Ketel Alder

Continuing the four-post series, a look at three related Late Saxon Wills

1: Wulfgyth of Karletune
2: Ketel Alder
3: Edwin of Meltuna
4: Family Connections: Wulf, Wine and Thor

Ketel, King’s Thegn?

Despite Ketel had the requisite hidage, and was active at the king’s court, unlike his uncles, Edwin and Wulfric, he wasn’t a king’s thegn. Yet he was commended to a lord deemed all-but as powerful as the king—and a lord’s status was everything. It’s just that his lord’s domain was the ecclesiastical realm. He was Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Besides his lord, Ketel had friends at court, being chummy with the young son of Earl Ælfgar, Burgheard. We’ve no documentary evidence for this; all is circumstantial. Burgheard died before his name became known, he’s best remembered at Rheims where he was buried—and in the folios of Little Domesday Book. For Burgheard held land, and a clutch of commended men, in Suffolk, clustering around Edwin’s sole Suffolk holding. Curious that, for Burgheard’s one plot of land in Norfolk nestled affectionately amongst Ketel’s estates, those known to be his patrimony. How came this to be?

Ketel composed his will late 1060, before setting out early 1061 for Rome. Though no doubt the expedition doubled as pilgrimage to the Holy City, this wasn’t Ketel’s prime reason for going. It was to accompany a bevy of bishops: Ealdred, newly-appointed Archbishop of York sought his pallium of office; Giso of Wells, and Walter of Hereford sought consecration by the pope. Why couldn’t Stigand perform this duty for Giso and Walter, as would be normal? Because there was a certain irregularity in Stigand’s appointment to the archbishopric of Canterbury: the previous incumbent, Robert de Jumiéges, hadn’t died but had fled into exile. Meanwhile, Stigand had been variously accepted, or not, by the incoming popes. The present pope did not accept him. Heading this mainly ecclesiastical party was Tostig, earl of Northumbria (Earl Harold’s brother), with his wife Judith and younger brother Gyrth. And somewhere in that party was Burgheard of Mercia.

Burgheard of Mercia

It’s believed Burgheard served as special escort to Bishop Wulfwig of Dorchester who had business in Rome concerning Mercia. But it’s only because he failed to return that his place on this journey is known. His father’s subsequent charter, granting land to the abbey of St Rémi, Rheims, where he was buried, verifies the identification.

But how come the son of a Mercian earl was neighbour to Ketel?

In September 1051, Harold Godwinson, the then-earl of East Anglia, was exiled along with the rest of Godwine’s family (see Wulfgyth of Karletuna) and in his place, Ælfgar, son of the Mercian earl Leofric, was given the earldom. The appointment was brief. When, the following September, Godwine and his family powered their way back into the king’s embrace Ælfgar was ousted and Harold reinstated. That switch proved equally short-lived—this time due to Earl Godwine’s death which left the earldom of Wessex vacant. Harold was shunted into that most prestigious position, and Ælfgar again given East Anglia. There he remained, from 1053 to 1057, when his father died. Leofric’s death left the Mercian earldom vacant and wanting; it was given to Ælfgar while, from 1057 till 1066, Harold’s brother Gyrth became Earl of East Anglia.

At some time during this later period (1053-1057) young Burgheard acquired his East Anglian estates. Those in north-east Suffolk that seem to swarm around Edwin’s solitary manor of Blyford, were almost certainly had from Edwin—which might explain why the king’s thegn was so short on carucates. As to his estate at Fundenhall, all-but lost amid the estates that clearly were Ketel’s patrimony, I’d say Ketel sold that to Burgheard to help raise funds for his excursion to Rome, an enterprise that would have been costly.

Ketel’s Family


Oddly, Ketel took his stepdaughter, Ælfgifu, with him to Rome:

And if death befall us both on the way to Rome, the estate is to go to Bury St Edmunds for me and for Sæflæd and for Ælfgifu, but the men are all to be free. 

As his request shows, he was widowed some time before 1060. Also, it’s clear from the terms of his will that he had no other children—no heir of his body. Thus it might have been he’d no one to entrust with the child. Then again, it might have been that Ælfgifu was sufficiently grown and had been taken to serve as a maid, perhaps to Tostig’s wife Judith. Equally likely, Burgheard had taken an interest in her and Ketel hoped to gain her an advantageous marriage. The possibilities are endless, the answers are none.

