Spirits and Sprites

In every woodland lurks a spirit, guardian over all . . .

Green Man with face fungus

Green Man with face fungus. When first I took his photo he had fungus hair as well. He must be getting old. Photo 11th October 2017

While the spirit-loci looks kinda heavy (a serious looking beastie) the sprites prefer to form themselves of light . . .

Woodland Sprite

In fact, not a woodland, but a bank climbing beside a disused railway in Costessey (Norfolk UK). Photo 11th October 2017

As for this fella . . . I thought he looked much like a snake.

White cottony fungus

I admit, I cannot identify it with certainty. It’s either Leucocoprinus cretaceus (which is rare), or Coprinopsis stercorea (which is rated as common). What these two have in common is they both grow on dung. Photo taken 11th October 2017, along that same stretch of no-longer used railway

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Who Ate All The Bread?

. . . must be that raven flying high, totally out of his feathered head.

Fly Agaric 1

The fungus, Fly Agaric, a favoured tidbit of the local wildlife: Photo 11th Oct 2017

To read of the sacramental role of the fly agaric in the Mithraic cult, see The Chap in the (Red) Cap, originally posted way back in 2014 (revisited Christmas 2015).

Flay Agaric 2

Fly Agaric . . . an unusual find, not yet nibbled by mouse, squirrel or bird: Photo 11th Oct 2017

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Pried from Prison

Ep28 Pried from PrisonContinuing the time-slip story, Can of Worms, a 16 year girl’s rune-aided hunt for a serial killer . . .  Read on

“It’s not so difficult,” said Gamal. “You just walk round to the front. Get into the car. We’ll be waiting, engines running. Vroom, gone.”

“I need clothes,” I said. We were again down by the meadow, sitting in our cosy circle, just the three/four of us. Up till then Arvina had been unusually quiet. And Toggy had made no move to grope her. I probably had Gamal to thank for that.

But now she spoke up. “She’s petty, I have told her. We can escape no matter our clothing; this is the twenty-first century.”

“Sure,” I said, reclaiming my speech faculty. “Like, no one would notice when I got into the car in my PJs? And I need to let Madeleine know, so she can tell my parents. I won’t have them worrying about me.”

Toggy laughed. “Hi, Mum, I don’t want you to worry but I’m running away with a couple of—of what? I suppose she doesn’t know about Bellinn?”

“Elves,” I said.

“Of course, slow thinking,” said Gamal. “Your parents are witches; they’d know about elves.”

“I’m not sure about that,” I said, unable to help the dubious face pulled. “But my mother is totally into Tolkien. Where’d you think they got the name Arwen?”

Gamal mockingly slapped his wrist. “Should not assume. How many times must we tell you. But, Arwen, I do admit, I did assume it to be Arvina’s doing.”

Maybe it was, though if so she wasn’t admitting it. I thought also of my mother’s fertility treatment, perhaps that could be laid at her feet. Odd, the timing of that. Pushed through in the final years of Aunt Eddy’s life. To allow Arvina to skip from one body to another?  It was Aunt Eddy who’d had dementia praecox, which I now had learned was an earlier name for schizophrenia.

Seriousness regained, Gamal agreed, “Of course you must let your parents know where you are. We don’t want them worrying, unnecessarily.”

“Like disappearing off with a couple of weirdos isn’t enough to worry them?” Toggy persisted. “Will you also be telling them we’re off to hunt the Axeman?”

“Now I like that,” Gamal said, a finger pointing at an invisible word. “Aye, Axeman. ‘Cause that’s where we think Guillan will be—somewhere in the region of Axmouth. The Lyme Bay murders . . . Sorry. Riffing. I get carried away. So, have you thought how you want to do this—the contact? By phone? By letter? By—”

“By postcard, once we get there?” Toggy pushed it.

“Best would be email,” I said. “I guess I can do that from wherever’s the nearest library.” At which point I finally thought to ask—I mean, how long had I been here at Green Haven: “What’s the nearest town?”

“Town?” Gamal weaved his head, doing his Loki impression. “Stratton, I guess. Don’t you know where you are? At all? You’re at Forncett—as in Fornesetta, one-time manor of William Bigod, brother to the troublesome Roger.”

I sat back, expecting a reaction from Arvina. But she stayed silent within me. Yet that did explain her vigilance; I’d lay money she’d known it all along.

“Wow!” I eventually said. And again, “Wow!”

“Are you alright?” Gamal asked, a hand to touch mine. “You’ve gone quite white.”

“Yea. I’m . . . good. But it bothers me why you’re helping me—helping us.” Was it just to do a good deed for his friend?

“Quick answer? ‘Cause I’m a rune-master, and it’s beholden to me to set right an error made nine hundred years back. You’ve been reading that book, you know about balance, the Fire and the Ice, of Chaos and Order. Well, in failing young Guillan I upset that balance, and so his killing continues. What is it, nine victims now? But that’s only those that we know of. Who knows how many more just haven’t been found. He has to be stopped. And Arvina has to be given a Bellinn body. And you’ve to be freed to live your own life. Is that enough reason to help?”

I nodded. And perhaps I grinned cos he’d just shown me why I was right to trust and to like him.

“Now,” I said, to set us back on track, “I need clothes. But keep it simple, yea. I can always get more once I’m away from here.”

Though what I’d use for money? I was guessing my two gallant heroes had some fluid funds. They were talking of cars and stuff. And neither looked to be exactly on the streets, homeless and starving. But until now we’d had no need to talk of money.

“Leave everything to us,” Gamal said. “Clothes. Shoes. Here, and I mean right here. Tomorrow morning. 5:00 am. Yep?”

“But that’s too early,” I said. “A car sat out front will draw attention.”

Gamal shook his head. “Will not, I promise you. To all but you it’ll be invisible.”

I may have harrumphed.

. . .

I couldn’t sleept, though I had to pretend it. If the duty nurse saw me awake she’d jab me full of her nasty sedatives. But in not sleeping, my head filled with every imaginable worry of what could go wrong. It was Arvina who repeatedly calmed me.

No, Arwen, we won’t be seen leaving. 5:00 am is when they all take their tea-break—in a canteen at the other side of the building.

“How’d you know that?”

Because while you’re a sleep I often prowl.

“You knew this was Fornesetta, didn’t you,” I accused.

I . . . nah. Or . . . maybe. It had a familiar feel, and a feel of him. But it could have been several other places. Felebruge. Pritesport.

Midnight struck. I gave up the pretence of sleeping and sat in the chair. I watched the clock. But even its second-hand seemed slow in its sweeping. Then . . .

