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EAST HADDON HISTORY SOCIETY Northamptonshire, England


The Very Earl Years - East Haddon in pre-Domeday times

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This paper looks at the very early history of East Haddon, up to and including the Domesday Book, covering the peoples in the village and its immediate surroundings.  Much of what appears here is speculation, but it is based on the available archaeological evidence and the works of literary historians specialising in the history of Northamptonshire and the area around East Haddon.

Romans, Anglo-Saxons

The Romans came to Britain around the start of the Christian era, but it was primarily a military conquest.  In the four hundred or so years of Roman occupation there was no great movement of peoples into Britain, and only a few wealthy people came and lived amongst the native British inhabitants.   There were quite a lot of soldiers, and many must have intermarried with the locals and raised families, but there was no large-scale migration of peoples.  The main things left behind after the Roman occupation were the Roman roads, used mainly for the movement of troops around the country.  Of course in Northamptonshire we had our share of Roman roads – Watling Street, through Daventry and north-west from there – but no Roman settlements apart from the odd villa.   There was a villa near Daventry (built, it appears, on a pre-Roman site), and also some Roman foundations at Burnt Walls, near Daventry.  Nearer to home there is a field in West Haddon, called Ostar Hill, containing an urn of Roman coins and the graves of several Roman officers, reputed to be the staff of one Publius Ostorius, who, according to Tacitus, died in Britain, probably at Daventry.   

But when the Romans left, in the fifth century, almost all traces of Roman occupation went too.   This was the era of the Anglo-Saxon ‘invasion’ of Britain – I put ‘invasion’ in inverted commas, because it was not so much a military conquest as a movement of peoples into the land.  Two main bodies of peoples moved into Northamptonshire – the West Saxons moving north from the Thames valley, and the Middle Angles moving west from East Anglia.   For the best part of 300 years, these peoples slowly moved into the area of Northamptonshire, setting up homes and building villages.   Experts on burial customs and dialects identify which areas were predominantly Saxon, and which were Anglian: this is further complicated by Christian influences moving south from Peterborough and north from the Thames valley.  

Some valuable brooches were found buried in Holdenby, but it is unclear whether they were pre-Christian or not.   The contents of a burial urn found at Holdenby suggest an Anglian tribe, as opposed to a Saxon one – in general, the Saxon tribes buried their dead, and the Anglians did more cremation.   The experts on dialect also note the division between the south of the county with its West Saxon influences, and the centre and north with more Anglian influences.   The best conclusion is that in our own area there was considerable mingling.   It should be noted that the different tribes were not fighting, but simply looking for somewhere to settle.

By the sixth century the Anglo-Saxon peoples had merged into a single society – the English – divided up into seven small ‘kingdoms’ called the ‘Heptarchy’.   Northamptonshire was part of Mercia, one of these kingdoms: the best-known ruler of Mercia was Offa, of Offa’s dyke fame, who is considered the first king of England.   From Alfred the Great – the end of the ninth century – there appeared a comprehensive English system of administration and taxation.

The Danes

In the final years of the ninth century a new problem appeared – the Danes attacked from the Continent and started to occupy, first East Anglia and then on into central England.   The English kings formed armies to fight these invading forces, sometimes with, sometimes without, success.   The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recounts how in 917 and again in 918 and 921 King Edward the Elder marched out of Northampton with an army to fight (and kill) many Danes.   However, the Chronicle reports that in 1010 the Danish army came to Northampton and burned the town, and much of the east and south of England were subject to the Danes, and before the Norman Conquest most of Northamptonshire had absorbed the Danish invaders and they were integrated into the local society.  In fact between 1014 and 1042 the kings of England were Danish (including Canute or Knut).   According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a large force of “northern men” (presumably Danes) under one Monkere (or Morcar) marched south from Leicester to Northampton in 1065, creating massive destruction.   And Eadwine, the brother of Edward, the English king, marched through this part of the county (including Althorp and Brington) with his soldiers to assist the king.   One has to assume that these destroying armies passed through or close to East Haddon.   We shall see the effects of this destruction later.

Place names

While we are talking about the Danes and the Anglo-Saxons, it is time to make a small digression into the origin of the names of the villages in the area.   If nothing else, this brings into focus the integration of the two peoples.

