PASE: Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England

Domesday

[Image: Excerpt from the Domesday Book]
[Image: Durham Liber Vitae, folio 38r (extract)]

Esbern


Author: CPL
Editorial Status: unknown

Discussion of the name

The name Esbern was Scandinavian in origin, normalized in ON as Asbiorn and in ODan as Esbiorn. It became current in England chiefly in its Danish form: there are no spellings in As– in DB, and most instances outside DB are spelled Es–. The handful of exceptions are all from Yorkshire, where a Norwegian origin seems likely for the persons called Asbeorn and Asbearn (PASE: Asbeorn 1; Fellows Jensen 1968: 18). The Scandinavian name was formed from words meaning ‘a god’ (OIcel áss) and ‘a bear’ (OIcel bjorn).

In DB the final element of Esbern appears consistently as –bern, –berne, or (Latinized) –bernus; for that reason the name has been normalized here as Esbern. Spellings starting in S– are more common in DB than Es–, oddly inverting the usual Norman tendency to add an E– at the start of a name where it helped French-speakers to pronounce an awkward cluster of consonants (von Feilitzen 1937: 72 §51).

By the mid eleventh century at latest, the Anglicized form Esbern was distinct from the original Danish name. Danes from Denmark called Esbiorn who appear in English sources before 1100 had their names written as Osbearn or Osbeorn (PASE Osbeorn 2, Osbeorn 3, Osbern 1), assimilating the elements of the name with the OE elements ōs ‘a god’ and beorn ‘man, warrior’ (the latter used only as a first element in native English names).

The Scandinavian name was also adopted in Normandy, in the form Osbern, and was very widely used there, being probably the commonest of all the Norman names of Scandinavian origin (Adigard des Gautries 1954: 78–81, 253, 275–87). Several Normans called Osbern settled in England after Edward the Confessor’s return as king in 1041.

The Norman name Osbern and the Anglicized name Esbern were readily distinguishable in most contexts, but there is one exception which affects the identifications adopted here. The name Osbernus occurs three times in ExonDB, once explicitly for 1086 as Osbernus episcopus, that is Osbern fitzOsbern, bishop of Exeter (ExonDB 121v), and twice TRE as Osbernus (ExonDB 233v, 252). The scribe of GDB left the bishop’s name in its Exon form (Cornw. 5.1:3) but changed the other two to Sbern (Cornw. 5.2:10; 5.11:1). The second of those, however, can be confidently identified as the later Bishop Osbern (until 1072 a priest in the king’s household) (see Osbern 8), so that in this instance the GDB scribe’s correction of the name to Sbern for Esbern was a mistake. The other instance is here treated as an Esbern (following the DB form), but may have been another mistaken correction by the DB scribe, in reality referring to another Osbern or an OE Osbeorn.

Alecto renders the name Esbiorn; Phillimore variously as Osbern (Cornw. and Hants), Esbjorn (Lincs. and Yorks.), and Esbern (elsewhere). Von Feilitzen discusses it under the normalized ON form Ásbiorn. Esbern Bigga (Esbern 3) occurs frequently in the secondary literature, where he has sometimes been called Osbern (e.g. Brooks 1984).

Bibliography

Adigard des Gautries 1954: Jean Adigard des Gautries, Les noms de personnes scandinaves en Normandie de 911 à 1066, Nomina Germanica 11 (Lund: Carl Bloms, 1954)

Brooks 1984: Nicholas Brooks, The Early History of the Church of Canterbury: Christ Church from 597 to 1066 (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1984)

Fellow Jensen 1968: Gillian Fellows Jensen, Scandinavian Personal Names in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire (Copenhagen: I Kommission hos Akademisk Forlag, 1968)

Von Feilitzen 1937: Olof von Feilitzen, The Pre-Conquest Personal Names of Domesday Book, Nomina Germanica 3 (Uppsala: Almqvist and Wiksells, 1937)

Forms of the name

Spellings in Domesday Book: Esbern, Esber, Sbern, Sberne

Forms in modern scholarship:

  von Feilitzen head forms: Ásbiorn

  Phillimore edition: Osbern (Cornw. and Hants), Esbjorn (Lincs. and Yorks.), and Esbern (elsewhere)