I up-slapped my head. “Duh! Pinhead, what was I thinking? I can’t email Madeleine from the library. I’ll need my library pin number and stuff to log-in, and it’s all on my phone. Besides,” I now realised, “five a.m., it won’t even be open. We can’t hang around four hours in waiting. Shit, shit, and treble shit. I’ll have to connect via a phone.” I could think of no other way for it.

You want me go walkabouts; see what I can find? The staff room might—

“No!” I wrest control from Arvina. “No, you can’t do that, not take someone’s phone. That’s . . . And anyway, if Madeleine phones back, that’s the staff alerted and . . .  No, we’ll have to buy one. Oh, I suppose that’s not so bad. I can stock up on clothes at the same time. I mean, we’re gonna be away for more than a day. I’m gonna need more than whatever Gamal brings with him. Knickers and things.”

. . .

I may have nodded off for a while. When I came to I was still in the chair but the clock now showed quarter-to-five. At last, it was time to move.

Bladder emptied. Quick wash with toiletries kindly provided by Green Haven. They’d probably been added to the bill, so basically they were mine. They came in a green vinyl sponge bag. I took the lot.

Sponge bag dangling from my wrist, slippers kinda firmly affixed, my two runes’ books and the gand-stangir tucked under arm, I sauntered, nonchalantly, along to the side door, heart furiously beating.

Yikes! What if the door was locked?

I could feel the sweat breaking. At this rate I’d need to shower again before I got into the car. The car! I’d not heard the crunch of wheels on gravel. Now I scarcely could breathe through my panic.

I tried the door. Yes! Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes! I thank you, Hlæfdi—I think that’s the name Arvina had used for the Lady. Hey, Mum, seems I’m coming round to your religion.

And out of the door and across the gravel, and try not to run, you’ll make too much noise. And still I hadn’t heard the crunch of wheels. And picking my way through the trees. A path already beginning to form from my back-and-forth trekking. And off to the right, and slight down the hill, and . . . There!

Though it wasn’t as I’d expected, a neat pile of clothes. It was a backpack. Largish. Roomy. Eagerly I fished in it. Trainers! Yes! Good old Gamal. And . . . oh, restrained disappointment. A track suit. I mean, a bloody track suit. Black, pink flashes. Not exactly my usual wear. But I supposed it better than those drab PJs. And undies! He’d thought to get me undies. Ah, but how did he know my size?

I think you will find it was Toggy got these, Arvina said smugly. He knows my body, the size of everything.

Yea, I’m sure that he did. But this wasn’t a conversation I wanted at this hour of the morning.

Everything fitted—or rather, nothing pinched and nothing bagged, though this wasn’t a look that I would have gone for. I stuffed the toiletries, books and the gand-stangir into the bag and rammed the PJs on top. No need to let the staff know I wasn’t wearing them. They’d be included in any description they gave of me. To the police? Would they notify the police? Would we have cop-cars blah-blah-blahing behind us? Would we career off the road, skid over the edge and down a steep gulley while trying to outrun them?

Too much movies, Arvina jibed at me.

I kept to the meadow side of the trees until level with the front of the house. Then my heart lurched and fell into my feet.

Where was the car?

No car.

But Gamal had said . . .

Damn and blast and shit and fuck! Now I didn’t know what to do?

Next episode, Five Hours, Wednesday 18th October

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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

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A Different Take on the Broads

The Norfolk Broads: everyone’s seen the usual-type shots, wide expanses of lapis lazuli water, dotted with white-sailed yachts. Well, I visited the Broads village of Ranworth this past Tuesday (3rd October), and took some different shots. Enjoy.

Southern Comfort at Ranworth

Southern Comfort, a Mississippi try-to-be , takes visitors on a leisurely tour of the Ranworth complex of broads. Here I watched from a nearby nature reserve as it passed

Moss and Lichen

Moss- and lichen-covered trees are everywhere at Ranworth nature reserve. (almost enough to satisfy my quest for fungi)

Keeled skimmer dragonfly

All summer chasing dragonflies and finally one stops and poses. But this female keeled skimmer (I think that’s what it is) was so well camouflaged I almost didn’t see it

Ranworth Carr

A taste of the woodland at Ranworth, a wetland carr; thankfully with a raised wooden walkway

Ranworth reflections

Ranworth reflections: a myriad of channels serve as reminder of bygone days when the wherries pulled in here to unload coal and maybe raw wool ready for spinning, and, to load up with reeds, grain and bricks.

St Helens, Ranworth

St Helens church at Ranworth: turned inside-out

Rood screen St Helens Ranworth

The rood screen at St Helen’s is the most ornate and complete in East Anglia, here seen is just a small part of it.

St Michael at Ranworth

St Michael the Dragon-slayer . . . just one of the many panels that make up the lower register of St Helen’s rood screen. Other panels feature the 12 apostles, the 3 Marys, St Margaret, St Etheldreda, St Agnes, St John the Baptist, St Barbara, St Felix (the first East Anglian bishop), St Stephen the martyr, St Thomas of Canterbury, St Lawrence the martyr, and that other dragon-slayer, St George. Completed during C15th.

St Helens church Ranworth

And to complete the different take on this small Broad’s village . . . the church against a glorious (and most unusual) deep blue sky.

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Ep27_IncarcerationContinuing the time-slip story, Can of Worms, a 16 year girl’s rune-aided hunt for a serial killer . . .  Read on

That night, after our talk, Arvina reeled out another of her memories. A continuation of her failed elopement with Guillan. This time she prefaced it.

I was a fool to go off with Guillan. I didn’t need his father to tell me that. And I was glad when the sheriff found us. Glad-hearted to be aboard the king’s ship. But that didn’t last long.

Wow, that was the most she’d ever said direct in my head. Perhaps cos by then I was bordering on sleep.

The sheriff’s men took me to the king’s own cabin. For a moment I rejoiced at the comfort. Till I heard a wood-and-iron groan: they’d fixed a bar across the door. What a fool, to think myself rescued by him. And I heard his thoughts: berating himself for not having realised what I was. One of her kind, akin to his treacherous, gold-grabbing Vyvain.

. . .

Arvina, a slip of a thing, it’s no effort for the sheriff’s men to offload her, ashore. They surround her, a guard of armed men. She sees nothing of Guillan. She hopes his father has meted out suitable punishment—maybe left him at sea to bob about in his unseaworthy boat.

The men heft her into a cart. It could be worse: at least it was last used for hay; it could’ve been night-soil.

