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Royal Ordeal by Fire

The Winchester Annalist, says Professor Freeman, is very much fuller, and after his manner puts long speeches into the mouths of his actors; that made by the Norman Archbishop, displaying a remarkable acquaintance with the less decent parts of the satires of Juvenal.

The MS. also tells us that:

"Queen Emma having possession of all the manors of her dowry, which had been confirmed to her by the former Kings, was not of her preserver, and gave the same day as an offering to St. Swithun, for nine ploughshares, nine manors."

Rudborne gives the names of these manors, as well as those supposed to have been given at the same time by (deceased!) Bishop Aelfwine; those given by the King are also named, these latter varying slightly in different accounts. To test the accuracy of these writers, and to show that Emma did not give them as stated, a very careful examination of Domesday has been made, proving that the greater number of these manors were neither hers, Bishop Aelfwine's, nor the King's to give. Emma, it will be remembered, died A.D. 1052; Aelfwine, who was accused with her, had died ten years previously. Winchester Book, or Domesday, was compiled about 1086. Many years had not elapsed, and one might naturally expect corroboration of the story. Some, if not all, of these twenty-one manors if given to Winchester forty years previously, would surely be claimed by the Bishops under these gifts, and, unless the story is absolutely a fabrication, evidence of some sort should be forthcoming. Let us examine first Emma's manors, next Bishop Aelfwine's, and lastly the King's. The identification has in some cases been difficult, but the following is believed to be correct.

Emma's Manors

(1.) Brandesbyri

Bramsbury, Hants.

(2.) Berchefelde, or Borgefel

Burghfield, Berks.

(3.) Howthtone, or Houston

Haughton, Wilts.

(4.) Fyfhyde

Fyfield, Wilts.

(5.) Mechelmershe

Mitchelmarsh, Hants.

(6.) Yuingeo

Ivingho, Bucks.

(7.) Wicombe

Wycombe, Bucks.

(8.) Weregravys

Wargrave, Berks.

(9.) Haylinge

Hayling, Hants.

Of these manors we find notice in Domesday as follows:

(1.) Brandesberre is described as "Land for the victualling of the monks of Winchester." It is added, "Abbot Alsi held it of Bishop Stigand and of the monks in the time of King Edward."

(2.) Berchefelde, or Borgefel. Lands of Ralph de Mortemar. The same Ralph holds Burghfield, and a certain (knight) holds of him. Abbot Elsi held it of the old monastery of the Church at Winchester, by witness of the shire in the time of King Edward, and afterwards until he was outlawed.

(3.) Howthtone, or Houston. The Bishop of Winchester holds Haughton in demesne. It always belonged to the Bishopric.

(4.) Fyfhide, Wiltescire. Land of the Bishop of Winchester. The same Bishop (of Winchester) holds Fyfield and Edward of him, and he paid for five hides (hence the name Fyfhide) in the time of King Edward (the Confessor). This land was appropriated to the Sacristan of the church. Alsi held it of the Bishop.

(5.) Mechelmershe, or Mychelm-meryshe. Mitchelmarsh is not mentioned at all, and would appear not to have been formed into a manor until a later date.

(6.) Yuingeo, or Ivyngeho, or Evingehow. The same Bishop (of Winchester) holds Ivingho. This manor lay and lays in the demesne of the church of St. Peter of Winchester.

(7.) Wicombe. Walchelin, Bishop of Winchester, holds Wycombe. Stigand held it in the time of King Edward.

(8.) Weregrave. The King holds in demesne Wargrave. Edith held it.

(9.) Haylinge. The Land of St. Peter of Jumieges. The Abbey of Jumieges holds Hayling. Ulward held it of Edith the Queen as allodium. This manor which the monks lay claim to, from the Bishopric of Winchester, because Emma the Queen had given this to the Church of St. Peter and St. Swithun and then gave seizin of a moiety to the monks; and she then demised the other moiety to Ulward for his life only, that, after his death ... the manor should return to the monastery. And this Ulward held a part of the manor from the monks until he died in the time of King William. And to this Elsi the Abbot of Ramsey testifies, and the whole hundred.

There is little question but a survey of some description had been made in the Confessor's time, forming the basis of Domesday. The latter gives always the values in the time of King Edward, as also the names of the persons holding the property, this being probably to facilitate its identification. Queen Edith appears to have had considerable possessions, her name occurring frequently. For example:

The King's Holdings in Hampshire.

The King (i.e. William I) holds Haustige. Edith the Queen held it in the time of King Edward.

The King holds Greteham. Edith the Queen held it in the time of King Edward.

The King holds Optune. Of the land of Edith the Queen, in the time of King Edward.

Cheping holds Candever of the King. Sberne held it of' Queen Edith in the time of King Edward.

