The Trafford Connection

A little known and very unlikely connection can be found between St Edwards church in the town of Leek located in the Staffordshire Moorlands and Manchester United’s football ground known as Old Trafford.

In the corner of the graveyard at St Edwards church and up against the boundary wall which seperates the churchyard from the Vicarage can be found an insignificant gravestone.Upon this gravestone can be found the words “W.m Trafford Esquire of Swythamley Park. Died Dec 10th 1697 aged 93”. He was Lord of the manor of Swythamley and William would have been part of the De Trafford dynasty. His family would have owned land in Lancashire, Cheshire and Staffordshire including Trafford Park and Old Trafford where Manchester United play. As William lived to the ripe old age of 93 which would have been a very rare occurrence back in the late 1600s when life expectancy was very short, it is assumed that this is where the title Old Trafford came from.The De trafford’s were Forester’s who were put in charge of vast tracts of land by the Monarch’s of England who used the forests and moorlands for hunting wild boar, wolves and deer.

Sir Alex Freguson and other Manchester United players at Old Trafford. I wonder whether they are aware of the origin of their stadiums name!

The De trafford’s along with the Davenport’s held the power of life and death over anyone caught poaching and stealing the Monarch’s game, they could seize that person’s home, family and animals as well as taking the poachers life. The Davenports coat of arms was a felon with his head in chains to signify that the family held power over anyone caught poaching, whereas the De Traffords family coat of arms was a man with a flail and their motto was “Now Thus”. If you enter St Edwards church it is possible to find another gravestone hanging on the wall dedicated to William Trafford and displaying a man with a flail and also the family motto.

The other gravestone dedicated to William Trafford displaying the man with a flail and the family motto.

When William Trafford was living at Swythamley Hall it was at the time of the English Civil War and as his reponsibility was looking after the King’s land it is hardly suprising that his loyalties lay with the Royalists. The story regarding the family motto arises from the following tale, it is thought that either Norman or Parlimentarian soldiers came to Swythamley to see the Lord of the Manor and rob him of his wealth. William Trafford was a clever man and was well prepared for this, he hid in the barn and started flailing corn, when the soldiers found him they assumed that he was one of the workers on the estate. The soldiers questioned him as to the whereabouts of his master and all he would say was” Now Thus”, the soldiers unable to gain any sense from him and assuming he was an idiot left empty handed, this is thought to be the reason how the familys motto came about.


13 Responses to “The Trafford Connection”

  1. I am, at present, researching my family tree, after meeting my birth-mother yesterday, for the first time, after a year of searching. Apparently, my ancestors on my mother’s side owned Trafford football ground. So I am wondering if, the mentioned William Trafford would be an ancestor of my grandmother, Hilda Jane Trafford. I would be grateful if you have any family information, with regard to its connection with Trafford football ground.

    kind regards


    • Hi Jane, thanks for the interesting comments. Unfortunately I don’t have any more information, however I have just written an article on this website called “Rushton church grave robbers” which details a vault which was found under Rushton church which holds the remains of the de Trafford family which owned the land where Old Trafford football ground now stands and also Trafford Park. A good place to start your research would be Leek library because the de Trafford family lived close to Leek at Swythamley hall, also as you know William de Trafford is buried at St Edwards church in Leek so maybe family records could be found at the church. Hope this has helped regards Gary

  2. Hello Jane,

    I am Peter Train from South Africa and my mother was a Trafford, a descendent of General Thomas Samuel Trafford who moved to Wales after the Trafford home Swythamley near Leek was sold in 1834. It was sold to to Sir Philip Brocklehurst Bt in 1832. Swythamley was given to the de Traffords by Henry VIII in about 1540.

    We are in the UK at present, visiting relatives and investigating family history. For your information, the last living Trafford in our connection in South Africa, my aunt Ruth Trafford died last week.



  3. The history of the Traffords is relatively well documented so shouldn’t be too hard to track down. There are other Traffords in SA, notably the wine makers in Stellenbosch.

  4. I am interested in tracing one Michael Trafford, son of Harold Henry Trafford, who moved from Kenya to South Africa in the Thirties or thereabouts. His father was one of 12 children of my great-grandfather Edward Southwell Trafford, of the Traffords of Wroxham. I can tell you that in our part of the family it is believed that the ‘Now Thus’ motto came about in pre-Norman times, the Traffords having existed in an unbroken male line since what is usually described as ‘time immemorial’: in English law this is defined as 1137, but in fact the Trafford lineage goes back more than one thousand years – they were important landowners in Anglo-Saxon England, who held onto their lands post-Conquest.

  5. I am interested in my own family’s connection [PENNEE pron’d PENYAY, a fr, origin we changed at the time of the frrevolution to PENNY], via the marriage of Robert Penny [1687 – 1737] of Knutsford, Cheshire [ 3rd s of Revd James Penny Gt Budworth, Cheshire and Clare Filia Margaretta Alicia Trafford of Leek Man, Swythamley, Staffs, which apparently took place on 3rd March 1712 at Swythamley. They went on to have 9 children and is well chronicled in Crisp’s Visitation of England and Wales NOTES Vol 2 pp135 -40, Vol 16 pp92 – 3 and Vol14 pp 177 – 8 [ Penny later changed to HARWOOD by Deed Poll]
    Sleigh’s “History of Leek Parish” in Staffs does not mention this union but does in his volume of Pedigrees probably because he was unsure where she fitted in; she is floating around unattached in the Traffford pedigree and, in fact, is listed twice, without it being at all clear who her father was.
    I don’t know if there are any monumental inscriptions for the Traffords , but the Leek Baptismal records for the end of the 17th century has the following baptism entries
    7/4/1692 Henry & Ed., twins of W Trafford junior Esqand Clara his wife of Swythamley
    8/9/1685 Theophila Scollotta [sic], f. W and Clare Trafford,of Swythamley, gen [tleman
    22/3/1682/3 “Clara Filia Margaretta Alicia” f. Wm. and Clara Trafford, of Swithamley, Esq
    “Scollotta” is a rather idiosyncratic way of spelling Charlotta. I believe the reason for Clare/a’s name being in inveted commas is because her second name is Filia, which means daughter: the f is an abbreviation of this. Sleigh spells it PHILIA.
    Sleigh’s book of pedigrees includes a short manuscript of the PENNYs starting with Robt and Clare. Can anyone furnish or know where I might obtain further clarification of this period of the two families? This is a genuine enquiry and if necessary all responces will be teated in confidence