The journey is long, and not once do they leave her alone, not even when she’s off to do her business. They don’t talk to her, either. Yet they do feed her. She gets into their thoughts; she tries to get their destination. Though the sheriff had been using the king’s own ship, she’s no traitor, she’s done no wrong; it’s unlikely she’ll be taken before King Henry. Though she could almost wish it. King Henry’s wife and Arvina’s mother had been together in that nunnery; they’d even been friends. If taken to him, the king soon would sort it. But that’s not where the sheriff is taking her.

She tries to coerce her guards to look the wrong way while she runs. But two together she can control, not all nine. She risks it the once. And for her troubles she’s thrown down roughly, her skirts thrown up, the guard loosening his breeks.

“Hey! Don’t!” a fellow-guards stops him. “She has powerful kin.”

On reaching London they cart her down to the docks. There she’s loaded aboard another ship and again locked into a cabin. Another search of heads tells her they’re bound for Gernemuth. She tries to sleep. What else is there for her? Yet she has to be ready when they reach Gernemuth. From Gernemuth she’s sure she can make her way home—if she can escape her guards.

But even while planning, a thought hits and sickens her; it shakes her with horror. What’s the first place the sheriff will look for her? And already he’s all hoots and scowls for the ‘apostate nun’, her mother. But if not to her family, where can she run? Where to hide away from the sheriff, and away Guillan?

The ship doesn’t dock at Gernemuth but continues up river to Norwich. There, mindless hands shove her head into a black hood, and draw it tight about her. They leave her a glimmer of light. Her hands bound behind her, she’s hauled onto deck . . . and led through the town

She hears the thoughts and comments of watchers passed. Who is she? Is she a traitor? Is Bigod taking her up to his castle? Why is she hidden, has she the Devil’s beauty? She’ll be another like Vyvain. Aye, and he’s got himself a proper wife now. Haps she’s to serve as his concubine.

She wishes she’d not heard half of that. But it’s now in her head and it won’t go away. What if he . . .? Hlæfdi, Hlæfdi, please not! At least, as yet, apart from the one guard, no one has abused her, not in that way. But, Vyvain? That’s the second time she’s heard that name around him. His first wife? Guillan’s mother? A Bellinn, then, to be like Arvina.

Distance and time passes in thinking. In the dark of the hood she’s hardly aware of where she is walking. Then . . .

Earth gives to flagstone.

Noises confuse her. Metal grates hard.

There is heat, overwhelming. Smells, stomach turning. A cold hand on her arm guides her down what seems a stone stairway. The smells are increasingly foul.

Then the heat shrinks to nothing. She hears water dripping.

She’s pushed. She stumbles. Something hard—the ground—slams her. No one attends her, metal grating on stone behind her.

At what stage of this journey might she have escaped? Too many to guard her, always watching. How wondrous to have these Bellinn powers, to hear thoughts, to mould them, redirect and coerce them. Yet to no effect when the guards number too many. And where might she hide, ever that question. If she escaped, where could she go without bringing retribution upon those who hid her? And so here she is, in Sheriff Bigod’s castle in Norwich. His to do with as he pleases.

If she so befouls herself, she wonders, will he be so disgusted he’ll then send her away without the touching? For though she hasn’t found it in his thoughts she has no doubt he intends to use her in the same way as his son. A maiden she left Beraht’s care. She’s a maiden no more.

. . .

You want to know of incarceration? Arvina whispered softly inside my head. Incarceration has been my life. Aye, Guillan stole me from that donjon—but you know that. Stole me and hid me with his uncle’s bondsmen at Fornesett. But he did things to my head. He altered my thoughts so it seemed that I loved him—so I’d not run away.

Yet, I remarked, you did run.

He had been too long in his coming. His coercion was weakening. I . . . didn’t know where, I had no plan. I only knew that I must get away. I never thought where I was going. I was going home, is all. As well, it was, that my mother found me.

And that was the last you saw of Guillan? I asked her. Till that time in Norwich?

She sighed, a susurration inside my head, so wearied by all that had happened to her. Wearied with her regrets.

Nah, she said. I saw him again before that. I had gone with Toggy—when Ragen Jarl said he must leave Tree Brunna. I’d have gone anyway. I could not bear to be near to Vyvain. I knew who she was. I feared one day I’d tell her about her abandoned son. I’d shame her in front of the other Bellinn—for the Bellinn care deeply for their begots. And there was she, a second nock; what was I? She’d have chewed me. Destroyed me. Ensured I’d ever regret the meeting.

I realised now I was fully awake. Hells, I wasn’t even in bed but was standing by the window, the blinds part-open, looking out at the grass. I suppose she was looking for Toggy. Or did she fear Guillan might find her again?

We went to Zelina’s Eldsland. In Yorkshire. But we weren’t long there. I was kin to Zelina and Atall; they knew me from my father’s hall, yet . . . I was born after the Oath. They said I was accursed. And seeing my life, the many lives part-lived, most killed because of me. I do believe it.

“So where did you go after that?” I asked. “Where was it that Guillan found you?”

Did I say he found us? Nah, we saw him. We hid. Toggy—Guillan’s uncle, that amuses—cast a screen around us till he was gone. It was in York. Guillan was asking after me. He didn’t know about Toggy. But he found nothing to help him there. Until then we had far stayed away from that town.

Now thoroughly woken, I’d no desire to return to that hard hospital bed. I moved the chair close to the window and sat there instead, allowing her to look out. It seemed to please her.

My life—so many lives—trapped in prisons of many makings. Donjons. Asylums. Gaols, and attics. Down pits where those who’d thrown me knew I must die. But those were prisons of man’s own makings. And you in your twenty-first century complain of this place of respite?

Okay, so I knew that was petty of me. ‘Oh dear, what can I do, I haven’t my own gear, I’ve only these slippers, I haven’t my shoes.’ But I had freedom—at least enough to roam the grounds; enough to come and go as I pleased. No locked doors. No dark dungeons. No manacles. No pay-per-view sessions of public ridicule.

You think I don’t want to be free of your body? she asked, Arwen, it’s a cage for me, as much a prison as Bigod’s castle—more so, since with Guillan’s help I escaped from there. I want a full Bellinn body, Arwen; I want to be free. I want to feel the dewed grass beneath my feet, breathe in the fresh morning air. I want to trip and fall and feel the sting where I’ve grazed my knees. I want to taste the food, be refreshed by the drink. And, aye, I want to feel Toggy’s arms around me. I want to feel his lips when he kisses. But I can’t. ‘Cause I’m stuck inside you. And you are merely the latest prison amongst many.

