The historical home of the Beresford family was in Beresford Dale near the village of Hartington, in Derbyshire, England. Here, beside the crystal trout-filled waters of the River Dove, was the original Beresford Estate. The earliest confirmed document to mention our family name refers to a Hugh de Beveresford who attests a legal document in 1228, but our current research is trying to dig deeper into the past, by focusing on the period from 1066 to 1300.
Recent editions of our family Magazine have also been investigating the possibility that John de Beresford, who extended the Beresford estate to the Derbyshire side of the River Dove in 1232, was descended from the Norman families of Malbanc, Bardolf and Audley and also an ancient family of Viking origin headed by Orme of Horton. Work continues on this fascinating line of research.
Another possibility, which is mentioned in the Book of the Beresfords, refers to the work of a Herald from the College of Arms who was commissioned by the family to draw up its pedigree in 1621. The Herald drew up a list of the family deeds and on the earliest noted:
"2 Octob 1 W2 1087 Johes Beresford fuit scit de Manerio de Beresford.Christopher Beresford sen. was a witness".
This we may interpret as:
"On 2nd October in the 1st year of the reign of William II 1087, John Beresford became responsible for the manor of Beresford. Christopher the Beresford senescallus (the manor steward) was my witness for this information".
However, as no documentary evidence has survived (and eminent historians disagree about its authenticity) we cannot confirm beyond doubt that a John Beresford existed in 1087.
There is considerable information about the history of the Beresford Estate and Hall (now demolished) including drawings of its plan, elevations and sketches of its interior. The tower on the estate, which stands high above the deep gorge of the river Dove still commands magnificent views over the Peak District National Park and is the site of the Society’s annual picnic during our Spring Gathering each year.
Another area rich in Beresford history is a few miles South in the village of Fenny Bentley, just North of Ashbourne, Derbyshire. Here was another Beresford home at Newton Grange. In the church of St Edmund nearby lies the uniquely shrouded tomb of Thomas and Agnes Beresford, who had sixteen sons and five daughters.
The tomb records that he took part in the famous Battle of Agincourt in France, where the small army of King Henry V defeated a much larger army and slaughtered most of the nobility of France. But as the tomb was erected 100 years after his death, we believe an error may have crept in, as it is more probable that it was Thomas’s father John or another Thomas relative, who actually fought in this battle .
In the church are stained glass windows depicting various Beresfords, including Thomas in armour, whilst on the walls are memorial plaques to his various descendants. For a year or two before Agincourt, the law required able-bodied men aged between 16 and 60 to practise archery after Mass every Sunday and on feast days. In the church porch can still be seen grooves in the stonework where they sharpened their arrows.
The years that followed produced much more information about the Beresford family, including the Irish branch headed by our President, the Marquis of Waterford, whose seat is at Curraghmore in Waterford, Ireland.
Although some lines of the descendants of Thomas and Agnes have died out, many lines remain intact down to the present day. The Society is collecting as much information as possible about members’ family trees in order to link them together and hopefully to connect them eventually to the main pedigree.
In past centuries, when most people could not read or write, we have many examples of the family name being written on documents (such as marriage certificates) just as it was pronounced, rather than with a standard spelling. Some of these variants included in our research are:- Beresford, Berefford, Berresford, Berisford, Berrisford ,Berishford, Barrasford, Berrysford, Beryford, Berisforde, Berrisforde, Baresford.