By Ishbel Beatty
“I am one of the sainted band” – this confident assertion is proclaimed from a number of 19th century memorial inscriptions.
The way to sainthood is usually marked by fasting, prayer, miracle-working and holy living. But there are other ways: why not, thought some of our forebears, attach the prefix ‘St.’ to a mundane surname?
Perhaps the thought was prompted more by ideas of knightly chivalry than by saintliness, but that is what some of them did.
Hatley St George takes its name from the St. George family, who were lords of the manor in the 14th to 16th centuries and have left 28 wooden armorial shields in the church to commemorate their existence.
Gravestones of the 1800s tell us of the Quintin family, who turned into the St. Quintins during their stay in the village.
Their story begins with Thomas Quintin (1726 to 1806), a London glass-maker, who made his fortune and became a country gentleman. He had land in Quainton, Buckinghamshire, and in Little Gransden. In 1785, he bought the estate of Hatley St George and moved in.
His grandson, another Thomas, had his second son baptised at Gamingay in 1807 as William Saint, though the first son had been plain Thomas. By the time of the 1851 census, Thomas, with his wife and ten children (and ten servants), were living at ‘the Mansion House’, Hatley St George and calling themselves ‘St. Quintin’.
This Thomas’s brother, the Rev John Quintin, had been presented to the village and resided at the Rectory House with a housekeeper and a groom. He too had become a St. Quintin. Thomas left his mark on the village by building an inn, ‘The George’, now a private house, which has an inscribed stone with his initials – T S Q 1850.
William Saint St. Quintin must have had trouble with his name all his life – he joined the Indian Civil Service and is recorded as William St. Quintin St. Quintin and another time as Saint William St. Quintin. Other members of the family had their surnames written as Quinton or Quenton or Quinten.
Subsequent descendants of Thomas lived elsewhere than Cambridgeshire (there is a family grave at Harrold, Bedfordshire), but Colonel Thomas Astell St. Quintin, born at Hatley Park in 1840 and buried in Bedford, has a memorial in Hatley St George church (above) erected by his son Earnest, who inscribed the names of his ancestors who had lived there.
The church of Hatley St George suffers its own confusion of saints. Reference books assure us that its dedication is to St George, but a newspaper article in the 1960s called it St James the Great.
Place names, too
Villages too have had fancies for saints’ names.
The two Papworths were distinguished by their 12th century lord’s names of Everard and Agnes respectively. Since about 1800, the second Papworth became known as Papworth St Agnes and has stuck to that, while its church has been known as St Peter (13th to 16th centuries) and St John the Baptist (from the 18th century).
By analogy it seems, according to the Victoria County History, Papworth Everard was often called Papworth St Everard during the 1800s, but did not allow the misplaced sainthood to change its title permanently.
In the summer of 1994, I met, in Hatley St George, an Australian surnamed St. George who was seeking his family history in England. Having found no predecessor to an ancestor in Kent, he was visiting any village with St. George in its name to discover any connection.
After mulling over the St. Quintins, I wrote to him later, suggesting that perhaps some plain George had added the Saint to his surname to gain some distinction, but have never heard if this idea was any help to him.
If you find your surname rather plain, might you like to add Saint to it?
Note: The Quintin / St. Quintin family have been extensively researched by Elizabeth Loveridge of Blackheath, London, who has kindly allowed me to see her files.
This article also appeared in the Cambridgeshire Family History Society Journal – there doesn’t appear to be a direct web-link to this publication, although this link may help you.
Gamlingay Gazette, July/August 1995
Re-published on the original Hatley website, August 2006; with minor changes for this website, March 2019. ▲