My eyes were leaky. I finger-dried them. I wanted to throw my arms around her. But how could I when she was within me.

“There must be some way to free you, some way to find you a Bellinn body. We of the twenty-first century have a saying. Never say die.”


Next episode, Pried from Prison

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Wulfgyth of Karletuna

A little bit of history . . .

I intended to cover the three related Late Saxon Wills in one post. Ha! I laugh myself silly. After the first two wills the word count already was far too high. Could I reduce it? I could, yes. Yet certain aspects of these wills raise issues already contended by interested historians; thus the need of supporting evidence and a cogent argument. These can’t be skimped. Time must be taken. Words used. Therefore, what was intended as one post, has become four.

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

But first, I give thanks to Mary Muir (d.2011) for introducing me to these three wills. Local school teacher, historian and fieldwalker, she wrote a book on the history of Saxlingham Thorpe and Saxlingham Nethergate—A Good Place To Call Home. Turned out it was a good place to start my research.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard of Wulfgyth prior to this reading but I hadn’t realised her connection with Saxlingham. Her will has been much studied for what it reveals of a woman’s position in late Anglo-Saxon society. It has also become the focus of those who would see in her daughter, Ealdgyth, the much-sought Edith Swanneshals, hand-fasted wife of Harold Godwinson.  So, briefly to cover that before going further:

Edith Swanneshals

While many historians have tried to identify Mistress Swanneshals with the wealthy East Anglian landowner Eadgifu the Fair, others follow the tentative suggestion of historian Frank Barlow and try to meld her with Wulfgyth’s daughter Ealdgyth. But on the evidence of names, alone, both these identifications fail. In answer to the Eadgifu suggestion: Edith is not the later form of Eadgifu, but of Eadgyth. As to Wulfgyth’s daughter Ealdgyth:

Ead– = riches, prosperity
Eald– = old, honoured

The –l– is never dropped no matter how else the Anglo-Norman scribes might spell the name. Perhaps these scholars have serially suffered from senior-moments, else shared blinkers with their favourite horse while in search of the Lady. For no one of the Late Saxon/Anglo-Norman period would have been so misled. Eadgyth is not Ealdgyth.

Further, the one place that Eadgyth Swanneshals is known to have owned land—because she granted that land to St Benet’s abbey at Hulme—is at Thurgarton in Norfolk.  Okay, we might say that Thurgarton was a given to Harold by one of his free men when he was earl of Norfolk and Suffolk—and, later, he did have a power-base of commended men in the area—and that Harold in turn gave it to Mistress Swanneshals who in turn gave it to St Benets. But the dates seem against it, the gift being confirmed by King Edward in 1046, before Harold had had time to develop his following. As to the land belonging to Wulfgyth’s family, neither she nor her husband’s family are credited with land around here.

Wulfgyth’s Family

Wulfgyth, widow of king’s thegn, Eldwine (generally given in translation as the Mercian Ælfwine) was mother to five: two boys, three girls. Her use of the short-form for her two of her daughters, Bote and Gode for Botehild and Godgifu, suggests they’re still children—or at least not yet considered adult, perhaps not yet betrothed. While, on the other hand, the third daughter, Ealdgyth, is accorded an ‘adult’ name, implying she is the eldest and probably married.

Wulfgyth gives no similar clues to the birth-order of her two sons, yet the evidence of Domesday Book and that found in Ketel’s will suggests Ketel had a few years on his brother Ulfketel.

Ketel’s will makes mention of two uncles, Edwin and Wulfric. The word used implies uncles on his mother’s side, i.e. Wulfgyth’s brothers. Yet on closer reading perhaps only Wulfric is that while Edwin appears more likely the brother of Wulfgyth’s husband Eldwine. Certainly, the churches Edwin mentions would favour this interpretation. There’s also the Anglo-Saxon custom of name variation: Wulfgyth, Wulfric; Eldwine, Edwin(e). While elsewhere in England by the C11th the custom was falling out of use, perhaps due to influences incoming from France, in Norfolk and Suffolk it persisted into the C13th.


The ‘grey areas’ should be read ‘speculation’, rather than hard evidence

As we shall see in the course of these posts, Wulfric’s estates were primarily in Suffolk, Edwin’s in Norfolk. Edwin had a particularly strong power base in the Hundreds of Humbleyard, Henstead and Loddon. Indeed, it’s impossible to read the Domesday entries for these Hundreds without tripping over his name. As to Wulfgyth, although the estates she bequeath are spread from central Kent to central Norfolk (see map below), her Wulf-family lands are solidly Suffolk.

Wulfgyth’s Bequests

Dated on internal evidence to 1042-53 (probably 1046), her will is the earliest of the three from this family. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles record severe weather through the years 1042 to 1047 with the death of livestock, humans, birds and fishes in great number, ultimately causing widespread famine. Then to cap it, more raiders appeared:

ASC E: 1046/1047
And in this same year Lothen and Yrling came to Sandwich with 25 ships, and there took untold war-booty, in men and in gold and in silver, such that no one knew what it all was … And they turned from there to Essex and raided there, and took men and whatever they could find, and then turned east to Baldwin’s land [Flanders]

Whether Wulfgyth was recently widowed or not, thoughts of her own mortality must have ridden her hard during these years. Perhaps she found herself ailing with whatever had taken her husband (if it wasn’t a Norse-man’s sword). Hence, she composed her will. I give the full text, in translation. Where there might be confusion over place-names I give the Old English originals in parenthesis:


On reading this, I immediately reached for my copy of Domesday Book to see which if any of Wulfgyth’s bequeathed estates remained in the hands of the designated recipients on the eve of the Conquest: ‘on the day King Edward was alive and dead’ (TRE). And there began a journey through the tangles of Old English place-names and my several disagreements on the accepted translations.

Friþetune (given as Fritton):

I started with the last granted estate:

And I grant Friþetune to Earl Godwine and Earl Harold

Fritton, said some scholar at some early stage of the will’s scrutiny. Fine. but Wulfgyth’s will fails to specify which Fritton: the one in Depwade, Norfolk; or the one in Suffolk’s half-hundred of Lothingland (which, post boundary changes, now sits in Norfolk). I expected Domesday Book to provide the answer.

The Depwade Fritton (Norfolk) presented free men enough to field a first team and reserves for three football clubs—spread across nine entries (i.e. 9 TRW holders, aka tenants-in-chief)—but no Earl Harold and no Earl Godwine (who, of course, by then was dead).

