History of the Stedman Surname


Adapted from: “Barton and Stedman also Steedman and Steadman Families” by Joseph Earle Steadman (pp. 9-13)

The Stedman family has origins in England that pre-date the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Origin of the Stedman Surname

Surnames were not in use in England before William the Conqueror in 1066. Soon after he ascended to the throne, he ordered adoption of surnames by all members of the upper classes of people. The adoption of surnames by members of the lower classes was not permitted until some centuries later.

Surnames were adopted from two principal sources, namely:

  • The name of the town, city estate, or domain where the adopter lived. For example, Reginaldus de Steddanham, meaning Reginaldus of Steddanham. In 1259 his wife Christiana made a settlement relating to property in County Sussex, England. – (Excerpta Roterlis Finium in Tuni Londonensis – Asservatis Henrico Tertio Rege, Vol. II, p. 291.) See later.
  • The occupation in which the adopter was engaged. For example, John le Stedman, meaning John the sted/stead man (a farmer or a yeoman who owned a small farm). In 1284 he delivered wool to the collectors of wool in County Gloucester, England. — (Ancient Deeds, Patent Rolls, or State Papers of England.)

(Note the words de and le for differentiation.)

The surname Stedman is of Saxon origin, and it seems to have originated from the first source.

The derivation of Stedman from Steddanham follows a familiar pattern where “(n)ham” (meaning home) was converted to “man”.

  • Deadman from Debenham
  • Parman from Parnham
  • Putman from Putterham
  • Swetman from Swettemham
  • Highman from Highnam
  • Downman from Downham
  • Lyman from Lineham

Bardeley (Dictionary of English and Welsh Names, page 11.) states: “It is interesting to observe the various meanings of man as a suffix — man for nham in local surnames. Indeed it is a fairly large class. Instances will be found scattered over the country.”

Evidently the change in the suffix grew out of early confusion of the Anglo-Saxon (n)ham (meaning home) with the Norman-French homme (meaning man), which words have a very similar sound when quickly pronounced. This is illustrated by the English Pridham which was confused with the French prudhomme (a wise or prudent man) and became Pridman; and by the English Bonham which was confused with the French bonhomme (meaning a good man) and became Goodman. In all of the original forms mentioned herein the letter h was silent. Steddanham, for example, was pronounced as though the spelling were Stednam. Thus it was natural and expected that Steddanham became Stedman.

References for comparison:

English Surnames. — By Lower.
Family Names. — By Gentry.
Surnames. — By Anderson.
Surnames of the United Kingdom. — By Harrison.
Surnames: Their Origin and Nationality. — By McKenna.
The Names We Bear. — By Long.


Steddanham was located in County Sussex in England and is now called Stedham. The name is derived from Stedda (name of a Saxon thane or baron) and ham (home; an estate inclusive of land and a village, together with a manor and it appurtenant buildings). Steddan is the possessive form of Stedda and together they mean “Stedda’s home” – Steddanham.

Prior to the year 960, Steddanham was possessed by the Saxon noble Wulfric. At some time during the short and troubled reigns (940-960) of four English Kings – Edmund, Edred, Edwy, and Edgar I – Wulfric forfeited the estate, apparently because of having displeased one or another of those kings. However, in 960 King Edgar I restored it to Wulfric by charter.

Wulfnoth, Baron of Sussex and a naval commander, was next in possession of Steddanham. In 1009 he was engaged in some political misconduct which caused King Ethelred II to confiscate the estate, and it remained in the possession of the crown until the king died in 1016. In the latter year, Prince Ethelstan succeeded in possession of Steddenham, and, when he died in 1020, he left the estate by will to Godwin, a son of Wulfnoth.

In 1018, Godwin (990-15 April 1053) was created as Earl of Wessex by King Canute of England. Godwin was a noted statesman, and, next to the King, he was the most powerful man in England. In 1019, he married Gytha (daughter of Thorgil Sprakaleg and sister of Ulf the Danish Earl), who was a niece of King Canute. They were the parents of six sons (Swegen, Harold, Tostig, Gyrth, Leofwine, and Wulfnoth) and three daughters (Eadgyth, Gunhild, and Aelgifu).

In 1053, Steddanham descended to the possession of Harold (1022-1066), the second son of Godwin. He was Earl of East Angles in 1045, and became Earl of Wessex after the death of his father. In 1066, he was elected to succeed Edward the Confessor as King of England. The election was challenged by William, Duke of Normandy (later called William the Conqueror); and the opponents, with their armies, met in battle at Hastings (in County Sussex, England). Harold was defeated and slain.