As I speculated in Wulfgyth of Karletune, Ketel was probably the elder of Wulfgyth’s two sons. His given by-name in the cartularies and the list of benefactors to Bury St Edmunds—Ketel Alder (the elder)— seems to confirm it.

Ketel’s Will

After the relative simplicity of Wulfgyth’s will, this more resembles a wool basket after the cats have played in it  For ease of reference, I’ve applied line breaks not in the original.


By its reference to his journey to Rome we know it was composed shortly before 1061. But let’s see what we can make of it, starting with the Essex estates, the first of which we’ve already encountered.

Stistead, Essex

This item perplexes me somewhat. True, Ketel begins by honouring his mother’s request that, while her sons Ulfketel and Ketel could have use of this estate for their lifetime, thereafter it was to go Christ Church, Canterbury, for the sustenance of the monks, he then goes on:

And it is my will that […] my reeve, Mann, shall occupy the free land which I have given over into his possession, for ever during his life; and after his death the estate is to go with the other.

So Ketel isn’t giving over the entire estate. More-on, there appears to be ‘free land’ here. Was it not part of the deal with King Æthelræd and the monks of Christ Church?

But, wait a minute. Ketel’s commended lord was Archbishop Stigand. And, while it’s true his reputation has been severely slated by later clerical pens, it’s still true that he had a sharp eye for property deals, and doubtless dealt ‘under-the-counter’ on numerous occasions, swelling his coffers before those of the Church. And he was archbishop of Canterbury—where the land was to go!

Coggeshall, Essex

The estate here Ketel bequeaths to his ‘brother’ Godric. Some have suggested this ‘brother’ is his uncle’s son-in-law, heir and post-Hasting successor, Godric the steward. More likely it is his late wife’s brother. (The term ‘in-law’ hadn’t yet been coined.)

But, wait, what’s Ketel doing bequeathing this estate? Doesn’t he know his mother, aided by Earl Godwine, has already arranged the return of Coggeshall, along with Stisted, to the monks of Canterbury, to whom it was promised when granted on leasehold to her father for a large sum of money to help buy off the Vikings?

More-on, by the entries in Domesday Book:

In Coggeshall Holy Trinity held 3 virgate of land TRE and the same now

I rather think the monks, post-Conquest, were fast off the mark, claiming what they could before another could take. Or did the family own more than one manor at Coggeshall and Ketel’s estate is one of these others:

Lands of Count Eustace:
Count Eustace holds in demesne which Cola, a freeman, held TRE as a manor and as 3½ hides and 33 acres

Lands of Theodoric Pointel:
Theodoric Pointel holds 1½ hides [poss. in Fambridge] by exchange for Coggeshall which Tesselin held

Frating, Essex

If we account Wulfgyth’s Essex lands to be leasehold, her father the original lease holder, perhaps Frating should be accorded the same? Even though, at first reading, it’s not that simple.

And I grant the estate at Frating according to the agreement which you yourself and Archbishop Stigand my lord made.

To whom does this ‘you yourself’ apply? On the line above this in Ketel’s will, he makes a grant of an estate to Earl Harold. Thus ‘you yourself’ applies to Earl Harold? It has been taken as that. But what was this agreement between earl and archbishop? With Stigand involved, it doubtless had to do with leases . . . land transfers . . . real estate matters.

In Domesday Book—Lands of Ranulph Peverel:
Turold holds Frating of Ranulph Peverel that Ketil held as a manor and as 2 hides

Ranulph Peverel was Ketel’s post-Hastings successor. Thus, if this was another estate that should have gone to Canterbury, this time the monks have lucked out. But before concluding that, we might ask why Ketel would want this land? To be closer to his chosen lord? As a base for easy access of the king’s court? His best buddy Burgheard, Earl Ælfgar’s young son, had one estate in Essex—at Witham. Not exactly in spitting distance but somewhat nearer than what have been his Norfolk base. On the other hand, Frating does lurk rather close to Godwine’s St Oswyth and his mother’s bequeathed estate of Frinton-on-sea. And Earl Harold was Godwine’s son. Curious and curiouser.

