The third of the Late Saxon Will composed by Wulfgyth’s East Anglian family:
Edwin of Meltuna
Brother by-blood or in-law?
There is less to dispute in Edwin’s will—except the matter of whose brother is he. He is generally said to be Wulfgyth’s brother-by-blood, and certainly here, in his own will, he refers to Wulfgyth’s brother Wulfric as ‘brother’. Yet, as said in the previous post (see Ketel Alder ) the term ‘in-law’ hadn’t yet been coined. Indeed, persons who shared a godfather were also deemed ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, so close and real that marriage between them was prohibited on grounds of incest.
I have argued in Wulfgyth of Karletune that Edwin was more likely the brother of Wulfgyth’s husband, Eldwine; the suggestion supported by the locations of churches granted land in his will. Then there’s the Anglo-Saxon custom of name variation: Wulfgyth, Wulfric; Eldwine, Edwin(e), a custom continued into C13th in Norfolk and Suffolk though elsewhere it had fallen away by C11th.
Edwin, King’s Thegn
To rely entirely upon Edwin’s will we’d never know him to be a king’s thegn. The total acreage of his estates as mentioned there is exceedingly low—but read on for a suggestion that might explain that. Were it not for Domesday Book . . .
Lands of Godric the steward—Henstead Hundred:
In Stoke Holy Cross the same man [Godric] holds 1 free man and a sokeman of Edwin’s at 45 acres of land…
In Poringland there was 1 free man of Edwin’s TRE at 12 acres…
In Framingham there is 1 free man in the commendation of Edwin at 20 acres…and under him there are 3 whole free men and 3 half free men and between them all 10 acres…
In Yelverton there are 2 free men of Edwin’s at 13½ acres…
In Holverston there are 4 whole free men and 4 half free men of Edwin’s at 40 acres…and 2 sokemen with 2 acres…
In Rockland [St Mary] there are 6 free men of Edwin’s and 2 half free men, 60 acres…
In Bramerton there are 2 free men of Edwin’s at 11 acres…
In Surlingham there are 2 free men of Edwin’s and a half, 40 acres of land…
In Kirby Bedon there is 1 free man of Edwin’s at 6 acres and 3 free men under him at 11 acres…
And that same Edwin was a household thegn of King Edward’s
Edwin was a household thegn of King Edward’s: I think here we can hear the voice either of his nephew Ulfkil, king’s reeve (see Ketel Alder), or of his son-in-law Godric (see below next); either one of these would be proud to be associated with Edwin, king’s thegn.
Again, this is something already covered (see Ketel Alder ); but briefly, Edwin married a (probably) Norfolk lady, Ingreda by whom he had a daughter by the same name and that daughter seems to have been his only surviving heir-of-the-body. At least, all Edwin’s known estates are later found in the hands of his son-in-law, Godric the steward.
Godric was one of the few English men who profited from the Norman Conquest. Until the exile in 1075 of Ralf de Gaël, earl of East Anglia, Godric had been his steward, thus he had a good working knowledge of the area, the people, and the peculiarities of the local legalities. And as Edwin’s heir, he also had a strong following. One of only 13 English persons who became tenants-in-chief under the Norman regime, Godric lucked-in by being in the right place at the right time.
Through Godric’s family, Edwin’s line lived on. Although his grandson (Godric’s son) Ralph refused to pay the fine to inherit Edwin’s lands at his father’s death, he did become steward for St Benet’s abbey at Hulme, with a grant of land at Calthorpe in the Norfolk Hundred of South Erpingham. There he established his family, many of whom served as stewards. The lineage can be traced through to the High Middle Ages.
At the time of composing his will, Edwin’s close family comprised his daughter and son-in-law, and two nephews, though only one of these—Ketel—is mentioned in his will. If his nieces still lived, he didn’t acknowledge them. But then, Edwin’s will wasn’t about family.
It’s thought Edwin composed his will between 1061 and 1066. Ketel mentions him in his will, composed on the eve of his journey to Rome in the bishops’ entourage in early 1061. But Domesday Book gives Ketel as TRE holder of the lands which Edwin bequeathed him, showing by 1066 the king’s thegn was dead.
