Recorded as Stealfox, Steelefox, Stelfax, Stelfox, Stilefox and Stilfox, this is a surname which has puzzling origins. It is not recorded in the surviving church registers of the city of London until 1705, which although this is three hundred years ago is quite recent in surname terms. Furthermore the spelling as as Steelefox, suggesting that this could be one of the first double barrelled surnames. However the dictionary of surnames written by the famous etymologist Canon Charles Bardsley in 1880 but not published until after his death, says that this is a surname of Cheshire origins, and a nickname. He quotes a recording of Thomas Stelfox of High Leigh in Cheshire whose will was recorded at Chester Castle in 1602, and another of William Stilefox of Goosnergh, Lancashire, whose will was registered at Richmond in Yorkshire in 1672. Assuming that Bardsley is correct and that it is a nickname, this would suggest that the name may originally have been given to either a person considered as brave and cunning as a fox and as tough as steel, or perhaps was given to a fox hunter, and similar in meaning to the apparently older Colfox, somebody as crafty as a coal fox, a fox with black markings.
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