At the time of his death, Harold was the husband of two living wives, a danish wife (so called because of a Danish custom then prevailing in England) and a principal wife who was recognized as the queen. The danish wife Eddiva (or Edith, thought to be Eadgyth Swanneshals who was remarkable for her beauty), together with her sons Godwin, Eadmund, and Magnus, and her daughters Gytha and Gunhild, was settled in the Steddanham estate. The principal wife (or queen), together with her twin sons Harold and Wulf (born after the death of their father), was settled on another estate that King Harold inherited from his father. Following the defeat and death of Harold, both of these estates were confiscated by William the Conqueror and given, one each, to two of his followers.

In the year 1086, the name of the Steddanham estate was changed to Stedeham, which in 1308 evolved into Stedham, as it is today. Stedham is a parish and village in County Sussex. In 1831 the parish included 2481 acres of land. The family seats established therein were Stedham, Stedham Hall, Rotherhill, Wispers, Ash, and Tentworth.

References (in Library of Congress, Washington, DC)

Murray, A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, Vols. V & VI
Elwess and Robinson, Castles and Mansions of Western Sussex
Chronicon Monasterii De Abingdom, Vol. I
Horsfield, County of Sussex
Dallaway, County of Sussex, Vol. I
Domesday Book of Sussex, XV 35, pp. 61-62
Bartholomew, Gazeteer of the British Isles, 1887
M. A. Lower, History of Sussex, Vol. II, p. 175
History of County Sussex, Vol. I
The Great Roll of the Pipe (1 Richard I, 1187-1190)
Freeman, The Norman Conquest, Vol. V, 1876
The Place Names of Sussex, Vol, VI, part 1, p. 20

The adoption of Steddanham as a surname would have occurred during the period of 960 to 1086 when the estate was known and recorded by that name and the use of surnames was restricted to the upper classes. The change to Stedman occurred about the year 1191. Burke in The General Armory speaks of “the ancient and illustrious family of Stedman known in England since 1191.” Nicolas in Counties and County Names in Wales shows the ancestry of a Welsh branch of the Stedman family traced back to that year and the first bearer of the surname.

After 1086, another family that was connected to the Steddanham estate adopted the name Stedeham (as the name had evolved to by that time), as in Simon de Stedeham. Their surname evolved over time to Stedham.

This Stedham family has no relation to the Swedish Stedham family descended from Dr. Timmen/Tyman/Timothy Stidden. (He was a Swede who emigrated to Delaware.) That surname is incorrectly spelled Stiddem in a deed given him by an English official in 1671. He, his children, and their descendants thereafter became known as Stidham, or a variant such as: Steadham, Stedham, Steddom, Steedham, etc.

Early History of the Stedman Family

The Dale Castle Manuscript and data obtained from other sources furnish information concerning the early history of the Stedman family. Dale Castle was a forfeited house in the Parish of Dale, County Pembroke, Wales. The known circumstances and events associated with the first bearer of the surname indicate that he and his father were members of the upper class of people, and that his Stedman surname basically was derived from the estate of Steddanham in County Sussex, England. The herein account of the said first bearer and his father is based on this premise.

At some time prior to 1182, ____ de Steddanham, an English nobleman, went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He remained there, established a domain for himself – which he called the “Duchy (Dukedom) of Arabia,” and assumed the title “Duke of Arabia.” He apparently was a man of hasty and driving action, so much so that he became known by the nickname “Calcarba, or Calcarbus” (derived from the word calcar, meaning a spur). Hence, “Calcarba, or Calcarbus, Duke of Arabia.”

During the early crusades to the Holy Land, “the moment a city was captured by the crusaders, a dispute arose as to whom it should belong. At length the different leaders separated, each to fight on his own account and to gain a kingdom for himself.” — (S. J. Goodrich, History of All Nations, Vol. II, p. 863.) Another author states that some of the crusaders and pilgrims carved out a territory over which they set up themselves with assumed titles of nobility. In the year 1182, Saladin (Sultan of Egypt and Syria), an opposer of the crusades, began conquest of the Holy Land to recover it to the Saracens (Mohammedans). Calcarba’s domain lay in the path of Saladin’s operations, and he and his children John and Clarissa) fled towards Jerusalem. Calcarba died before reaching Jerusalem, and John went on to the city. Nothing further is said concerning Clarissa.

John de Steddanham, son of Calcarba, Duke of Arabia, remained in Jerusalem and assisted in its defense until it fell to Saladin in 1187. He, evidently, then escaped to other parts of the Holy Land and assisted in the struggle against the Saracens. In 1191 he joined the forces of King Richard I (the Lion-hearted), who was then on the third crusade to the Holy Land, and assisted in the capture of Acre from the Saracens under Saladin.

It evidently was here that his surname underwent the change from de Steddanham to Stedman. He accompanied Richard on his successful campaign towards Jerusalem where, after a siege of the city, a truce was concluded with Saladin in 1192. The truce provided that the pilgrims should be free to visit the Holy Sepulchre, and that a designated part of the seacoast of the Holy Land should belong to the crusaders.