The name of East Haddon, as it appears in the Domesday Book varies between Eddone and Hadone,   ‘Edd’ is probably a Saxon personal name (possibly the first person to settle in the area): ‘dune’ is an Old English word for a hill, and ‘had’ an Old English word for the summit of a hill.   Clearly an Anglo-Saxon settlement.   But Ravensthorpe in the Domesday Book is Ravenstorp, made up of ‘thorp’, ‘a village’, and Hrafni, definitely a Scandinavian personal name.   This leads on to difficult problem: ‘thorp’ is also an Old English word for a village, so what about Althorp ?   The problem of distinguishing between the English and Scandinavian versions of ‘thorp’ is usually solved by looking at the later occurrences of the name: in Middle English the word in usually spelled ‘throp’, and Althorp occurs as Oltrop in 1208, as Aldrop in 1320 and Althrop in 1558 and 1662.   Even now, there is frequent debate whether the place should be pronounced Althorp or Althrop !   And to finally settle the question of whether the name has Scandinavian or Anglo-Saxon origins, the village is called Olletrop in the Domesday Book, and Olla is an Old English personal name, a familiar form of Oslaf.

While we are on the question of personal names, it is worth mentioning the Old English names Dafa (Daventry), Heoruwulf (Harlestone), and the Old Scandinavian names Bukkr (Buckby), and Halfdan (Holdenby).   It would be simplistic to think that East Haddon was on the dividing line between Danish influence to the north and east (as in Sibbertoft, Nortoft and Yelvertoft) and Saxon influence to the south and west (as in Brington, Brampton and Hardingstone), but at least it indicates the almost complete integration of the two cultural influences.

By the way, ‘Mere Stich’ is an ancient field name in East Haddon.   It is formed from ‘(ge)mære’ (the Old English for ‘watercourse’) and ‘sic’, (an Old Norse word indicating water).

[An interesting digression. When I first came to Northampton, I was told that some people still refer to Rotherthorpe as Thrupp.   And in the past it was sometimes referred to in documents as Thrupp (ie the Old English spelling).    But Rether is an Old Danish personal name.    Intriguing! ]


The Norman invasion

The Normans invaded Britain in 1066, as everyone knows.   But the effects of this invasion were restricted to replacing the English king, Harold, with a Norman king, William the Conqueror, and placing Norman aristocracy in charge of the English countryside, with little or no changes to society.   In fact the English system of taxation   – the geld, set up earlier to pay monies to the earlier Danish overlords (and often referred to as the “danegeld”) – continued to be levied by the Normans with little change.   In fact there exist ‘geld rolls’ for the assessment and collection of the geld tax in 1076, 1084, 1096 and several on into the twelfth century.   The most important (from our viewpoint) was created by the monks of Peterborough, (dated from before 1075, since it refers to the old English king’s wife, who died in that year), and it listed all of the lands in Northamptonshire, and indicated how much tax was levied – this is known as the Northamptonshire Geld Roll.   A great deal of the land in this part of the county was listed as ‘waste’.   This was almost certainly the land laid waste by the armies of Morcar (see above).

The main purpose of the Domesday Book, written for the invading Norman king, was to assess the amount of tax due to the king from his new territories.   A value was put on the land for tax purposes, and the Domesday Book also recorded the value in 1066 at the time of the Norman Conquest (it is unclear where this earlier valuation came from – but it was almost certainly an earlier tax assessment, and the Northamptonshire Geld Roll was created in the early 1070s).    There are several references to East Haddon in the Domesday Book.   The value of the land had increased between 2 and 5 times since this earlier valuation (as had the value of the land at Althorp), again reinforcing the view that Morcar’s army had ravaged the area earlier.

The Norman aristocrat who took over ownership of the land around East Haddon was the Count of Mortain.   In fact the Count of Mortain held 99 manors in Northamptonshire, well over half of the total.   The next largest landowner was William Peverel with 26 manors.    The Count of Mortain was a brother to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux (who commissioned the Bayeux tapestry), and half-brother to William the Conqueror.   William Peverel was reputed to be the illegitimate son of William himself and an Anglo-Saxon serving girl, adopted by William.   After the Conquest he was given land in Brington and Althorp and large estates in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.  [Brington, Althorp and Harlestone were owned before the Conquest by Gytha, Countess of Hereford, the wife of Ralph, the nephew of Edward the Confessor.   After the Conquest William broke up the large estates owned by the English aristocracy, and distributed them to his Norman colleagues].   Most of the land was leased out to tenants, although some of it is classed as ‘in demesne’, which means it was still attached to the manor house, even though the count clearly was not in residence all of the time.