By contrast, the Lothingland Fritton (formerly in Suffolk) had only one entry—for the King’s Lands. Post-Hastings, William confiscated all lands belonging to the defeated Harold and his brothers. This must be the Fritton Wulfgyth intended.

Lands of the King:
In Fritton 2 free men held 80 acres…
In the same place Leofric, a free man, held 30 acres…

What, no Harold? Why then was the ‘vill’ (read that as parish) in the ‘King’s hand’? I’d venture to say, because almost all the free men in Lothingland—and there were loads—had been in commendation to Harold’s young brother Gyrth, then earl of East Anglia.

But what had happened to Wulfgyth’s bequest? Had Harold or Godwine granted it away to one of their men; this Leofric, for instance? For now, I left it to grow whiskers while I moved to the next grant.

Chadacre, Suffolk

Chadacre no longer exists, swallowed by its neighbour:

The same Wulfric held Chadacre TRE as a manor…

This same Wulfric held Shimpling, too, where he’s described as a thegn of King Edward.

Now the Countess of Aumale holds [both].

This ‘same Wulfric’ was Wulfgyth’s brother. How came he to be holding Chadacre when Wulfgyth had bequeathed it to her daughter Ealdgyth? Was Ealdgyth dead?

Essetesford (given as Ashford, Kent)

Though those who had identified Essetesford with Ashford in Kent had considerably more experience than me, I took one look at the map and said no. No way! What, a Suffolk-cum-Norfolk lady hold lands way down south beyond the Thames? Even if her will does include an estate in Essex, this must be a mistake. Where are the stepping stones, where the bridge from her East Anglian estates to her Kentish? And why did she hold no other manors there?

In hope of finding a more believable place for Essetesford, I checked out all similarly spelled place-names of that period in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. Nothing. Nowhere. The scholars had it right: Essetesford was Ashford, in Kent.

In Domesday Book, at Ashford in Kent was split between two estates:

Lands of Hugh de Montfort
[TRE] Thorgisli held it of Earl Godwine …
[TRE] William held it of King Edward …

Yea, I know, Earl Godwine died in 1053. But that’s one of the quirks of Domesday Book. The dead can still hold land. (Don’t ask me how, though I suppose as long as their ‘estates’ were still collecting the dues . . . it was probably down to the widows.)

Wulfgyth makes no mention of ‘holding’ the Essetesford estate off another, be it King Edward or Earl Godwine. Though it’s possible, since the king and, one assumes, Earl Godwine had witnessed the will, that the relevant party had agreed to the transfer of tenure. Which could leave Ealdgyth as the wife of either Thorgisl or William. Or she could be dead, her inheritance bequeathed to either Earl Godwine or King Edward. That would fit neatly with the situation already found at Chadacre and confirm the general conclusion had from Ketel’s will (see next post).

Stisted, Essex

Wulfgyth bequeathed her estate at Stisted:

to Christ Church [Canterbury] for the sustenance of the monks in the community

But she made it on condition that her sons, Ulfketel and Ketel, should have use of the estate during their lifetime. I expected this to be verified on the pages of Domesday Book. What did I find?

[TRE] Holy Trinity held Stisted as a manor…

Okay, so Christ Church or Holy Trinity, it’s all Canterbury to me. And at least it looked like the widow’s bequest had reached home, even if it did mean that both sons were now dead. Still, to double check it I turned to PASE (the online Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England). Half a hide at Stisted was held TRE & TRW by the monks of Christ Church.

I also discovered—thank you, PASE—that King Edward had confirmed the grant of this land to Christ Church. No other details given, just the source charter: S1047. Next stop,  Electronic Sawyer (online catalogue of Anglo-Saxon charters):

S1047 (summary):
A.D. 1042 x 1066. King Edward to Christ Church, Canterbury; grant of land at Chartham, Kent, and Walworth, Surrey, and confirmation of land at Sandwich, Eastry, Folkestone, Thanet, Adisham, Ickham, Chartham, Godmersham, Westwell, East Chart, the other Chart, Berwick, Brook, Warehorne, Appledore, Mersham, Orpington, Preston, Meopham, Cooling, Farningham, Hythe, Hollingbourne, Farleigh, Peckham, all in Kent; at Patching and Wootton in Sussex; at Walworth, Merstham, Cheam, and Horsley in Surrey; at Southchurch, Laver, Milton (Hall) in Prittlewell, Lawling in Latchingdon, Bocking, St Osyth and Stisted in Essex; at Hadleigh and Monks Eleigh, Suffolk; at Monks Risborough in Bucks.; and at Newington and Britwell Prior, Oxon.

Not all the charters on Electronic Sawyer have English translation. This one had, but . . .


. . . the bits I wanted have been elided […] Back to the original and the relevant passage:

c: Hec sunt nomina terrarum quas ut michi iudicatum est adpresens Christi ecclesia habet […] On Estsexan: Suthcyrcan, Lagefare, Middeltun, Lællinges, Boccinges, Cicce, Stigestede.

transcribed by yours truly

So was this estate at Stisted (Stigestede), which Wulfgyth c.1046 bequeathed to her daughter, land already donated to Christ Church? And if so, by whom?

… were it the gift of the king or a bishop or an earl or a thegn …
[says King Edward’s charter S1047]

That would explain Wulfgyth’s insistence that it was to go to Christ Church, even if first she’d allow her sons the use of it. Clearly, the estate was leasehold (see end of this post for definitions). And since the usual term for leasehold was 3 generations, it would have been her father, or her father-in-law (the former more likely), who’d made the arrangement. This is confirmed in King Edward’s confirmation grant:

… the estates which in my father’s day belonged to Christ Church …

Edward’s father was King Æthelræd, r.978-1013 (first part); r.1014-1016 (second part)—which effectively provides a floruit date for Wulfgyth’s father.

Also on Electronic Sawyer I found this . . .

S1646 (summary):
A.D. 1042 x 1066. Godwine and Wulfgyth to Christ Church, Canterbury; grant of land at Stisted and Coggeshal, Essex. 


Alas, no English translation. After I had struggle through my own translation I then found this, in ‘The Annals of Coggeshall’ under the heading:

Godwin, Earl of Kent
One of Canute’s favourites was Godwin, who long survived him, and lived to possess under Edward the Confessor, almost all the power. Among his possessions was the lordship of Coggeshall which—together with Stisted and Chich (St Osyth) the latter of which he had as a gift of Canute—he gave to the monks of Dorobernia or Canterbury.