  Alecto edition: Esbiorn

Distribution map of property and lordships associated with this name in DB

List of property and lordships associated with this name in DB

Holder 1066

Shire Phil. ref. Vill Holder 1066 DB Spelling Holder 1066 Lord 1066 Tenant-in-Chief 1086 1086 subtenant Fiscal value 1066 value 1086 value Holder 1066 ID conf. Show on map
Cheshire FD8,2 Soughton Sberne Esbern 'of Soughton' - Hugh, earl Ralph the huntsman 1.00 0.25 0.25 A Map
Cornwall 5,2,10 Lanhadron Sbern Esbern 'of Lanhadron' - Robert, count of Mortain Reynold de Vautortes 0.25 0.50 0.25 A Map
Derbyshire 17,9 Calow Sberne Esbern 'of Calow' - Stenulf 'of Sutton Scarsdale' - 0.50 0.75 0.50 A Map
Essex 47,3 Fordham Esbernus Esbern Bigga - Hugh de Gournai Geoffrey Talbot 2.00 7.00 7.00 B Map
Hampshire 69,6 Preston Candover Sberne Esbern Bigga Eadgyth, queen Cypping, king's thegn - 2.25 3.60 2.25 D Map
Hampshire 69,6 Preston Candover Sberne Esbern Bigga Eadgyth, queen Cypping, king's thegn Earnwulf 'of Preston Candover' 0.25 0.40 0.25 D Map
Kent D17 Esber Esbern Bigga - - - 0.00 0.00 0.00 A Map
Kent D25 Sutton and Aylesford lathes Esbern Esbern of Chelsfield - - - 0.00 0.00 0.00 - Map
Kent C5 Canterbury Sbern Esbern Bigga - William, king Odo, bishop of Bayeux 0.00 0.56 0.56 A Map
Kent 5,37 Keston Sberne Esbern Bigga Edward, king Odo, bishop of Bayeux Gilbert, bishop of Lisieux 1.00 3.00 2.00 A Map
Kent 5,42 Ditton Sbern Esbern Bigga Edward, king Odo, bishop of Bayeux Hamon the sheriff 2.00 8.00 8.00 B Map
Kent 5,57 Birling Sbern Esbern Bigga Edward, king Odo, bishop of Bayeux Ralph de Courbépine 12.00 12.00 12.00 A Map
Kent 5,86 Thurnham Sbern Esbern Bigga Edward, king Odo, bishop of Bayeux Ralph de Courbépine 6.00 10.00 12.00 A Map
Kent 5,87 Fairbourne Sbern Esbern Bigga Edward, king Odo, bishop of Bayeux Ralph de Courbépine 2.00 1.50 1.50 A Map
Kent 5,168 Pivington Sbern Esbern Bigga Edward, king Odo, bishop of Bayeux Ralph de Courbépine 2.00 8.00 6.00 A Map
Kent 9,16 Postling Sbern Esbern Bigga - Hugh de Montfort Roger de Candos 5.00 10.00 14.00 A Map
Leicestershire 14,23 Swepstone Sbern Esbern 'of Oadby' - Henry de Ferrers Nigel 'of Stafford' 2.00 0.01 0.40 B Map
Lincolnshire 3,16 Covenham St Mary Esbern Esbern 'of Covenham St Mary' - William de Saint-Calais, bishop of Durham unnamed monks of Saint-Calais 2.50 3.00 4.00 E Map
Lincolnshire 3,17 Skidbrooke Esbern 'of Covenham St Mary' - William de Saint-Calais, bishop of Durham unnamed monks of Saint-Calais 0.88 0.00 0.00 E Map
Lincolnshire 12,17 Swallow Sbern Esbern 'of Swallow' - Alan, count Picot of Lascelles 1.50 1.00 3.00 E Map
Lincolnshire 12,19 Fulstow Sbern Esbern 'of Swallow' - Alan, count Picot of Lascelles 1.13 1.00 2.00 E Map