It is known that, while archbishop, Stigand ‘loaned’ Earl Godwine certain lands belonging to Christ Church. Despite the ‘deal’ was clearly a sweetener to ensure the earl’s ‘assistance’ at court, it was normal practice, nothing untoward in it. But with Harold’s failure in 1066 and, in 1070, the new king William deciding he no longer needed Stigand’s intimate knowledge of court administration, the Godwine family and Stigand were packaged together and together dissed, with insinuations of their overt dealings providing cover for covert miss-dealings.

No matter the actual terms of the deal, it’s clear, as with his mother’s, that all three of Ketel’s Essex estates were lease-holds.


Ketel’s Land Agreements

As said, Ketel had no ‘heir-of-the-body’, neither male nor female. In the central section of his will we see how he contrives to keep family lands in family hands—and that includes excluding those lands from the hands of husbands. It’s in this section that Ulfketel’s absence begins to glare. Is he dead? Have the brothers had a fall-out? Are they political opponents? Has some jealousy wormed its way between them?

Neither is Ketel’s sister Ealdgyth mentioned—which is generally accepted as proof she is dead.

Onehouse, Suffolk

His agreement here was with his stepdaughter Ælfgifu: whichever lived the longer would have estate:

…as much land as the two of us have there. And if death befall us both on the way to Rome, the estate is to go to Bury St Edmunds for me and for Sæflæd and for Ælfgifu, but the men are all to be free.

We can’t be entirely certain Ketel and Ælfgifu returned from Rome (for the dead can hold land in Domesday Book). Yet apart from one free men held by the abbot, Saint Edmund’s abbey makes no showing here and it is a fact that, at that fateful turning—1066 and ‘the day King Edward was alive and dead (TRE)—most of the religious houses made a dash to grab every last virgate of land promised them before others could take it.

In Domesday Book, Onehouse is recorded (TRE) as being in Ketel’s hands—which strongly suggests his safe return:

Lands of Ranulph Peverel:
Ketil, a thegn of K Edward’s, held Onehouse as 1½ carucates and 20 acres together with the soke …

Of interest, it’s only here that Ketel is accorded the status of ‘king’s thegn’. Reflected light from his Uncle Wulfric who’s recorded in Domesday Book as a king’s thegn holding estates in the area? Or was it that only a king’s thegn held the soke (rights of jurisdiction) with the land thus Ketel must be such? Then again, perhaps Ketel was a king’s thegn. Domesday Book notes of one Hagni of Bedingham, Norfolk, that though he was a king’s thegn, yet he was commended to Archbishop Stigand. More-on, many of Earl Harold’s commended men were also king’s thegns.

Walsingham, Norfolk, and Preston, Suffolk

Here Ketel had an agreement with his sister Gode. If she survived him she was to take his estate at Walsingham (Little Wrenningham, see Wulfgyth of Karletuna, Norfolk; while if he survived her, he would take her estate at Preston, Suffolk. Yet in Domesday Book neither Ketel nor Gode (Godgifu) are mentioned at Preston (near Lavenham).

Lands of Roger de Poitou:
Wulfweard, a freeman under Stigand held Preston TRE as a manor with 2 carucates of land…

However, since their Uncle Wulfric had land at nearby Boxted, also held by Roger de Poitou in 1086—Wulfric, a thegn of King Edward’s held Boxted as 2 carucates [TRE]—it’s fair to assume these 2 carucates constitute Wulf-family land, part of Gode’s dower, despite their absence from Wulfgyth’s will.

But who is Wulfweard? Gode’s husband? Her son? He could be either but I’d say the latter. Note that Wulf-name.

As to Walsingham (Little Wrenningham), as we saw in Wulfgyth of Karletuna, Ketel lived to inherit it:

Lands of Ranulf Peverel:
Walsingham Warin holds where Ketil, a thegn of Stigand’s held TRE for 1½ carucates …

Ketteringham, Norfolk, and Somerton, Suffolk

As with his sister Gode, so with Bode. If Ketel died first then Bode would inherit his estate at Ketteringham. But if she died first then he’d get her land at Somerton. As you might recall from Wulfgyth of Karletuna, the Somerton estate is recorded in Domesday Book as in the hands of Bode’s husband Styrcar/Starcher/Styrger (because, while in Domesday Book the dead can hold land a woman cannot—unless she’s a widow, of course).

Lands of Ranulph Peverel:
Ketteringham the same Warin holds [as holds Melton] where Ketil held TRE 1½ carucate…

Ketteringham forms part of the Edwin-Eldwine patrimony, i.e. it previously belonged to their father, probably someone named Something-wine.