John Stedman, “being a gallant person and greatly esteemed by the King,” was made a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre and had for arms:

“A cross fleury Vert in a field Or.”

The order of Knight of the Holy Sepulchre was founded in 1099 for the guardianship of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem and for the protection of pilgrims. The members were chosen only from pilgrims who were of the nobility. This fact attests the nobility of the family of which John was a member, and further attests that Calcarba and his children originally were pilgrims in the Holy Land. (Webster’s New International Dictionary, page 1515, edition of 1915, — Order of the Holy Sepulchre.)

In 1192, soon after signing the truce with Saladin, King Richard left the Holy Land on a ship bound for England, and John Stedman was among those who accompanied him. The ship was wrecked in the Adriatic Sea near the coast of Italy; and Richard, together with his companions, undertook to travel afoot from Italy to the west coast of the European continent nearest to England. While passing through Germany, he and his companions were seized and held as prisoners, because of an offense which Richard previously had given to the Duke of Austria. In 1194 the prisoners were ransomed, and they proceeded on their way to England.

According to a tradition published in the Church Times (16 February 1906) of the Angle-Catholic Church of England, John Stedman brought with him to England a chalice made from a portion of wood cut from the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Another story is that this chalice is the Holy Grail, or cup, from which Jesus and his disciples drank at the time of the last supper in Jerusalem. The chalice later became known variously as “The Tregaron Healing Cup”, “The Strata Florida Cup,” and “The Nant Eos Healing Cup.” Numerous persons claimed to have been healed of their diseases by drinking water from the cup. After many generations its possession passed from the Stedman family of Strata Florida, in Wales, and, in 1933, it could be seen as a relic in an old-world mansion in the Welsh village of Nanteos. (The Daily Express, 23 January 1933). The reader hereof must make his or her own decision regarding the truth of the claims for this chalice or cup.

After John Stedman (a young and unmarried man) arrived in England as one of King Richard’s knights, the king gave to him a gift of land and the gift of a wife, which latter was in accordance with the custom of kings to give wives to their unmarried knights.

The land given to John Stedman was situated in County Kent, England. It evidently was a stead (or estate) which consisted of woodlands, farmlands, and buildings pertaining thereto. In the Scotch and dialectal English languages, the word stead was written such ways as, sted, stede, steed, steid, and stid. John, being thus settled on a stead/sted, became known as John le Stedman. Subsequent spellings of the surname were: le Stedeman, Stedman, Steadman, Steedman, Steidman, or Stidman, and sometimes Studman, according to fancy of the bearer.

On 9 November 1931, the late Mr. Thomas Steedman of the Cottage, Fruix, Kinross, Scotland, who then was 81 years of age, stated the following in a letter addressed to Joseph Earle Steadman:

“There is no rule for spelling names. Some people change the spelling of theirs because they think it too common; others because of a fad; the great majority because they are asses. There was an excuse for those in the 14th to 17th century. The bulk of them (at least in Scotland) could neither write nor read. That is the only excuse we can offer, but, fortunately, things are altogether different now. My cousin has changed to Stedman, for what reason no one knows. The family spelt it with two ee’s for generations.”

The wife given to John Stedman was Joan, daughter and heir of Sir John Tatteshall, Knight, who was a brother of Lord Robert Tatteshall and a descendant of Eudo (came to England with William the Conqueror and was granted the estate of Tatteshall in County Lincoln). Joan bore arms:

“Chequy Or and Gules, a chief Ermine,” which John Stedman impaled on the left half of the shield of his own arms.

The number of children born to John and Joan is not known to this writer. However, the blazonry on the banner of one of their sons indicates that he was their seventh son. A photograph of this banner was obtained by the Reverend Melvin Lee Steadman, Jr., from a source in England. It shows the following imprinted upon the banner:

A shield, topped with an open-face knight’s helmet (covered with mantling) and a lion rampant as the crest, all within an oval surrounded by seventeen couped leaves. The shield is quartered. The first and third quarters depict the arms (a cross fleury Vert in a field Or) of Sir John Stedman, the second quarter depicts the arms of his wife, and the fourth quarter depicts three roses as a mark of cadency indicating the seventh son of his parents. Two leafy branches beneath the shield, and the mantling on the helmet, are for ornamentation.

Marks of cadency are borne only during the lifetime of the son’s father; therefore, it is evident that Sir John Stedman was living when the above-mentioned banner was made. The right to bear banners is confined to bannerets and persons of higher rank. (Burke, The General Armory, pp. XI, XX, and XXXIII.) The said banner perhaps was used in one of the crusades or wars occurring during the years 1228-1272.