So, it was Earl Godwine who gave the Stisted estate to Canterbury? No, but wait. King Edward’s grant confirms lands given ‘in my father’s day’. Yet Godwine didn’t begin his rise to power until taken under King Cnut’s wing (r.1016-1035). Until then he was the son of a troublesome Sussex thegn, Wulfnoth—and still very young. Though the fact King Æthelræd’s son, Æthelstan, bequeathed Godwine the return of his father’s forfeited land at Compton does suggest intimate dealings with the æthling, which possibly flowed over into support of Æthelræd’s next heir, Edmund (r.1016, briefly).

How, then, did Godwine come by this Essex estate that he gave so kindly to Christ Church?

‘The Annals of Coggeshall’ continues with the grant in translation:

I, Godwin and Wolfgith, with the permission and consent of my lord King Edward, give to the Church of Christ in Dorobernia [Canterbury] part of the land of our right, called Stigestede and Coggeshael, in East Sexia, exempt from all secular services, as I have held it up to this time from my aforesaid lord King Edward, and from his father (Ethelred). If any one takes them from the right of the same Church may God take away from him his glory

Further, an entry found in “Antiquities of Canterbury”:

AD 1046, Ulfgyth, widow of Elfwine, and Godwin, with the consent of Saint Edward the king, gave to the Church of Christ in Dorobernia, Stisted, Coggeshale, in Essex, for the sustenance of the monks, exempt like Adesham†.

†A lordship in Kent given to the monks by Ethelbald

Though a later script (like, post Hastings and beyond) this second entry does verify the Wulfgyth of Godwine’s grant as the same Wulfgyth who bequeathed her estate at Stisted to her daughter Ealdgyth. Yet Wulfgyth’s will makes no mention of an estate at Goggeshall. Ah, but Ketel’s does (sorry, you’ll have to wait for that).

The simplest explanation would be that Wulfgyth had commissioned Earl Godwine (by way of commending) to act as her ‘land agent’ and hence Godwine had named himself alongside her. In all probability, her father received the two Essex estates, Stisted and Coggeshall, in return for a large cash payment intended to help King Æthelræd in his extremis—i.e. to pay off the Vikings.

In the spring of 1002 the English bought a truce for £24,000
In 1007 an expedition was bought off by a tribute of £36,000.
In April 1012, the army of Thorkell the Tall and his brother Hemming harried England until bought off by a ‘tribute’ of £48,000.

Electronic Sawyer contains several charters issued by King Æthelræd for land in return for large sums of money.

Clearly, these Essex estates had been granted to Wulfgyth’s father on lease for three generations, they then must go to the monks of Canterbury. After all, what cared Æthelræd for these estates; he’d be long dead by then and the eternal salvation of his soul was far more important.

Earl Godwine’s involvement becomes more understandable when it’s realised that King Cnut granted him Chich (St Osyth) also in Essex though by no means neighbouring. Godwine granted this estate to Canterbury, probably at the same time.

S1645 (summary):
A.D. 1042 x 1066. Godwine to Christ Church, Canterbury; grant of land at St Osyth, Essex. 

[E]go Godwinus, concedente et consentiente domino meo rege Eaduuardo, dedi ecclesie Christi uillam patrimonii mei nomine Cice ad uictum monachorum in eadem ecclesia Christi in Dorobernia, pro salute anime mee, liberam ab omni seruitute seculari sicut dominus meus rex Cnut illam michi dedit.

There is an unspoken message in this set of charters. While some historians have tried to tag a Danish ancestry on Wulfgyth, based on the names of her sons, Ketel and Ulfketel, not only is this a nonsense notion, taking no notice of the medieval custom whereby the father named the child, but also these charters plainly show her father supported King Æthelræd in his fight against the Danes. He may even have died alongside Ulfcytel (Ulfketel) Snelling in 1016.

This of the leaseholds explain the otherwise anomalous existence of her estates in Essex, and Kent.

Sumerledeton (given as Somerleyton, Suffolk)

Those translators, with their greater experience, have given Somerleyton as the modern form of Sumerledeton:

And I grant to my two daughters, Gode and Bote, Saxlingham and Sumerledeton

While it’s easy to see why the translation, yet the Somerleyton entry in Domesday Book is less than convincing.

Lands of the King:
In Somerleyton 90 acres; they belong to Gorleston
There are 20 free men with 90 acres belonging to the manor…

And in Somerleyton, I free men, Ulf, under the same commendation [to Earl Gyrth]

In Somerleyton, I free men, Wihtræd the priest, held 40 acres

Lands of Ralph the crossbow man:
In Somerleyton, 1 free man, Alweald, commended to Gyrth

True, in Saxlingham one Æthelweard was in King Edward’s lordship (i.e. a thegn), and a man might (confusingly) be commended to more than the one lord, which might lean us towards accepting this place-name on the grounds of ‘here is the same man, he must be husband to one of the daughters’. Yet, as with Ealdgyth and Eadgifu, Alweald and Æthelweard are not the same name.

Domesday Book offers us another option: another ‘vill’ (read parish) named Sumerledetuna—Somerton in Suffolk:

Lands of St Edmund’s Abbey
1 free man belonging to St Edmund held 30½ acres

Lands of Robert fitzCorbucion:
 [one of Robert’s men] holds Somerton which Starcher held [1 carucate] under the glorious King Edward as a manor

PASE very kindly gives us the lowdown on this Starcher aka Styrcar/Styrger. He held land in Leighton Buzzard, Beds; at Bensted and Tolleshunt Magna, Essex; at Tooting Bec, Surrey; at Somerton, Suffolk; and . . .  wait for it! At Saxlingham, Norfolk. He is given as a housecarl of King Edward (basically, that’s the Scandinavian word a king’s thegn).

Not only this, but Somerton, in Suffolk, lies within a spit of Chadacre and Shimpling, where Wulfgyth’s brother Wulfric had two estates (he’d also an estate close by at Boxted). These estates probably formed the kernel of the Wulf-family’s ancient estate. So, it seems likely this Starcher/Styrger was wed to one or other of Wulfgyth’s daughters. But which one?

Saxlingham, Norfolk

As already seen in Enter the Scribes, Bote’s holding at Saxlingham was remembered, even centuries later, as Botenhaugh. At first, that suggested to me that Bode had never married. But after re-reading Ketel’s will, I must amend that. Ketel mentions Bote as having the estate at Somerton. Clearly she is the sister married to King Edward’s thegn Styrger, who held a mean 30 acres here, though he held much larger estates elsewhere.