Melton (Little and Great) and Algarsthorpe

Algarsthorpe today exists as a farm, closer to the village of Bawburgh than to Great Melton of which it was a hamlet named simply ‘Torp’. It didn’t receive its full name until 1248 when it was granted to Algar by Mathew Peverel, several generations on from Ranulph Peverel.

And neither Domesday Book nor Ketel’s will distinguishes between Little Melton and Great Melton though later translators do, possibly following Francis Blomefield’s accounts in his Topographical History of the County of Norfolk (published 1806 though written 50 years earlier).

It’s here that Ketel’s will requires concentration to grasp what’s the deal:

If Edwin, my uncle, will maintain the partnership with me and my uncle Wulfric with regard to the estate at Little Melton, if we outlive him we are to succeed to the estate at Thorpe on condition that, after the death of both of us, the estate at Melton shall go to St Benedict’s at Holme for our ancestors’ souls and for our own souls; and the estate at Thorpe to Bury St Edmunds.

Ketel and his (maternal) uncle Wulfric are here acting together as one in this partnership with Ketel’s other uncle (paternal) Edwin, to the effect that if Ketel and Wulfric jointly outlive Edwin then they will succeed to Edwin’s estate at (Algars) Thorpe.

Thorpe isn’t listed separately in Domesday Book, yet in later years the hamlet was part of Peverel’s Manor at Great Melton. From this we can infer that Ketel (and Wulfric) were in possession at TRE [1066]. Which in turn says that by then Edwin was dead. More of that in the next part (3: Edwin of Meltuna)

Lands of Ranulph Peverel:
[Great] Melton, Warin holds where Ketil held TRE 2 carucates…

In [Great or Little] Melton the same Warin holds 1 free man, 6 acres meadow; this Peverel appropriated

Lands of Godric the steward:
[Great] Melton, Edwin, a thegn, held TRE 2 carucates…

[Little] Melton Edwin held TRE of St Benet of Hulme.
And it was such that he had granted it to the abbot after his death…

In these two [Great and Little] Meltons 1 carucate which a certain free man, a thegn, also held TRE for a manor…
This Godric held and was holding when Ralph forfeited and it is in the value of the two manors…

Aside from the tenanted portion—[Little] Melton Edwin held TRE of St Benet of Hulme—the bulk of Edwin’s estate here was on a 3-generation lease-hold; Ketel and his Uncle Wulfric being the final generation. As it happens, Godric the steward, Edwin’s son-in-law, ‘inherited’ the estate, and in his turn ensured it arrived where due, in the hands of the abbot of St Benet at Hulme.

But, question: who was the ‘certain free man, a thegn,’ who also held at [Great and Little] Melton?

My money’s on a certain thegn named Auti who we’re due to meet on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. Meanwhile, to explain of Edwin’s son-in-law.

Godric the steward

Godric was almost unique in that he became one of the Conqueror’s only 13 English tenants-in-chief. Many of those estates he held were inherited from his father-in-law. But he also picked up estates from the rebellious Earl Ralph when he was exiled in 1075. Some of these were already in his hold, since he’d served as steward to the family. Come 1066 and all that, William eagerly adopted Godric as his own steward in Norfolk and Suffolk—the man had valuable local knowledge. After William’s death, Godric continued to serve as steward to William II Rufus (1087-1100), as well as serving a term as sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk. His son Ralph (Edwin’s grandson) later became steward for the lands of St Benet at Hulme. But though Godric paid the asking price to inherit these English lands, his son did not, and Edwin’s estate was dispersed.

And now for another puzzle.

Moran, Norfolk

The mysterious half-estate that’s no longer shown on our maps, and hasn’t been for centuries. Not even Francis Blomefield in his Topographical History of Norfolk knew where it was; he tags it onto his account of Witton, saying it was somewhere in the Blofield Hundred. Could the Mora be assarted from Mousehold Heath. The heath was named not for mice, but moss-wold, a marshy-wood?

Not only is the estate absent from current and historical maps, but Ketel’s name is absent from its Domesday Entry, listed in the Penguin translation as Moor/Mora.

Lands of Rabel the Artificer:
Sigeric, a free man, held TRE 2 carucates…

Okay, so who’s this Sigeric? Here is his only mention in the Norfolk folios of Domesday Book–unless we include a free man named Siger who held land the other side of Norwich at Hockering. True, the name is more common in the Suffolk pages, but with no obvious connection to Ketel and his family.