The Domesday Book references to East Haddon are as follows:

In the manor of the Count of Mortain in Nobottle Hundred:

In EAST HADDON the count holds 2 1/2 hides.  Of these, 1 is in demesne.

There is land for 5 ploughs.  In demesne there are 3 ploughs, and 9 slaves; and

7 villans, with a priest and 7 bordars, have 2 ploughs.  There is a mill

rendering 10s., and 8 acres of meadow, and 10 acres of scrubland.  It was

worth 40s.; now £4.

RALPH holds half a hide in EAST HADDON.  There is land for

1 plough.  2 villans and 4 bordars have this [plough] there.  It was worth

12d.; now 5s.

In EAST HADDON Alric holds 1½ hides of the Count.  There is land for 3 ploughs.  In demesne is 1 [plough], and 5 slaves; and 4 villans and 7 bordars with 2 ploughs.  There are 6 acres of meadow, and 4 acres of scrubland.  It was worth 20s; now 40s.  

So, there was a priest in East Haddon: although there would not be a church here for another 100 years.   [In some places (like Brixworth and Earls Barton) there was a church in Saxon times, but in places where there was no church Christian teaching for the community was provided by what is known as ‘minster’ priests].

The Domesday Book lists several categories of tenants  –  sokemen, freemen, villans, bordars, cottars and slaves: the distinction was based on their legal status and their economic conditions.   Sokemen were the most senior and responsible of the tenants in the village, followed by freemen.    There were no sokemen, or cottars in East Haddon (although there were sokemen in West Haddon and Holdenby).    There was Alric (a freeman?),  and 13 villens, 18 bordars and 14 slaves, which together with the priest made up a working population of 47 people.   The convention is to calculate total population as between 4 and 5 persons to each worker, making a total population of the village at around 220.     

In some villages although not in this locality, there were people called ‘cottars’, who seemed to be the same as bordars, and who probably lived in cottages, as opposed to houses. There was little difference in working conditions between villans and bordars, although bordars were probably the under-tenants of villans.   And there was little to choose between the status of bordars and slaves – both were, in fact, the equivalent of what became in later years farm labourers living in tied cottages.  

East Haddon held the soke of parts Holdenby and Brington, which meant that the lord of East Haddon (ie Count of Mortain) held legal authority over the people there, with the right to collect fines and other dues.  Although East Haddon held the soke of Holdenby, there were sokemen living in Holdenby itself.   And there were freemen living in Althorp.


The Swedish author O von Feilitzen in his book ‘The pre-Conquest Personal Names of Domesday Book’ lists all the people named in the Domesday Book as either TRE (‘tempore regius Edwardi ‘– ‘from the time of Edward’ (The Confessor))  or TRW (‘tempore regius Willelmi‘– ‘from the time of William’), thus identifying them as pre- or post-Conquest.   He lists Tosti and Snotorman from Althorp, Siward from Holdenby, Eadmer and Northmann from Ravensthorpe, Aelfric from Brington, Thorbiorn from Long Buckby, and Alric in East Haddon and Long Buckby as TRE, original pre-Conquest freemen, who owned the land before the Count of Mortain.     Ralph (in Holdenby and East Haddon), Humfrey (in Althorp), William (in Brington), Alvred and Gunfrith (in Long Buckby) and Drogo and Gilbert the Cook (in Ravensthorpe) were TRW, all arriving with the count.   But the count retained Alric in place in East Haddon.

A great deal of literary work has been done on the contents of the Domesday Book to identify the amount of land (hides, virgates, carucates and plough teams), the type of crops, the difference between meadow, woodland, spinney and scrubland, and other people living on the land (eg there was a knight in Althorp, and, as we saw above, a mill in East Haddon).   And the Domesday Book was the first of a number of records produced on village life.  

       Paul Marshall

      December 2009


The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles - Robertson

The Victoria County History of Northamptonshire - various

The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire – Bridges

The History and Antiquities of the County of Northampton – Baker

The Domesday Book (900th anniversary publication by Alecto publications)

  this contains various studies by various authors

The Hidation of Northamptonshire – Hart

The Placenames of Northamptonshire – Grover, Mawer and Stenton

The pre-Conquest Personal Names of Domesday Book - O von Feilitzen


Domesday Book entries for East Haddon and the villages in the neighbourhood:

Folio 222v



In WEST HADDON the abbey holds 2 hides.  There is land for

4 ploughs.  There are 4 villans, with 2 bordars and 4 sokemen;

they have 4 ploughs.  It was worth 20s.  1 of these hides renders soke

in Winwick.