What’s striking of Edwin’s will is the number of grants he makes to various churches. These aren’t the usual donations to personally favoured abbeys, though these are not ignored; he makes grants to St Edmund (at Bury St Edmunds), St Æthelthryth (at Ely) and St Benet/Benedict (at Hulme, on the Broads river Bure). But alongside these larger foundations, he specifies eight local churches by name plus a further three, bequeathing to them a total of 60 acres (a half carucate, and an estate):
2 acres to Fundenhall church
2 acres to Nayland church
10 acres to Bergh church
10 acres to Apton church
4 acres to Holverstone church
4 acres to Blyford church
10 acres to Sparham church
8 acres to Ashwell church
A further eight acres he gives to ‘the old church’—possibly that at Wrenningham, though he could have intended a church at Little Wrenningham, known in Domesday Book as Walsingham.
Another 10 acres he gives to the church at Eskerthorpe (Eskerthorpe became Algarsthorpe in C13th; today no church, only a farm).
Then the confusingly worded:
[the estate] at Melton to the church which Thurward owned; and the land which Edwin, Ecgferth’s son, had free to the church.
Not confusing because who was Thurward; that seems self-explanatory. Neither confusing because the tenant Ecgfrith’s father was also named Edwin. But confusing because of the multiple manors at Melton. Which one did he mean?
While there is nothing unusual in a lord’s support of his local church, that church usually sits upon one of another of his estates. How many of these churches sat upon Edwin’s estates?
Already depopulated by late C13th, and that before a series of famines and plagues hit the area, today, Holverston exists as a hall and a farm. But it abuts Bergh Apton, these two vills melding soon after the Domesday Survey of 1086, and since these three vills were later treated as one, we might guess the same applied in Edwin’s day.
Edwin says in his will:
And I grant to St Etheldreda’s [at Ely] the estate at Bergh south of Kings Street except the northern enclosure at “Appelsco”.
Well might he bequeath, but whether Ely received remains unknown for Domesday Book omits both Bergh and Apton.
Edwin’s will also mentions a turfpit which is to belong to Apton. Turfpits, places for the digging of peat, formed the origins of the Norfolk Broads. There is no Broad or other sign of a flooded peat-digging at Bergh Apton, though it does sit beside the boggy banks of Well Beck, a tributary of the River Chet which joins the Yare at Chedgrave.
Without Domesday Book to tell us of carucates the size of Edwin’s estate at Bergh Apton remains an unknown. But, in addition to the turfpit, his will mentions:
…10 acres south of the street to Bergh church; and 10 acres north of the street to Apton church, and 4 acres to Holverstone church…
It’s no surprise to find, by 1086, Holverston is in the hands of Godric the steward:
Lands of Godric the steward:
In Holverston there are four whole free men and 4 half [free men] of Edwin’s…
Not only in his own right, but as steward to the king.
Lands of the King in Godric’s keep:
In Holverston Aitard holds half of a free man in the same way, with 8 acres land…
and with 6 whole men with 6 halves, whom Aitard claims for the fief of the Bishop of Bayeux…
Godric received after the forfeit of Earl Ralph, now Aitard holds of Godric
But in both cases neither Godric, nor Edwin before him held anything other than the men by commendation. Which means . . .? If the church of Holverston is to be treated as an estate-church, then Edwin did once own this land. So what happened to it? Why is it now in the hands of these free men? Not forgetting that free-men can be thegns as well. Edwin’s thegns?
Regardless of the question of possession, we have here a total of 24 acres not destined for the abbey at Ely, but to be given to the local churches of Bergh, Apton and Holverston. More-on, from this same estate at Bergh, Edwin gave a further 4 acres to Blyford church, and 10 acres to Sparham church.
Briefly, before looking at their entries in Domesday Book, that same book provides us with another of Edwin’s estate, this not mentioned in his will and yet its vill is hardly a spit from both Holverston and Berg Apton . . .
Lands of Godric the steward:
Alpington Edwin held TRE for 2 carucates…
8½ sokemen with 40 acres……
and there are 2 free men of Edwin’s, the predecessor of Godric, with 40 acres…
Perhaps, to Edwin, this was part of his Bergh estate?
Blyford owes its existence to a ford, five miles upriver from the Blyth estuary at present day Southwold/Walberswick. In Domesday Book it is listed under the Blything Hundred of Suffolk.
Lands of Godric the steward:
Edwin, a free man, held Blyford TRE with 2 carucates of land as a manor.