One assumes Ketel is referring to this Sigeric when he beseeches Earl Harold who is to inherit the land:

I beseech you by the Lord who created you and all creatures, that if I do not come back [from his pilgrimage to Rome], you will never let it be possessed after my time by my enemies who wrongfully occupy it and make use of it to my continual injury.

He further says he has neither lost it by lawsuit nor forfeited it. He stresses his right to it—rightfully acquired with my wife. The way he words it implies this could be his wife’s dower-land. But if so, it ought to go to his stepdaughter Ælfgifu. Perhaps he means that he and his wife bought it together in partnership. Or was it bequeathed him by one of his commended men? Yet even allowing him lands which are usually disqualified as his by having the wrong TRW successor, there’s no evidence in Domesday Book of men commended to him in this area.

Another puzzle in Ketel’s will; another that must be left unsolved. But hold onto Blomefield’s mention of Witton: that could be relevant.

Hainford and Stratton Strawless, Norfolk

These, a manor and an outland, sit to north of Norwich, somewhat northwest of today’s Mousehold Heath. Yet they’re sited on the same run of heathland. Acidic soil, with nutrients rapidly leached: infertile. Hence the ‘Strawless’ by-name, i.e. unable to support a straw-based (cereal) crop.

As with Coggeshall, Ketel bequeaths this to his brother Godric. And as previously explained, by brother Ketel probably means his brother-in-law, sib of his late wife Sæflæd.

This estate of Hainford is important when it comes to tracing other portions of Ketel’s total estate, i.e. the lands not mentioned in his will. For here Roger de Poitou is Ketel’s post-Hasting successor; not, as elsewhere, Ranulph Peverel. Note too, we’ve seen this same Roger de Poitou as successor to a clutch of Wulfric’s Suffolk lands.

Lands of Roger de Poitou:
Hainford Ketel held under Stigand TRE 1 carucate…
There are 14 men with 1 carucate…
There are 5 men with 30 acres in Stratton Strawless

Stratton Strawless, Crostwick and Mayton were all part of this manor.

The wording of the Domesday Book entry might be taken as Ketel holding this land off Stigand, in tenure, thus implying this was Stigand’s land. However, were that so then in 1086 (date of Domesday Survey) Hainford would be in the hands of William de Noyers along with nearby Sprowston and Catton. For William de Noyers ‘had in his keep’ the forfeited lands of Archbishop Stigand. In counter-argument, it might be pointed out that Roger de Poitou held several sokemen belonging to Stigand, in this same area. But a deeper reading of Domesday Book tells us that these sokemen—at Spixworth, Horstead and Coltishall, had been transferred from Frettenham by one Robert Blanchard (one assumes him a reeve, hundredal or shire).

And so on to the borders and that certain free man, a thegn, who may have been Auti.

East Harling

While listed second in his will, I’ve left this till late. This is land bequeathed by Ketel’s mother:

And I grant to my sons, Ulfketel and Ketel, the estates at Walsingham and at Carleton and at Harling

And as we saw, there was no sign of Ulfketel at either Walsingham (Little Wrenningham) or (East) Carleton (see Wulfgyth of Karletuna. Only here, at East Harling, does his footprint remain.

Lands of Count Alan:
[East or West] Harling Ansketil holds 4 carucates of land which Ulfkil, a freeman, held TRE…

(See Wulfgyth of Karletuna for the identity of the Norman tenant, Ansketil.)

Here, too, we encounter Auti—but more of him anon:

Lands Robert de Verly:
 In [East or West] Harling Auti held TRE 1 carucate…

And here, too, as above at Hainford, we see Ketel has post-Hastings successors other than Ranulph Peverel:

Lands of William d’Ecouis:
In [East or West] Harling Ketil, a free man, held TRE 2 carucates for a manor.
Now Ingulf holds it
[of William d’Ecouis]

And here, too, is a puzzle:

And I grant to Archbishop Stigand, my lord, the estate at Harling just as it stands, except that the men shall be free, and that I grant 10 acres to the church…

Now, wait. Maybe this wasn’t the most valuable of Ketel’s estates—30s TRE (£1.50 in modern coinage)—but it was bequeathed him by his mother, Wulf-land, possibly part of her dower. Why give it to Archbishop Stigand, chosen lord or not? To buy his salvation after his death? Yet that’s why his donations to the abbey of St Edmunds. Or perhaps it had something to do with his younger brother, Ulfketel who held the adjoining manor (lost post-Conquest to Count Alan). Was it to keep it out of his hands? What had happened between them?

