This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 15th July 2002, 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 STOPPARD?
Variations: Stopford, Stopforth, Stopport.

The form of this surname, "Stoppard", has been selected because it is listed as being special to Derbyshire. Otherwise, although it has several variations it is based on the place called Stockport (Greater Manchester and formerly Cheshire). An additional form, Stopper, is sometimes mentioned but this is doubtful. It could either be taken from a place name in Lancashire near Chatham or possibly a homely rendering of the personal name Christopher.

In the case of Stockport the units in the variations giving "ford" or "port" can readily be identified with its site. It stands where several important highways converge and where the River Goyt and Tame unite to form the Mersey. Because even in Roman times it was an important crossing point there is evidence that it might have first been called Stock-Ford. Still, the Port versions are recorded as early as 1188, whereas those of Ford come much later. The point is unresolved.

The name is first associated with a Robert de Stockport who as lord of the manor created it a Free Borough in 1220. Since there is no mention of it in Domesday (1086) it seems its rise in importance grew during the following 130 years. Apparently it even boasted a castle!

The name Stockport is composed of two Old English elements: "Stoc-" and "porte". It is suggested that since both words can be traced back at least to the 9th century they could have been associated and applied to the site much sooner than its apparent emergence in the 13th century would indicate. It might be significant that Stoc described places which were mere dependencies of larger settlements. Was the former Stockport such a dependency of Manchester, which had already been noted in 900?

Such dependencies were often given over to cattle-rearing or dairy-farming. This servient status is reflected in that there were so many Stokes that they needed to be particularised by the tagging-on of some identifying unit - eg Stoke Poges, Stoke Bruerne. Hence the name rarely stands alone but Stoke (near Grindleford) is a local exception. It was servient of Hope. When establishing Stokes it was first necessary to clear the ground by felling trees and then building amidst the stumps - in Old English, called "stocks" and hence the site name. The word Stick is related and perhaps the notion of a settlement in a remote area was revived 1000 years later among American Settlers and now lives in the expression "in the sticks".

The second unit "-port" as used in this place name, is the first recorded in 901. Its precise significance in our language is ambiguous. It is not perfectly applicable to places on the coast or waterways, nor is it exactly a counterpart to words meaning "gate" or "entrance". In the present context it can loosely be interpreted as "market centre" or, possibly, "depot".

Apparently, the word did not hold such usage for long. It was superseded by other expressions such as City, Burgh, etc. It still survives, however, in place names and in some municipal archaicisms such as Port-Reeve.

Locally it appears in Alport (near Youlgrave) and means the Old Centre. Of particular interest here is the water course of the same name, River Alport. It is named Alperd Brooke in a chart drawn up in 1627. This, then, ties in with a dialectical tendency for the sound "t" to change to "d". It occurs in Chanderhill (Old Brampton), which was originally Chanterhill, which means the Wizard's or Enchanter's Hill. This modification should be specially noted because it accounts for the unit Port becoming Pard.

Otherwise, when it is stated that Stoppard is a local pronunciation of Stockport, the point is difficult to grasp. Note that the dropping out of the sound made by "-ck" is also a feature in language development, as in "drachm" and "yacht". Strange to say, although Stoppard is among the names special to Derbyshire, it is not recorded before the 17th Century and all examples are outside the county. Thus, Jean Stopport (1625) and Margaret Stoppard (1635) are noted in the Registry of Marriages for Prestbury in Cheshire and in 1659 we read of a "Mr Stoppard, a Minister for Lancasshyre".

It has already been noted that the site of Stockport was recognised as an important junction and still today its spectacular viaduct (22 arches: 108 feet high) and convergence of the M1, A6, A5145, etc., helps to preserve that standing. So it is not surprising that it also became identified as a "ford" (or "forth" - the terms are interchangeable) in 1347. Hence there appears corresponding surnames by way of Thomas Stoppforth (1379) and Henry Stopford (1669), both of Yorkshire.

The earliest forms of the name are taken from "Stockport" and all are written as "Stockport". After Robert de Stokport (1204) the next reference is to Oliver Stokport (1549) who, oddly enough, is described as "Mayor of Stockport". Only Stopford appears as a surname in the standard biographies. Mention may be made of Robert Stopford (1901-1976) who was a distinguished Bishop of London; and also of Joshua Stopford (1636-1675), also a noted cleric. Both came from Lancashire.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 15th July 2002.

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