending into Huntingdon.

The number of entries in the Standard National Biography is not extensive but goes a long way to confirm the bearers' links with East Anglia. Henry Stebbing, a minister of religion (1687-1763) was born in Suffolk and another Henry (1799-1883) a political writer came from Great Yarmouth. In more recent times, the name Susan Stebbing (1885-1943) of Surrey is still quoted on account of her writings on logic which brought the subject into the better understanding of many students.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 12th July 2004.

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