Colonel Robert Stansfeld : Biography

A biography of Colonel Robert Stansfeld as it appeared in the Halifax Guardian of 24th October 1885

It is with much regret we have to announce the death of this gentleman, on Monday evening, at his residence, Field House, near Halifax, at the ripe old age of nearly four score years. Though increasing years somewhat restrained the activity of one who to the last has shown himself possessed of remarkable vigour, Colonel Stansfeld has moved about to the last. On Saturday he visited Halifax, and spoke to many of his acquaintances in his well-known cheery style. On Sunday he attended service at Sowerby Church, as usual. On Monday morning, he rose at his usual hour, and during the day he attended to various matters of business in connection with his estate. In the afternoon he retired to his room to write some letters, and in the evening he became indisposed, and shortly afterwards breathed his last, through failure of the action of the heart.

The deceased gentleman was the son of Robert Stansfeld Esq. of Field House, a gentleman still remembered by the older inhabitants of Halifax as one whose fine commanding figure was noted with pride, and who was a remarkable example of the old English gentleman. Colonel Stansfeld, who inherited many of his father's characteristics, was born at Sowerby, on the 5th of December 1805. He was educated at Heath Grammar School. In his youthful days he took great pleasure in manly pursuits, and when he reached the age of twenty-one years, he resolved to adopt the military profession, and entered the 19th Regiment by purchase. He was gazetted Ensign of his regiment on the 19th of September 1826, and Lieutenant on the 2nd of November 1832. He served with his regiment for many years in the West Indies, and whilst abroad married Hannah Laetitia, only daughter and heiress of Lewis Farley Clogston Johnston, Esq., Chief Justice of the Island of Trinidad. On the 4th of August 1837, Colonel Stansfeld retired from his regiment. On his return to England, he took up his home at The Breck, in Sowerby, but after the death of his father, in 1855, he removed to the paternal residence, Field House, where he has continued to reside to the last. In 1852, Colonel Stansfeld joined the 2nd West York Militia, whose headquarters were at York, and received the command of a company, but on the formation of the 6th West York Militia, he became Major of that regiment, the headquarters of which were at Halifax. The date of his appointment was the 25th of April 1854. After eighteen years' service as Major, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel on the 26th of March 1872. On the 15th of May 1874, he resigned his command, but was allowed the title of Honorary Colonel of his regiment. Since that time he has always taken an interest in the regiment, and has been present at the annual reviews and sports. During the year 1861, a sham fight on a large scale took place on Skircoat Moor and the neighbourhood, in which the 6th West took part, and Colonel Stansfeld, who was then Major, was in command of the Militia. On the 29th of April 1864, colours were presented to the regiment. On that occasion an escort of yeomanry cavalry, commanded by Sir Henry Edwards Bart, assembled on Skircoat Moor, where the Militia were drawn up. The colours were presented by Miss Edwards, and Colonel Hind, who was the commanding officer of the regiment, returned thanks. Colonel Stansfeld has taken a great interest in the Volunteer movement, and frequently been present at the annual reviews of the Halifax Rifle Volunteers. When the great national campaign took place at Cannock Chase, Colonel Stansfeld went into camp, although he was then advanced in life, and endured all the hardships experienced by younger men.

For many years, Colonel Stansfeld has been a justice of the peace for the West Riding, and formerly was very regular in attending to the duties at the West Riding Court. He was a staunch Conservative, though he has never taken an active part on the platform. He was, like his father before him, a Churchman, though tolerant of those who differed from him, and a regular worshipper at Sowerby Church, where many of his ancestors now rest, and where many memorials of their zeal and liberality are preserved. These have been carefully recorded in the History of the Stansfeld Family, a splendid work by Mr John Stansfeld, of Leeds.

A painted window, representing The Crucifixion, is in memory of Robert Stansfeld, of Field House, and Lydia, his wife, the parents of Colonel Stansfeld. In the north clerestory, is a plaster representation of the Stansfeld arms: goals statant.

Crest: a lion's head erased. Motto: Know thyself.

There are several mural tablets, including one to the memory of Robert Johnston Stansfeld, elder son of Colonel Stansfeld, who served with distinction in the Crimean War and through the Indian Mutiny. It was chiefly through the liberality of an ancestor of Colonel Stansfeld's that the present church was erected, and the remains of the older church were re-erected, and now stand at Fieldhouse. In the restoration of Sowerby Church, Colonel Stansfeld took great interest, supporting the scheme liberally with his money, and giving his supervision whilst it was being carried out. He was ready to help in any work of improvement in his own district, and subscribed to the funds for the formation of the new road to Sowerby. He was averse to mixing up in public affairs, and lived the life of a quiet country gentleman. About a year ago he was thrown from his horse, and received such injuries as might have ended fatally to men of less strong constitutions. An early riser, and one who was regular in his habits, he has preserved a fresh and youthful appearance till advanced in life. He was a fine representative of a hardy race, and his family, who trace their ancestors back to the time of William the Norman, include many who have rendered good service to the State and the Church. Colonel Stansfeld has had three sons: Lewis Johnston, who died young; Robert Johnston, late captain of the 12th and 38th Regiments of Foot (lately deceased) ; and John, late Captain of the Royal Scots Greys, who married Eliza, daughter and co-heiress of Patrick Arkley, Esq., of Dunninald Castle, Forfarshire, and he is a magistrate for the county of Forfar and the West Riding. Colonel Stansfeld had also three daughters, one of whom married the late Johnston J. Foster Esq., JP of Cliffe Hill, Lightcliffe.. Colonel Stansfeld was a member of the Junior United Service Club, SW. As trustee of Wheelwright's Charity he took great interest in the successful working of Rishworth Grammar School. He was also a governor of the Waterhouse Charity, besides other charitable trusts

© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 12:00 / 9th October 2023 / 9522

Page Ref: QQ_182

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