Lincolnshire 14,3 Holton le Clay Esbern Esbern 'of Elkington' - Ivo Taillebois Hermer 'of Holton le Clay' 1.00 2.00 2.00 E Map
Lincolnshire 14,84 Elkington Esbern Esbern 'of Elkington' - Ivo Taillebois Geoffrey 'the man of Ivo Taillebois' 4.00 3.00 6.00 E Map
Lincolnshire 14,86 Sloothby Esbern 'of Elkington' - Ivo Taillebois - 0.88 0.00 0.00 E Map
Lincolnshire 22,33 Fotherby Sberne Esbern 'of Fotherby' - William de Percy Fulk fitzRainfrid 0.50 0.50 0.15 E Map
Lincolnshire 26,3 Faldingworth Sberne Esbern 'of Faldingworth' - Colswein 'of Lincoln' - 0.50 0.50 0.27 C Map
Lincolnshire 26,10 Cammeringham Sbern Esbern 'of Faldingworth' - Colswein 'of Lincoln' - 1.13 0.75 1.00 C Map
Lincolnshire 47,1 Willoughton Sberne Esbern 'of WIlloughton' - Waldin the engineer - 0.25 0.36 0.31 D Map
Lincolnshire 48,2 Scawby Sbern Esbern 'of Scawby' - Odo the crossbowman - 1.19 0.75 0.63 C Map
Lincolnshire 48,3 Redbourne Sbern Esbern 'of Scawby' - Odo the crossbowman - 0.16 0.00 0.00 C Map
Lincolnshire 57,5 Normanby Sbern Esbern 'of Normanby' - Guy de Craon Alfred de Chancé 0.44 0.50 0.38 C Map
Nottinghamshire 21,1 East Stoke Sbern Esbern Croc - Berenger de Tosny Ralph 'the man of Berenger de Tosny' 0.31 0.60 0.50 A Map
Nottinghamshire 21,2 Syerston Sbern Esbern Croc - Berenger de Tosny Godwine 'of Syerston' 0.31 1.50 1.00 A Map
Nottinghamshire 30,35 Willoughby-on-the-Wolds Sbern Esbern 'of Willoughby-on-the-Wolds' - Alwine 'of Willoughby-on-the-Wolds' - 0.19 0.26 0.10 A Map
Surrey 5,22 Fetcham Biga Esbern Bigga Edward, king Odo, bishop of Bayeux Richard fitzGilbert 8.50 3.00 3.00 C Map
Surrey 18,1 Woking Esbern Bigga Edward, king Roger, earl - 1.00 1.00 0.75 D Map
Sussex 11,36 Compton Sbern Esbern Bigga Godwine, earl Roger, earl Geoffrey the sheriff 10.00 8.00 8.00 D Map
Warwickshire 4,2 Atherstone-on-Stour Sberne Esbern Bigga - Odo, bishop of Bayeux Corbin 4.00 4.00 4.00 E Map
Yorkshire 1N71 Little Barugh Esbern Esbern 'of Little Barugh' - William, king - 1.50 0.00 0.00 A Map
Total               80.12 97.29 104.05  

Lord 1066

Shire Phil. ref. Vill Lord 1066 DB Spelling Holder 1066 Lord 1066 Tenant-in-Chief 1086 1086 subtenant Fiscal value 1066 value 1086 value Lord 1066 ID conf. Show on map
Kent 7,6 Garrington Sbern Eadric of Elham Esbern Bigga Scotland, abbot of St Augustine's Canterbury Ralph de Saint-Wandrille 1.47 4.00 4.00 A Map
Lincolnshire 3,18 Grainthorpe Esbern - Esbern William de Saint-Calais, bishop of Durham - 0.56 0.00 0.00 E Map
Lincolnshire 3,19 Little Grimsby Esbern - Esbern William de Saint-Calais, bishop of Durham - 0.25 0.00 0.00 E Map
Lincolnshire 14,85 Little Grimsby Esbern - Esbern Ivo Taillebois - 1.50 0.00 0.00 E Map
Total               3.78 4.00 4.00  

People of this name

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