That leaves her sister, Gode (Godgifu) to hold the other 30 acres in Saxlingham, recorded TRE in the hands of Wulfnoth, a free man commended to Archbishop Stigand. Stigand was Ketel’s chosen lord, and Wulfnoth continues the Wulf– family name. I’m happy to assign him as Godgifu’s son.

Another look at Frietuna

Before going further, and after the Somerleyton/Somerton confusion, I took another look at Friþetune. Could there be another place named the same in Domesday Book? And indeed there is. Frinton-on-Sea, in Essex.

The spelling of Frinton, in Domesday Book, is Frietuna. More-on, it’s remarkably close to Earl Godwine’s estate at St Oswyth. TRE there were two manors, both of 3 hides:

Lands of Count Eustace
Harold held as a manor…

Lands of Geoffrey de Mandeville
Leofsunu held as a manor …

That first entry (Lands of Count Eustace) is the one, for Wulfgyth had granted the estate of Friþetune to Earl Godwine and Earl Harold. And here is Harold. Case closed. Though there is still the question of how Wulfgyth came by the estate. Another of her father’s leaseholds?


Walsingham, Norfolk

And again, confusion—though my Penguin translation of Domesday gives it, clearly, as being a hamlet of East Carleton, not ‘the other’ Walsingham, in North Norfolk, famous of its abbey, and wells, and as a centre of Christian pilgrimage even today. However, my Penguin version (and all before it) still got it wrong. Walsingham is a hamlet of nearby Wrenningham, not East Carleton. More-on, it was known as Little Wrenningham at least to early C19th. (Often the man on the ground—or woman—knows more than the academic in his whispering Oxford towers.)

Lands of Ranulph Peverel
Walsingham [in East Carleton] Warin holds [of Ranulph Peverel] where Ketel, a thegn of Stigand’s held TRE for 1½ carucates

Here I felt quite excited at finding the right person in the right place. It also implied more-or-less said that Ketel was alive in 1066—not forgetting in Domesday Book the dead can still hold land! But where is Ulfketel?

It is known that Ketel’s successor post-Hastings (TRW) was Ranulph Peverel. Wulfric’s was Countess of Aumale and Roger de Poitou (as far as I can identify his estates). While Edwin’s was exclusively his son-in-law Godric the steward. And Ulfketel’s?

Ulfketel’s successor was Roger Bigod, sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk at the time of the Domesday Survey. But even the closest reading of Bigod’s holdings in the Carleton cum Wrenningham area of the Humbleyard Hundred turns up no glimmer of Ulfketel’s portion. Unlike Ketel and Edwin, in this Hundred he holds no men in commendation. Yet cross the river Tas into Henstead Hundred and his name as a commended lord is . . . lauded. Evidently, Ulfketel still was alive and thriving in 1066. Maybe the brothers decided some deal between them regards their mother’s bequeathed estates of Walsingham, East Carlton and Harling. Perhaps. But perhaps is there some other explanation.

East Carleton

Despite Wulfgyth bequeathed this estate equally to her two sons, again there is no sign of Ulfketel.

Lands of Ranulph Peverel
[East] Carleton the same Warin holds [of Ranulph Peverel] where Godric, a free man of Ketel’s held 75 acres

Ketel mentions a brother named Godric in his will (see next post, Ketel Alder).


[East] Harling

The ‘vill’ of Harling was early divided to three distinct parts later name as West Harling, Little or Middle Harling, and Market or East Harling. This is seen even in Domesday Book where each of the three parts are granted each to a different tenant-in-chief.

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

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.…

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

And, lo! Here we find the elusice Ulfketel (Ulfkil). And note, he estate weighs in at 4 carucates, while Ketel’s is half of that. But—spoiler alert!—this wasn’t Ulfketel’s only estate as we’ll discover in Part 2: Ketel Alder.

Brief Author’s Note:
Although Francis Blomefield in his Topographical History of the County of Norfolk is a valuable source of local information, sometimes he connects the wrong dots. Here he gives Ansketil as the son of Ulfkil. Yet PASE gives this Ansketil as one of Count Alan’s men, Ansketil de Fourneaux who held lands in Cambridgeshire and Yorkshire, as well. Wiki lists Fourneaux as a French commune either in the Loire department, or in Manche or in Calvados . . . i.e. this Ansketil was very definitely of Norman origin. The name of Fourneaux is evidenced in the later manorial history of the parish.

Summary of Wulfgyth’s will

Now at the end of Wulfgyth’s will, what have we learned?

1: That her unnamed father had supported King Æthelræd’s attempts to protect his land and people by giving him money to buy off the Vikings—and in return received land in Essex, and probably in Kent as well, which then was held as a 3-generation leasehold with reversion to Christ Church, Canterbury.

2: That regardless Eldwine, her husband, had been a king’s thegn, Wulfgyth’s chosen lord when dealing with the legalities of leasehold land was Earl Godwine—who also held land in Essex destined for the religious community at Canterbury.

3: That she had at her disposal two estates in central Suffolk (Somerton and Chadacre), and four estates in Norfolk, three south-east (Saxlingham, East Carleton and Little Wrenningham), one almost upon the Norfolk-Suffolk border (Harling).

4: That her brother Wulfric had estates clustering around hers in Suffolk strongly suggests this was the core of the Wulf-family’s ancestral lands. Harling too is part of a cluster, this on the Norfolk-Suffolk border. While the Norfolk estate was almost certainly part of Eldwine’s patrimony, this ‘borderland’ was most likely Wulf-land (but more of that in Part 2: Ketel Alder)

5: That Wulfgyth’s eldest daughter, the much disputed Ealdgyth, died even before 1060 (as evidenced by the dating of Ketel’s will, see next post in the series).


Finally, while researching this series of posts I encountered the speculative notion that Wulfgyth was the daughter of Ulfcytel Snelling, an ealdorman of East Anglia, possibly of Norfolk, who fell fighting against Cnut’s men at Battle of Ashingdon in 1016. This would explain her son’s names with her husband wishing to honour her dead father. It might also explain why her family held less land than might be expected of a king’s thegn. For I have no doubt the bulk of Ulfcytel’s estates was taken by the new King Cnut, to be distributed amongst his followers. But there is also a story that King Æthelræd gave his daughter Wulfhild as wife to Ulfcytel. If this second story is true, then first cannot be,. While I agree that Wulfgyth’s name might suggest it, anyone with knowledge of the events 1050 to 1066 would immediately realise this cannot be so.