Agemund holds Sottesdene of the King, and he himself held it of Queen Edith as alodium.

This last word gives a faint possible clue. It will have been remarked that Hayling was claimed by Winchester as an allodial manor of Queen Emma's. It is just possible her gifts may have been in other cases similar to this one: but it is scarcely probable, or it would have been recorded in more instances than in that of Hayling. This is the only one of the nine manors stated to have been given by Emma to Winchester that has even this slight shadow of confirmation from Domesday of having belonged to her. Several others, indeed, are mentioned as being held by the Bishops at the time of King Edward, but it is also said they belonged to the Bishopric always, or were appropriated for victualling or other purposes. Mitchelmarsh is not in Domesday at all, and Wargrave is distinctly given, first as Edith's, and afterwards as the King's. Thus, it was impossible for Emma to give it away, not being hers to dispose of. So far, then, the Bishops of Winchester possess, after a lapse of only forty years, but six of the nine manors which Emma is credited with having given them. Only one has any evidence to adduce as proof of ever having belonged to her, and this the very vaguest and most improbable.

It will be as well to continue the examination into the manors alleged to have been given by Aelfwine, which, according to Rudborne, are Stoneham, Meones (two manors), Neuton, Witeney, Heling, Melbrok or Mellebrog, Polhampton or Polemtune, and Hodingtone.

(1.) Stoneham, Hants. The Bishop of Winchester holds it for the victualling of the monastery. It always belonged to the monastery.

(2.) Menes (two manors). The King himself holds Menes. Stigand, the Archbishop, held it in the time of King Edward for the need [or work] of the monks, and afterwards as long as he lived he held it.

(3.) Menes. The Bishop himself holds Menes in demesne. It was always in the Bishopric.

(4.) Neuton. The Archbishop of Canterbury holds Neuton. It belonged, and does belong to the Church.

(5.) Witeney. The Bishop of Winchester holds Witney. Stigand, the Archbishop, held it.

(6.) Heling. If this is Hayling, it is already accounted for under Emma's alleged gifts, but if not, there is no record and no other place to identify it with.

(7.) Mellebrog, or Milbrok. Belonged always to the Monastery (of Winchester).

(8.) Polemtune. There appear to have been two manors of this name:

(a.) Ralph, son of Seifred, holds Polemtune of the Bishop (of Winchester). In the time of King Edward it was for the victualling of the Monks.

(b.) Wills Bertram holds of the King, Polemtune. Tosti held it in the time of King Edward.

Here again are seven manors out of the nine actually owned by the Church of Winchester. Some have always belonged to the monastery, or are for their provisioning, as before, yet not one is claimed as a gift from Aelfwine. One it will be remarked was held by Stigand "as long as he lived" and, since he did not die until A.D. 1070, he could not have given this Manor. The King gives, according to one chronicle, the two Meons and Porthland, or in another version, Porthland, Wike, Hollewelle, and Waymouth. The two Meons we have already seen are said to have been given by Aelfwine. Hollewelle and Wike we find no trace of, Portland and Weymouth are both in Dorsetshire in which county, at the Survey, the Church of Winchester had no possessions.

The result of the enquiry is not flattering to the veracity of the before-mentioned annalists. Of the twenty-one (or twenty-two) manors they distinctly say were given by these three individuals to the Church of Winchester upon a very special occasion, only thirteen actually are held by the Bishops at the Survey. The remainder are either not identified, were not formed into manors until a much later date, or are held by other possessors. The only conclusion to be formed from all the evidence is that the legend, not being found previous to the Winchester Annals, Rudborne or Bromton, was fabricated by one of them. To give a greater semblance of truth to the story, manors which at their time were actually owned by the Bishopric of Winchester were selected, without much judgement, to fit the story of the ploughshares. When they wrote, Wargrave was in the possession of Winchester, Mitchelmarsh had become a manor, and is so described in various documents.

Stigand, as suggested by Professor Freeman, would have supported their story far better. He is constantly mentioned in Domesday, and as holding some of these manors; he was also very intimate with Queen Emma, who died A.D. 1052, and was interred at Winchester by the side of her second husband, Canute. An interesting account of the demolition of their tombs by the Parliamentarians is given by "Mercurius Rusticus," who, after describing the violation of the royal tombs, concludes his lengthy remarks as follows:

"and, as if they meant (if it had been possible) to make these bones contract posthumous guilt ... those windows which they could not reach with their swords, muskets, or rests, they broke to pieces by throwing at them the bones of Kings, Queens, Bishops, Confessors or Saints, so that the spoil done on the windows will not be repaired for 1,000."

Reproduced from "The History of Wargrave" by Herbert J. Reid, 1885

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