Now Godric holds it in demesne…
This same Godric has the soke…
So, yes, this was another church which sat on one of Edwin’s estates.
Like Blyford, Sparham, 11 miles northwest of Norwich, sits apart from the main cluster of Edwin’s estates and powerbase in the Humbleyard, Henstead and Loddon Hundreds of Norfolk. Though no great distance, still it is 9 miles from the nearest of Edwin’s other estates.
Lands of Godric the steward:
In Sparham Edwin, a free man, held TRE, now Godric holds it of the king, 2 carucates…
there is a church with 40 acres of land…
These are another 2 carucates that Edwin’s son-in-law Godric was to inherit. Lucky for Godric that Edwin died before Hastings otherwise chances are high that this bequest, like so many others, would have been ignored under William’s Norman regime.
Another estate not mentioned in Edwin’s will lies between Sparham and the cluster of estates that comprised the Wine-family’s patrimony . . .
Today, the parish of Wramplingham straddles the boundary between Humbleyard and Forehoe Hundreds. It’s accounted in Forehoe in Domesday Book.
Lands of Godric the steward:
Wramplingham holds 45 acres of land; Edwin, a free man, held TRE…
Not what you’d call a large estate, and possibly brought to him by his wife.
This estate is mentioned in Edwin’s will simply as ‘Thorpe’:
And this is the agreement which the two brothers, Wulfric and Edwin, made between them about the two estates, Thorpe and Melton:
that is, that whichever of them shall live the longer is to have both the estates;
and after the death of both of them, the estate at Melton is to go to St Benedict’s for the souls of them both;
And Ketel is to succeed to the estate at Thorpe after the death of them both on such terms as are set forth here:
namely that Ketel is to pay each year to St Edmund’s 2 pounds—that is the rent of the estate—and one mass shall be said every day for the souls of both of them.
Did Ketel succeed to Edwin’s estate at Ashwellthorpe (as today it’s known)?
Lands of Count Eustace:
Ashwellthorpe was held by a thegn of Stigand’s as 3 carucates…
Though not immediately obvious, Ketel is elsewhere described as a thegn of Stigand’s, so, yes. And I note, by Ketel’s possession of this estate that his other uncle, Wulfric, must also be dead. Nowhere else is that made obvious.
Wrenningham and Nayland
Edwin bequeaths 8 acres from the estate at Wreningham to the old church.
Today, the expanded Wrenningham has swallowed Nayland—and even in Domesday Book the two parts were already treated together.
Lands of Roger Bigod:
And in Nayland and in Wrenningham 9 free men; of 8 ½ of these the predecessor of Roger Bigod had commendation only and soke of the fold, and the predecessor of Hermer de Ferrers the moiety of 1 by soke of fold and commendation only…
In Nayland there were 4 free men with 1 carucate…of 2 freemen and a half Roger’s predecessor had commendation TRE and Stigand had of 1 and the predecessor of Hermer de Ferrers of a half
It’s annoying we’re not told who the predecessor of Roger Bigod was in this place—his (TRE) predecessors varied by vill and hundred. Though from another entry we might guess at the predecessor of Hermer de Ferrers
Lands of Hermer de Ferrers:
Wrenningham Vagn holds 3 carucates and 12 acres which Leofweald, a thegn, held TRE…
and to this land belong 8 free men in soke of fold and commendation only, 28 acres…
Maybe Edwin was Bigod’s predecessor as well as Godric’s, and maybe Leofweald was Edwin’s thegn (a median, a thegn’s thegn). This is the only interpretation possible that allows Edwin to claim an estate at Wrenningham.
8 acres from the estate at Wreningham to the old church
and 2 acres to Fundenhall church
and 2 to Nayland church
Fundenhall is the most southerly of Edwin’s estates. But though there’s no doubt it had once belonged to his paternal family—as the 2 carucates of land held by Ælfric shows, surely the kinsman mentioned in Ketel’s will (see Ketel Alder )—by the time of King Edward’s demise [TRE] it was in the hands of someone totally other:
Lands of Earl Hugh:
[Fundenhall] is held by Roger Bigod which Burgheard a thegn (son of Earl Ælfgar) held TRE as 2 carucates of land…
In the same place [Fundenhall] 2 carucates of land are held by Ælfric, a free man of Stigand’s…
I have already treated of Burgheard, Earl Ælfgar’s son, and his relationship with Edwin and Ketel, but here I provide an additional map as visual support and clarification.
