PASE: Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England


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

Brun 17 Brun ‘of Newton’ (Herefs.), fl. 1066

Author: CPL
Editorial Status: 4 of 5

  Discussion of the name  


Brun 17 was a small landowner in north Herefordshire with a single manor of ½ hide worth 10s.

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

List of property and lordships associated with this name in DB


The identification of Brun 17 is problematic. The name is given in DB as Bruns (with the last letter the long –s usual at the end of a word), which has been explained as ‘possibly’ the name Brun with the addition of –s representing an Anglo-Norman nominative case-ending which was ‘apparently’ added to other names in a handful of DB instances (von Feilitzen 1937: 129 § 158, 210). Anglo-Norman influence now seems less probable an influence on the form of names in DB than it did in von Feilitzen’s time; more likely we are dealing with a scribal error in copying Brunus as Bruns rather than employing the usual contraction mark for –us. The scribe of the Herefordshire Domesday in the 1160s clearly thought that the name Brun was intended, since he copied DB’s Bruns as Brunus (HDB 54).

Resolving that difficulty takes us only so far. In DB there were two estates each of ½ hide at Newton, on the main road running up the Lugg valley from Hereford to Leominster. One was attached to the queen’s great manor of Leominster (Herefs. 1:25), one not. The first was held TRE by Bruning, the second by Bruns. Both belonged in 1086 to William d’Ecouis and were in the hands of the same subtenant, Bernard. The two entries can hardly be recording the same piece of land: the details other than hidage and 1086 tenure were different, and several of the other ‘lands which lay in Leominster’ (like Bruning’s part of Newton) were at places where there was a second holding not attached to the queen’s manor, none of which shows the least sign of being a duplicate entry (Butterley: Herefs. 1:13 and 10:70; Dilwyn: Herefs. 1:26, 1:32, and 14:8–9; Broadward 1:28 and 14:3; Yarpole: Herefs. 1:36 and 12:1).

But were there really two landowners at Newton called Bruning and Brun? It is certainly possible, and if there were, then they were surely close kinsmen. A second possibility is that they were the same person, and that Bruns was some rare variant form of Bruning, or Bruning a diminutive of Brun. A third possibility is the two estates were held by the same person and that one of the DB forms of his name was a mistake. The two entries came from different sources, Bruning in the Leominster manor reaching DB from the separate return of royal estates, Bruns in the independent manor arriving via the normal procedures of the survey. That certainly leaves room for one of the two to be an error which would not have been spotted and corrected during the elaborate cross-checking of information which clearly took place as part of the Domesday survey.

It is difficult to see how any written form of Bruning could be misread as Bruns or Brunus: even if the minims were confused, a final –g would surely never look like a final –s. Only marginally less unlikely is a misreading of Brunus as Bruning, with the curved superscript contraction mark for –us after Brun– wrongly taken to be the upper part of a –g, and the minims badly confused.

There is no way to resolve these difficulties, and the only practicable way of making an identification is to respect what the scribe of GDB wrote, and identify Bruns as Brun 17, distinct from Bruning as Bruning.


HDB = Herefordshire Domesday, circa 1160–1170, reproduced by collotype from facsimile photographs of Balliol College Manuscript 350, ed. V. H. Galbraith and James Tait, Pipe Roll Society new series 25 (1950)

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