Maybe before continuing here with Ketel’s estate of East Harling, it might be as well to look at what’s known of his brother.

Ulfkil of Larling

Towards the end of the Norfolk folios of Domesday Book is a section for those of the king’s tenants with minor estates. Here is found the ‘Lands of Ulfkil’, his ‘honour’ comprising just three manors. Yet these have been granted him by King William, post-Hastings.

The first is Larling, which lies some two miles north of Harling and which Ulfketel was holding TRW.

Lands of Ulfkil:
In Larling the same Ulfkil held a carucate TRE…
There have always been 2 free men in commendation only…
It is worth 40s.

I suppose Ulfketel’s 1 carucate here helps make up for the 2 carucates and an eighth Ketel claimed from their mother’s bequest at Carleton and Walsingham which together were valued at 60s.

Next listed is Rushford, in Norfolk—which inclusion proves this Ulkfil to be Ketel’s own brother Ulfketel:

Lands of Ulfkil:
In Rushford Bondi a free man held 2 carucates TRE…
And there is 1 free man whom he [Ulfkil] claims by gift of the king

It has always been worth 40s.

The estate nestles close to lands held TRE by Ketel and his Uncle Wulfric (see below) making it possible both the land and this Bondi belonged to the wider Wulf-family. Which then also explain why, in 1086, Ulfketel has full grant of this land—and the additional free man—from the king. And together with the juxtaposition of Larling and Harling, we can have no doubt that Ulfkil here is Ketel’s brother, Ulfketel.

If further proof is needed


With one possible exception (see below) Ketel held no lands to east of the river Tas, the division of Humbleyard and Henstead Hundreds, no commended men either. But, as shown, Ulfketel was active in the Henstead and Loddon Hundreds both before and after Hastings. In 1086 he was a king’s reeve, serving under Roger Bigod, sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk. Perhaps he’d been the king’s reeve here pre-Hastings. Domesday Books notes of him that he was commended to Earl Ælfgar (at Framingham which TRE he held off his new boss, Roger Bigod). Ulfketel had served the one-time earl of East Anglia—which isn’t surprising with what we’ve already learned of the dealings between the earl’s son and Ketel’s family.

Ulfketel's Lands and Lordhsips

Ulfketel had another manor in the area, pre-Hastings. Norton Subcourse, in Loddon Hundred. As with Framingham, 1086 he now held this off Roger Bigod—along with all the free men previously commended to him. At least one of Wulfgyth’s family had survived the Conquest and profited from it.

The third manor granted him by the king was Witton, near Norwich—and I’m guessing Ketel’s troublesome Moran lay somewhere close to it.

Lands of Ulfkil:
In Witton (near Norwich) 2 free men of Gyrth held TRE at 140 acres of land…
When [Earl] Ralph forfeited he held it in his own hand and afterwards [Robert] Blund held it and afterwards by writ of the king it was seised again into the hand of the king.
It is worth 15s.

If Witton was in Earl Ralph’s hand in 1075, when he was exiled for his role in the Three Earls Rebellion, then it was possibly regarded as comital land—which pre-1066 ought to have been with Earl Gyrth. One sees why the king wanted it back. Yet before Gyrth gained the position in 1063 Ulfketel’s commended lord Ælfgar had been earl of East Anglia. Did he grant Witton to Ulfketel, if only for the duration? If Moran lay anywhere close to Witton, might Ketel’s acquisition of that estate have stirred pre-existing bad feelings between them?

Shared blood doesn’t always make for shared love.

East Harling continued

While Ketel’s bequest of his estate at Harling to his lord, Archbishop Stigand, might raise a query, what of this next bequest, which to me seems illogical:

And I desire that in accordance with the agreement, Edwin and Wulfric shall after my time succeed to everything that is mine in that village, except so much as I grant to the church…

So, while the estate was to go to Stigand, everything of Ketel’s in the village, was to go to his uncles, Edwin and Wulfric, except for land for the church. But what had he in that village that wasn’t part of the estate?