While I have already provided a table showing the lordship of Edwin as set against his other nephew, the king’s reeve Ulfkil, a list of his lordships might help set his situation into sharper focus. Remember, these are lands he does not own, but merely has the men as ‘his’, i.e. loyal followers.
Thegn Edwin’s Lands
There were several factors that qualified a thegn as a king’s thegn. One was that he served the king’s body. That Edwin qualifies there is attested in Domesday Book (he served in the king’s household). Another is the requirement for at least one church. We might say Edwin’s over qualified on this. And then there’s the land requirement. Although this is set low, a king’s thegn was expected to hold wealth enough not to look like a peasant at court. And thegn’s land was his wealth. How much had Edwin?
Great Melton: 2 carucates
Little Melton: 2 carucates
Alpington: 2 carucates
Blyford: 2 carucates
Sparham: 2 carucates
Wramplingham: 45 acres
Ashwellthorpe: 3 carucates, of which 20 acres bequeathed to churches
Bergh: unknown, but a total of 38 acres bequeathed to churches
Totals 13½ carucates (hides) and 23 acres.
That’s no great estate by anyone’s reckoning.
However, there is the fact of Edwin’s and Ketel’s relations with Burgheard, son of Earl Ælgar, and the pure neighbourliness of their estates which might imply a sale of land. When Burgheard’s holdings in Norfolk and Suffolk, are added to Edwin’s, those that nestle around his estates . . .
Fundenhall: 2 carucates
Carlton Colville: 2 carucates
Ilketshall: 2 carucates
Kessingland: 2 carucates
Sotterley: 1½ carucates
Croscroft (lost) 1½ carucates
Totalling 11 carucates
Close on 24 carucates. Though still a small hideage if compared to some of the other king’s thegns, it is at least more respectable. But what if Edwin’s total estate had once been yet larger? There were many ways of gaining land, and there were many ways of ‘losing’ it. A man commended to a thegn might hope for, and receive, a few acres of land, or more. A man who sought the strength of a band of commended men might grant away half his estate in dribs and drabs, a few acres here, a few there. I believe that’s what Edwin did. Though I don’t know his reasons, I can speculate.
Edwin was a household thegn; he knew the intimate goings on in the king’s family. King Edward was married to Earl Harold’s sister; that marriage was childless. The matter of an heir became a pressing matter, so much so that ambassadors were sent to Germany in the hope of locating the family of the long-ago exiled Edward, son of Edmund Ironside who briefly was king in 1016, between Æthelræd and Cnut. Edward the Exile was found in Hungary and, offered the throne of England, was brought to England in 1057. But he died almost as soon as he set found on his ancestral land, leaving his three children to the care of his kinsman, King Edward. Despite his youth, his son Edgar was named the next heir. Meanwhile, in Normandy, William was labouring under the miss-information, that he had been named that same heir. Oops. Moreover, when Earl Harold accidently landed in his hands in 1064, the Norman duke extricated from him an oath to aid and support his claim to the throne.
All this would have been known by Edwin. He would have known, upon Earl Harold’s return from that ill-fated trip in 1064, that William, Bastard Duke of Normandy, was intending to take the throne. He’d have known that Earl Harold (not yet named king) would do all in his power to stop it. I’m guessing everyone who knew of the predicament was hoping King Edward would live on sufficient years to allow Edgar Atheling to mature into a throne-worthy heir. Alas, not to be. Edward died two years later and we all know what happened at Hastings.
Fearing the worst, I believe Edwin did all in his power to protect his people. And in the days when land was more than wealth but was freedom too, how better than to extend his men’s lands with donations from his. Plus, of course, if he believed he might have to fight, how better to ensure their support. And this of the fighting could be the reason for his obsessive grants to local churches. He was protecting his soul.
Unlike the previous two wills, Edwin’s has a focus on his soul’s salvation—though support of the local churches, and the implied buttressing of his commended men. Also, by the clustering of his estates, it helps define the lands of the Wine-family’s patrimony, already seen in part in Ketel’s will.
Last post in the Late Saxon Wills series, Family Connections: Wulf, Wine and Thor, coming soon