The name which DB spells Essocher defeated von Feilitzen (1937: 248), who marked it down as ‘obscure’, but in fact it probably represents the masculine Old England name Æschere, formed from the elements æsc (‘ash; spear, lance; ship’) and here (‘army’). That name occurs twice in DB in the regular form Ascere, for townsmen of Colchester and Ipswich alive in 1086. Elsewhere in DB, Æsc– appears spelled Ess– in the personal name Essul (Æscwulf), and in some place-names; –cher commonly represents the final element –here when preceded by an –h–; and one of the scribes involved in the various recensions of the Domesday materials inserted an unnecessary –o– at the same point in a similar name, spelling Æscræd as Ascored. These parallels do not constitute absolute proof that Essocher stood for Æschere, though no better explanation presents itself.
If the Normans did garble this name in Sussex, they showed themselves magnificently unaware of a name which, although uncommon in current use, may well have resonated with every member of elite Anglo-Saxon society: a fictional Æschere was an important figure in Beowulf, King Hrothgar’s best-loved follower, slain by Grendel’s mother in revenge for the loss of her son and a paradigm of thegnliness who was remembered by the grieving king as ‘everything the world admires in a wise man and a friend’ (Beowulf, lines 1231–44, 1417–21, 2120–8).
Beowulf: An Edition with shorter relevant texts, ed. Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1998)
Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney (London: Faber and Faber, 1999)
von Feilitzen 1937: Olof von Feilitzen, The Pre-Conquest Personal Names of Domesday Book, Nomina Germanica 3 (Uppsala: Almqvist and Wiksells, 1937)
Spellings in Domesday Book: Æschere, Essocher
Spellings in Exon:
Forms in modern scholarship:
von Feilitzen head forms: Essocher
Phillimore edition: Essocher (TRE); Aeschere (1086)
Alecto edition: Essocher (TRE); Æschere (1086)