Domesday Book details:
5 villagers
4 bordars
1 slave (though by the words of his will such men were to be freed)
2 ploughs, 1 in demesne, 1 of the men
woodland for 16 pigs—but only 8 pigs
1 mill
3 head of cattle
20 sheep
a hive of bees
and said church, with 4 acres of land.

Apart from the obvious, but often overlooked, fact that villagers, bordars and slaves need housing plus their own parcels of land, three things shout out as valuable assets: the woodland—for a profitable trade in poles and timber; the hive—for the honey; and that mill. We could make it four and include the sheep.

Yet these are listed as part of the manor. Were they treated as separate assets by the pre-Hastings English owners? Did Ketel intend only the arable acreage for Stigand? I can find no other explanation.

Rushford, Norfolk & Suffolk

Rushford is one of those parishes that has moved from Suffolk to Norfolk and back as the border has swung to north and south of the Waveney and Ouse. Entries for it are found in both counties in Domesday Book. Those entries reveal yet more of Ketel’s family.

(Rushford in Suffolk) Lands of Peter de Valognes
Auti and Ketel, free men and thegns, held Rushford TRE with 2 carucates of land…

As we’ve saw (above), this same Auti held one of the three main divisions at Harling:

Lands Robert de Verly:
In [East or West] Harling Auti held TRE 1 carucate…

But while his estate there abutted Ketel’s, here they hold the one estate together. There are three possible reasons for this.

1: Finding themselves neighbour at Harling they then joined together as business partners to invest in the estate
2: Rushford forms part of the family-lands, and Auti is part of that family (a cousin?)
3: Ketel received the estate through his wife (her dower-land) and Auti is his brother-on-law.

Maybe the Norfolk entries will help to clarify.

Lands of St Æthelthryth (Ely abbey):
In Rushford Wulfric, a free man, held 60 acres TRE…

This entry goes on . . .

This Wulfric had forfeited to King William because of £8 and therefore it has remained in the king’s hand. The same man [John, nephew of Waleran, former sheriff] holds this off the abbot.

At the Conquest King William scooped up everyone’s estates and insisted they’d have them back once they’d sworn fealty to him and paid a ‘fine’. Apparently the fine on these 60 acres was £8 (although this might have covered Wulfric’s other lands too), and either Wulfric couldn’t afford it, or plain refused to pay it. Either way, this entry shows Rushford to be part of the Wulf-estates. Which in turn suggests Auti was part of that wider family.

Ketel granted his estate at Rushford to his priest and relation, Ælfric. What happened to Ælfric? Might he be the father of Bondi?

Summary of Ketel’s Will

At the end of Ketel’s will, though not at the end of his estates (more below), what has been learned?

1: Widowed, with a step-daughter yet no heir of his own, Ketel’s prime concern was to ensure at least some of his lands stayed in family hands.

2: Those lands can be divided between the maternal Wulf-family, and the paternal Wine-family, the one being Suffolk-focused, the other Norfolk centred.

3: A person or persons unknown was giving him grief over land at Mora (Moran), in Blofield hundred. One wonders, might this have been his brother Ulfketel (Ulfkil) who, post-Conquest, was granted a manor at nearby Witton? Maybe Mora wasn’t bought land as I first thought, but was part of the brothers’ patrimony, and Ulfketel wanted his share? As with his eldest sister, Ealdgyth, Ketel makes no mention of Ulfketel in his will; neither is Ulfketel seen holding land at Walsingham (Little Wrenningham) and East Carleton, that bequeathed him by their mother—unless he was the ‘Ulf’ holding 1 carucate at East Carleton TRE which Walter (TRW) holds of Roger Bigod.

4: One gets the feeling that of his two uncles, Ketel was far closer to Wulfric, his maternal uncle; while the division of the free men of the Hundreds of Henstead and Loddon, shared between Edwin and Ulfketel, might imply a closer relationship between Ulfketel and their paternal Uncle Edwin. Maybe both Edwin and Ulfketel being younger brothers found common ground. In which case, ironic that they survived the Norman Conquest, Ulfketel in person, Edwin through his daughter and her family.

5: While perhaps not a king’s thegn—that could be disputed—Ketel had powerful allies at court in the persons of Burgheard, the earl’s son, and Stigand, archbishop of Canterbury.