Five years into his marriage with Earl Godwine’s daughter, Edith, King Edward still had no son to succeed him to the English throne. Had it been otherwise, the Battle of Hastings would never have happened. King Edward’s solution forms a pre-echo of King Henry VIII’s. He wanted a divorce, the freedom to find a more fertile wife. But there was Edith’s father, Earl Godwine, second only to the king in his power. He knew Godwine would never allow the divorce. So Edward laid the problem at the feet of Robert de Jumiéges, the newly seated Archbishop of Canterbury. The archbishop responded by voicing and amplifying various accusations against Earl Godwine. Then, when Godwine asked for trial to defend himself and clear his name, it was refused him. Godwine stormed off, his family, followers and wealth in tow, to seek refuge in Flanders where his son Tostig had recently married the count’s daughter Judith. King Edward, prompted by his archbishop, declared Godwine exiled. Now King Edward could divorce the infertile Edith and find a more productive wife.

But before that could happen, Godwine powered his way back into England, and turned the table on Robert de Jumiéges, revealing his manipulations. Robert fled. With a hive of bees in his bonnet regards Godwine and his family, he continued his insinuations and manipulations in Normandy and in Rome. Ultimately, him and his lies lay beneath William of Normandy’s claim to the English throne.

With Godwine reinstated, so was Edith—pulled out of the convent where she’d been put in cold storage. But the problem of succession remained. Edward desperately needed an heir, and if not of his body, then of his ancestral line. There were several choices. His nephew by his sister Godgifu, countess of Boulogne, was already in England: Earl Ralph. But the fact he’s more commonly known as ‘Ralph the Timid’ might clue us to why he wasn’t chosen. There were others. Ralph’s brother Walter, Count of the Vexin, in France—though he died in 1063 in very suspicious circumstances, while held captive by William of Normandy (yes, him, the Conqueror).

Now think upon this: If those who’d have Wulfgyth as daughter of Ulfcytel and Wulfhild were correct, then Ketel and his brother Ulfketel would also be potential heirs. Is there any hint of them being approached, their names being mentioned, their suitability considered? Any hint they may have been by William? No. Not at all. Ipso facto, Wulfhild was NOT Wulfgyth’s mother.

As it happens, Edward found an heir of the male line to be his successor: Edward the Exile, son of Edmund Ironside, King Edward’s half-brother. He was found in Hungary, where he’d been living it up since taken there, by many a detour and at only a few months old, after King Cnut’s victory in 1016. He was at once recalled to England, to be declared the legitimate heir. But, alas, he died almost immediately upon arrival in 1057, leaving his young son Edgar to bear the title of Ætheling. If only Edgar had been that little bit older . . . but born ca 1051, he was barely adolescent when King Edward died. And what with the Scandinavian claim to the throne, aggravated by a very pissed-off exiled Earl Tostig, and with William across the Channel in Normandy making noises that the throne had been promised to him, England needed a man for its king. A strong man, proven in battle. Thus, King Edward and his witan named Harold as him.

And now, as promised, some definitions:

Bequeathed Lands


Granted in return for a sum of money, leasehold land could be freely held only for the agreed term—usually either the leaseholder’s lifetime, or for 3 generations. The land was then returned to its owner. However, in troubled times this might be overlooked, and frequently was. Leasehold land could not be alienated.


Though initially granted by the king as a foundation grant to a religious house—who then might grant it on—in later years kings granted book-land to favour their nobility. Book-land was freehold. The only condition attached was the three burdens of the king’s protection, and bridge and road building. More-on, the tributes and services due to the king were transferred along with the land, including judicial rights. Unlike Leasehold land, Book-land could be alienated, thus frequently found its way back to the monasteries.

Patrimony, or Family-land

There were no laws, yet, as regards the inheritance of family-land, though there were customs that differed between the countries.

Primogeniture, which later became the norm in England, required that the eldest surviving son inherit the family-land, entire. Where no sons survived, it was either divided between the daughters, or (infrequent in England), given entire to the eldest daughter who then would pass it to her eldest son.

In ‘parage’, a system not seen in England at this date, the entire kin-group held the land in common; thus none could be granted away (alienated) without the consent of the others.

With partible inheritance, the norm in England at this period, the family-land was divided (equally) between all surviving sons. As with primogeniture, in the absence of sons it was divided between the daughters.


Land the bride brought to her marriage, an allotment taken from her parents’ combined estate. Though it could comprise ‘acquired’ land, it was most often her own mother’s dower-land. A bit like mitochondrial DNA, the land passed from mother to daughter. The dower-land wasn’t given as an incentive to marry a daughter with few other attractions, but to ensure an income for the daughter should the husband run foul of the law or be killed in battle—these were troubled times! During the marriage the husband might manage his wife’s dower-land along with his own, and even account it as his. But it was not his to alienate without her consent. While a wife’s dower-land might be destined as dower-land for her own daughters. It was a wise woman who promised it, yet kept it in hand till the day she formally bequeathed it away.


Also called ‘morning-gift’ or ‘marriage-gift’, was land given by the husband to his bride on the morning after wedding. As with the dower-land, it remained his to manage and account during his lifetime. As with the dower, it was there to ensure an income when/if she was widowed. As with dower-land, the wife was free to give it where she willed. Often this was bequeathed to her sons; even if it comprised ‘acquired’ land yet, coming from the husband’s family, it had the essence of patrimony.

Acquired Land

People sold land. It might be no more than a few acres; just to raise enough funds to pay the taxes or to replace a worn-out plough or . . . the reasons are many. But there were times, too, when an entire manor was sold. As said, these were hazardous times when fortunes might suddenly turn on their head. It was also a time popular for pilgrimage, and that required money. Obviously, leasehold land could not be sold. And neither could dower and dowry, without the wife’s consent. Which means that most ‘acquired’ land was somebody’s family-land (patrimony), else book-land.

There were two other sources of ‘acquired’ land:

1: A lord might freely grant land to the men he held in commendation. Such ‘honoured’ men rose in status—thus giving an additional boost to their lord’s status, too. This was seen frequently with the king, who granted book-land to his favoured few. But it was something that cascaded down even to the small-holding free men.

2: Any man or woman might bequeath to his commended lord land which he had freely held–as it would seem Wulfgyth bequeathed Frinton to Earl Godwine and his son Earl Harold. Though it’s possible that Frinton was a single lifetime leasehold, due to return to the Godwine family.

Part 2: Ketel Alder follows shortly.

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