The Launchbury Surname
The source of the name Launchbury is a mystery that many historians have tackled over the ages. R.A. McKinley, in his ‘A History of British Surnames ‘ suggests that this is a surname exclusive to north Oxfordshire, was developed from the Lamprey, - eel-like creature chiefly known for having caused the death of Henry I. I cannot for one moment imagine that my ancestors looked like lamprey’ or would wish to be associated with its habit of preying on fish by attaching itself to its victim by its mouth.
My own half-baked theory is that the name is a place name originating from Launch Burial, as the site where most of the clan originate from is simply littered with ancient monuments, some of which are Saxon monuments to victory over the Britons.
The modern site of the burial near Stanton Hardcourt, were re-named Laich hills in the medieval period. Its easy to see how the earlier families living nearby the burials, could have taken the name from the location, the people who lived near the laich-bury.
Camden's Britannia, 1586, Translated into English, with Additions and Improvements
by Dr Edmund Gibson, 1722, records the area around the Stanton Harcourt
‘Ancient seat of ...Baron Harcourt of Stanton Harcourt, ... Below Einsham, the Evenlode a small rivulet, runs into the Isis; which.... a great monument of Antiquity; a number of vastly large Stones plac'd in a circular figure, which the Country-people call Rolle-rich-stones, and have a fond tradition, that they were once Men, and were turn'd into Stones. The figure of them, as rudely drawn a long time ago, I shall here represent to the Reader's eye. They are irregular and of unequal height, and by the decays of time are grown ragged and very much impair'd. The highest of them, which lies out of the ring toward the east, they call The King; because they fansy he should have ben King of England, if he could have seen Long-Compton, a Village which is within view at a very few steps farther: five larger Stones, which on one side of the circle are contiguous to one another, they pretend were Knighs or Horsemen, and the other common Soldiers.
This monument has been reacently identified as a prime location to contain ship burials by geophisics, ironically the site is now protected as an ancient monument, so excavation has yet to start, which is a crime, since half the site has disapeared with historical quarrying and subsequent landfill since the 1990’s.
Lewis’s account in ‘Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831’ is less colourful...
Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire
STANTON-HARCOURT, a parish in the hundred of WOOTTON, county of OXFORD, 4½ miles (S.E.) from Witney, containing 606 inhabitants. This place was granted by Queen Adeliza, second wife of Henry I., to her kinswoman Milicent, wife of Richard de Camville, whose daughter Isabel married Robert de Harcourt. It is situated near the confluence of the small river Windrush with the Thames. The living is a discharged vicarage, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Oxford, rated in the king's books at £16. 13. 4., endowed with £200 private benefaction, and £200 royal bounty, and in the patronage of the Bishop of Oxford. The church is dedicated to St. Michael; in the ancient tower are three chambers above each other, in good repair, the uppermost of which retains the name of Pope's study, being a room in which the poet translated his fifth volume of Homer: in the church are two epitaphs written by Pope, one by Congreve, and one by Dr. Friend; in the Harcourt aisle are some good monuments. Here is a kitchen, which bears marks of remote antiquity; the date of its erection is uncertain, but it was repaired about the reign of Henry IV., and has a great resemblance to the abbot's kitchen at Glastonbury. A school for the education of poor children is supported by the proceeds of various benefactions; the income is £18 per annum, and from thirty to forty children are instructed at small charges. Some ancient remains, called the Devil's Quoits, were probably placed here to commemorate a victory of the Saxon Princes Cynegil and Chwichelm over the Britons, on which occasion about two thousand of the latter were slain.
I think that the launch burials, renamed Linch hill by the medieval farmers was near Stanton Harcourt added to part of a huge neolithic monument. There certainly is lots of evidence of Saxon settlement at nearby Gravelly Guy. Where there are some nice Saxon sunken-featured buildings, or was before the site was ruined by the same gravel extraction and land fillers.
My theory has yet to be confirmed by excavation proper, but is a lot more reasonable than ‘looking like an eel’.