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  • Wendy Percival

The DeLacy-Staunton Mystery unravels!

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

I left you hanging last time, about a development in this mystery concerning revelations from Devon Archives.


If you read my blog post last week, you’ll know that I got caught by the intrigue bug when the church warden appealed for help to find out about a mystery plaque on the wall of East Worlington church. It concerned an Edward Hugh Harold DeLacy Staunton who died in action during WWII but no one knew who he was (if you’re not up to speed with Edward’s story, you can catch up by reading my post The Mystery of Mr DeLacy-Staunton).


The church warden sent an email requesting help to Devon Archives and the archivist replied with some information which proved a valuable first step in unlocking the mystery.


In her email she echoed my own frustrations in searching a double-barrelled name – how some search engines treat the first part (i.e. de Lacy) as a middle name and others as a surname – and confessed to having drawn a blank in finding the name in any Devon parish registers.


However, she’d had more luck amongst the electoral registers covering the years 1924 to 1931, and discovered a Matilda Clarissa de Lacy Staunton, living at Coombe Cottage in the parish of East Worlington.


But what was particularly exciting was that she’d also uncovered a photograph from The Western Times, dated 18th May 1917, entitled Patriotic Women Land Workers.


The Western Times, 18th May 1917, courtesy of Find My Past

The caption reads:

The above shows the Registrar of Worlington and fellow-workers busy on land which had not been cultivated for five years. They are (left to right) Mrs Lane, Mrs de Lacy Staunton, Master Tom Smyth, Miss E. C. U. Hammond (Registrar) and Mrs Way.


Due to concerns that England was not producing enough food to feed its population, women were encouraged to help the war effort by volunteering their services. They were to contact their nearest Employment Exchange or, in rural areas such as Worlington, to get in touch with their local village Registrar. You can read more on the subject on the Women’s Land Army website.


Another find the archivist highlighted was an entry in the National Probate Calendar, for widow, Matilda Clarissa de Lacy Staunton who had died in Exmouth in 1939.


While this discovery was a huge step forward, the fact that she died in 1939 didn’t explain the plaque in the church, as Edward had been killed 3 years after her death.


So, who had commissioned it and what was their relationship with Edward? And why had Edward’s entry in the Commonwealth War Graves listing, as I reported in my previous post, been in the name of Cope?


More revelations next time!