  6. I am going to be in England in March trying to track down my ancestors, among which are the de Traffords. I am trying to find their gravestone locations and would appreciate any assistance.

  7. I am researching Pilgrims rest in South Africa… There is a file: Traffords of Swythamley in the TGME archive in Pilgrim’s Rest. (William Trafford was also the second person to find gold in the valley in 1873)

  8. The children of Edward Southwell Trafford, in order of age

    Edward Southwell TRAFFORD (b 1838, d 2.8.1912) of Honington Hall, Co Lincs, married (1) 8.10.1867 Mary Geraldine daughter of Sir H Paston-Bedingfield, Bart (who d in childbirth 10.8.1869), married (2) 25.8.1880 Eleanor Petre (b 1856, d 17.11.1908), married (3) a Miss Ward
    By 2nd wife:
    1 Eleanor Mary Josephine Southwell TRAFFORD m Henry Harcourt van Cutsem (b 1877, d 1917)
    Bernard Henry Richard van Cutsem (b 23.1.1916)
    2 Sibylla Mary TRAFFORD (d 3.12.1959), a Carmelite nun.
    3 Rosamund Mary TRAFFORD (d 12.5.1958) m 25.8.1915 Eric Hamilton Rose of Leweston Manor, Dorset (b 16.3.1872, d 16.2.1947)
    4 Imelda Mary Agnes TRAFFORD (d 25.9.1920). She was a pilot, and was killed in a plane crash.
    5 Sigismund William Joseph TRAFFORD (b 15.3.1883, d 8.9.1953)
    6 Cecil Edward TRAFFORD (b 23.3.1884, d 15.12.1948) – he and Dodo were twins
    7 Dorothy Mary (Dodo) TRAFFORD (b 23.3.1884, d 13.2.1917), Carmelite nun,
    8 Edward Bernard TRAFFORD (b 10.7.1885, d 22.5.1960). Major, Scots Guards.
    9 Raphael Henry TRAFFORD (b 18.10.1886), Benedictine monk (Dom Sigisbert Trafford OSB), and Abbot of Downside.
    10 Joseph Louis TRAFFORD (b 18.4.1888, d 3.2.1941).
    11 Harold Henry TRAFFORD (b 1891) m Lesley WHO? and apparently had 4 sons, called Tony (Anthony) (who I once met), Joe, Tim and (?John or Michael – my uncle John Trafford knew him).
    12 Geoffrey Michael TRAFFORD (b 19.10.1893-20.6.1982) Benedictine monk (Dom Aidan Trafford OSB). Lately he was parish priest of Beccles, Suffolk.

    As you can see, I have been having considerable trouble sorting out HH’s descendants, and am anxious to get this straightened out. If you want to let me know your particular Trafford interest I can come up with a certain amount of additional information regarding the earlier reaches of the family.

    Best wishes
    Elizabeth Manners

  9. Hi, my name is Jill Trafford, my Great Grandfather and GrandMother resided at Swythamley Hall, my late father remembers regularly visiting them, he remembers his grandfather very enjoyed maggotty cheese!!! I have lots of stories, However, I believe the Hall was lost in a card game, tragic of true, but apparently this information surfaced whilst a family member some years ago was researching family ancestory.
    I’m directly connected to the Trafford family.
    Leek church has a lot of intersting records to research, I still have a lot to do myself, so if anyone can give me more information that would be very appreciated.

  10. Hi,

    Really fascinating articles, a great informative website.

    I’m intrigued where Elizabeth Manners fits into the Trafford ancestry as we share the same surname. my great x4 grandmother was Sarah Nicolls (1809 – 1848) daughter of Edward Trafford Nicolls (1783 – 1839)….

    Edward Trafford Nicolls sold Swythamley Hall to John Brocklehurst in 1832, ending nearly 400 years ownership by the Traffords.

    My family tree doesn’t extend far enough to include Edward Southwell Trafford. Where does your Manners surname come from?
    (I am related to the Manners branch from Staffordshire, who were brewers, not the lot from Rutland, who were Dukes)

    My brother lives in Johanesburg in South Africa so he seems judging by this thread to be extending a family tradition of emmigrating out there.
    Intriguing to see an ancester was one of the first to find gold, as many in our family were connecting to mining in Staffordshire, notably Gypsum (Tutbury, Staffs) and some emigrated to the US during the gold rush.

  11. My late father and grandfather WL and WG Bailey discovered the plundered burial crypt of the De Trafford family in 1956, at Rushton Spencer Church ( near Congleton ) during renovation work. If you visit the Ludchurch page ‘Rushton Church Grave Robbers’ I have posted a comment thereon.

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