Folio 223



In EAST HADDON the count holds 2 1/2 hides.  Of these, 1 is in demesne.

There is land for 5 ploughs.  In demesne there are 3 ploughs, and 9 slaves; and

7 villans, with a priest and 7 bordars, have 2 ploughs.  There is a mill

rendering 10s., and 8 acres of meadow, and 10 acres of scrubland.  It was

worth 40s.; now £4.

In RAVENSTHORPE the count holds half a hide.  There is land for

2 ploughs.  There is 1 villan, with 2 bordars.  It was and is worth 5s.

Eadmer held both these estates freely.


The same man [Humphrey ?] holds 2 parts of 1 hide in ALTHORP.  There is land for 2 ploughs.  In demesne he has 1 [plough], with 3 slaves; and 1 knight has

Another with 3 bordars.  There are 8 acres of meadow and 2 acres of

spinney.  It was worth 5s.; now 20s.  Tosti and Snotormann held it freely.  

Folio 223v       IN NOBOTTLE HUNDRED

The same man [William ?] holds half a hide in [Great or Little] BRINGTON.  There is land for 3 ploughs.  In demesne is 1 [plough], and 2 slaves; and 3 villans

And 3 bordars with 2 ploughs.  It was worth 5s.; now 20s.  Aelfric held

freely 1 virgate of this land   The soke of the other virgate belongs to

EAST HADDON, the count’s manor.

Folio 224

The same Alvred holds a virgate of land in LONG BUCKBY.   There is land for 1½ ploughs, and as many [ploughs] are there with 6 villans and 2 bordars.  There are 4 acres of meadow.  It was and is worth 30s.  Thorbiorn and Alric held it freely.

Ralph holds 2 hides and 1 virgate of land in HOLDENBY.  The soke

belongs to EAST HADDON.  There is land for 8 ploughs.  In demesne are

2 [ploughs], and 4 slaves; and 1 villan and 9 sokemen with 2 ploughs.

There are 3 acres of meadow, and 3 acres of woodland.  It was worth

20s.; now 40s.  Siward with 9 sokemen held it freely.

Ralph holds half a hide in EAST HADDON.  There is land for

1 plough.  2 villans and 4 bordars have this [plough] there.  It was worth

12d.; now 5s.  

In EAST HADDON Alric holds 1½ hides of the count.  There is land for 3 ploughs.  In demesne is 1 [plough], and 5 slaves; and 4 villans and 7 bordars with 2 ploughs.  There are 6 acres of scrubland and 4 acres of scrubland. It was worth 20s; now 40s.

Folio 225v


In ALTHORP the same William holds the third part of 1 hide and half a virgate.  The soke belongs to NOBOTTLE.  There is land for 1 plough.  3 sokemen have this [plough] there.

In [Great or Little] BRINGTON the same William has 1½ hides.  6 sokemen, with a priest who holds half a hide of the same land, have these [ploughs] there.

Folio 226       IN ROTHWELL HUNDRED  

Drogo holds 1 hide and 1 virgate of land in RAVENSTHORPE.  There is land for 3 ploughs.  3 sokemen and 3 villans and 5 bordars have these [ploughs] there.  There are 3 acres of meadow.  It was worth 10s; now 20s.

In WEST HADDON are 1½ virgates of land.  There is land for 1 plough.

Folio 227v



The same man (Gunfrid) holds 2 hides and 1 virgate of land and half a hide of sokeland [?LONG BUCKBY?].  There is land for 5½ ploughs.  In demesne are 3 ploughs, and 7 slaves; and 13 villans and 5 bordars and 5 sokemen have 2½ ploughs. There are 8 acres of meadow.  It was and is worth £4.

The same man holds I virgate of land in WEST HADDON.  There is land for half a plough, and this [half-plough] is there, with 1 slave.  It is worth 4s.

Folio 229



The same man holds 1 virgate of land in RAVENSTHORPE.  There is land for half a plough.  1 villan and 1 bordar have this [half-plough].  It was worth 3s; now 5s.  Northmann held it.