5: Ketel’s will shows him to have at least three successors post-Hastings, when William reallocated his lands.

But neither his will nor Domesday Book tells us what happened to Ketel in 1066. Did he fight at Hastings? On his return from his victory at Stamford Bridge the thegns of Norfolk and Suffolk were amongst those King Harold then called for to join his hurried march south to meet William at Hastings. Was Ketel still of an age to fight? One imagines he must have been around forty years old. If he fought, did he survive? So many did not. And if he survived did he then join that mass exodus of English thegns who headed east, to Scandinavia, to Germany, and beyond? Perhaps he didn’t fight. Perhaps his health was failing. Perhaps he died of illness not long after. Such questions can never be answered.

Ketel’s Lands in Domesday Book

Ketel’s will covers all his lands later to be held by his known successors: Ranulph Peverel, William d’Ecouis and Roger de Poitou. But he has perhaps two, maybe three, more successors.

Ketels Lands 2

Tovi of Holkham

1086, the small ‘honour’ of Tovi comprised 6 manors: at Holkham, on north Norfolk coast; at Newton Flotman, Swainsthorpe and at Kenningham, all of which nestle close to Ketel’s patrimony in Humbleyard Hundred; at Hackford in Forehoe Hundred which abuts to west of Humbleyard; and at Stoke Holy Cross, which vill in 1086 straddled the river Tas, being accounted in both Humbleyard and Henstead.

We know, in 1060, Ketel was widowed without an heir, elsewise I’d suggest Tovi might be his son. But Tovi was a common name in East Anglia. Even so, it is a telling distribution of lands. And at Stoke Holy Cross, Hackford and Holkham, his predecessor is given as Ketil, a free man commended to Stigand. PASE allows this free man to be the thegn Ketel Alder.

His possession of Stoke Holy Cross presents no problem, and though Hackford sits an equidistance of 10 miles from both his East Carleton complex and East Harling, Both might be seen as lands of his father. But the land at Holkham is right out on a limb, 26 miles northwest of his nearest estate at Hainford. Which raises the question of how he came by it?  The answer might be found in the third of his additional successors. But first, while in that area . . .

Ealdgyth of Wells

Wells sits next door to Holkham. I was there last autumn, from whence I walked to the Iron Age fort at Warham. And apart from Wells, that’s the only other place where Ealdgyth held land in 1086. Her predecessor was Ketel.

I would like to offer a neat explanation for this. Who exactly was this Ealdgyth? Not Ketel’s sister; we’ve every reason to believe her dead. Though this could be her daughter. But why there, why at Wells-next-to-Holkham?

Reginald fitzIvo

Compared with those of the two previous successors, Reginald fitzIvo’s honour, in 1086, gathered in estates from across central, northern and western Norfolk, from Panxworth amongst the Broads to Shouldham beside the Fens. But he’s also the lest certain of Ketel’s additional successors. Ketel is given as the TRE predecessor at just 6 of these estates—which divide into three groups, plus one:

In West Norfolk:
Barton Bendish

In North Norfolk:
Stiffkey–bang-slam next to Wells and Warham
Little & Great Walsingham–south of Wells and Stiffkey

Central Norfolk:
Whitwell—adjacent to Sparham, an estate held by Ketel’s paternal uncle, Edwin
Witchingham, Great or Little—2 miles from Whitwell

Scottow—10 miles to east of Whitwell and Witchingham, but only 4 miles (north) from Hainford

If we allow Tovi’s predecessor at Stoke Holy Cross, Hackford and Holkham to be Ketel Alder, then it’s reasonable to allow Reginald fitzIvo’s predecessor at neighbouring Stiffkey and Great/Little Walsingham to be this same thegn. Ditto for Whitwell and Gt/Little Witchingham which were almost certainly part of Ketel’s patrimony. As to Scottow, it lies cheek by jowl with Hainfordl we cannot doubt that the same Ketel had both.

Which leaves Barton Bendish, way across country. How can it be other than our Ketel’s, though the explanation is best left for the final post in this four-part series on Late Saxon Wills: Family Connections: Wulf, Wine and Thor

Next post in this series: Edwin of Meltuna, coming shortly

About crispina kemp

Spinner of Asaric and Mythic tales
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1 Response to Ketel Alder

  1. Pingback: Sunday Picture Post: Treading in my Several-Times-Great-Grandma’s Steps | crispina kemp

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