PASE: Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England


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

Brun 19 Brun Reeve of Ipswich (fl. 1066)

Author: CPL
Editorial Status: 4 of 5

  Discussion of the name  


Brun 19 was the reeve of Ipswich, perhaps the sixth largest provincial town in England in the later eleventh century. As such he was particularly associated with Queen Eadgyth and her brother Earl Gyrth, who shared the lordship of Ipswich. Brun had small rural holdings in three villages scattered up the Gipping valley within 10 miles of Ipswich, amounting to less than 1 carucate valued at 25s., and was the commended lord of a handful of small free men in the same area. DB implies that he still held the smallest of his three estates in 1086, as a tenant of Roger Bigod’s man Warenger, but that statement is not altogether credible.

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

List of property and lordships associated with this name in DB


Five parcels of land and three commended lordships all ascribed to Brun and within a 10-mile radius of Ipswich might seem on the face of it to represent a single landowner. The balance of probability is tipped in favour of three identifications by the circumstances of pre-Conquest commendation, post-Conquest succession, and geography.

What serves to identify Brun 19, and to distinguish him from Brun 20 and Brun 21, was his commendation to Queen Eadgyth, succession by Roger Bigod, and tenure of estates in the Gipping valley upstream from Ipswich, where he was reeve of the borough. In Roger Bigod’s fief, the first entry concerning Brun’s lands, Baylham (Suff. 7:63), calls him reeve of Ipswich and says that he was commended to the queen; in the next entry, Stonham (Suff. 7:64), he is called ‘the same Brun’; the next two, Baylham again and Langhedena (Suff. 7:65–6), refer to him as the antecessor of Roger Bigod. The two identified places in question were in Bosmere hundred and about 5 miles apart along the Gipping and one of its tributaries, north-west of Ipswich. Langhedena was in the same hundred; although unidentified, the place-name was clearly formed from OE lang ‘long’ and denu ‘main valley’ (PN Elements, I, 130; II, 15–16; Gelling and Cole 2000: 113–22), and in the context of Bosmere hundred it must surely have been named from the Gipping valley and not one of its minor affluents. It was not a large place, amounting to 1 carucate (actually ½ fiscal acre short), with 1½ ploughteams and 4½ acres of meadow; one of the holdings also had a small stake in a watermill (Suff. 1:68; 7:66; 8:62, 64; 29:10; 38:9). Further topographical research might show where it fitted in along the valley.

One other holding in this quarter can be ascribed to the same Brun with almost equal confidence, since it was land at Bramford, abutting Ipswich on the north-west side and only 4 miles from Baylham. Here, Brun was described as ‘a commended free man’ (liber homo commendatus), without naming his lord; the entry also explains that this piece of land ‘was added [to the principal manor at Bramford] in the time of Bishop Herfast’, that is, between 1070 and 1084, which explains why it did not pass with Brun’s other holdings near by to Roger Bigod.

Brun’s group of holdings in Bosmere hundred amounted to only 107 fiscal acres worth something over 25s. (no value is given for his 17 acres at Baylham), and he was the commended lord of seven free men who between them had 30 acres. But these rural holdings were only a minor adjunct to Brun’s position as reeve of Ipswich. Ipswich was perhaps the seventh largest town in England in the later eleventh century, its 538 burgesses in 1066 indicating a population in the order of 2,000–2,500 (cf. Brodt 2000: 643); its revenues were divided, two thirds to Queen Eadgyth (representing the king’s share of the borough), one third to the local earl, her brother Gyrth. Both the queen and the earl had what DB calls a ‘grange (grangia)’ in 1066 (Suff. 122a–g; 3:55). Over all this, Brun, commended to the queen, was reeve, an immensely responsible position which would have required deep financial reserves of his own. Brun 19, then, was a figure of the greatest consequence in a major provincial town.

The reference to him at Baylham (Suff. 7:63) is couched in the present tense: ‘Warengar holds (tenet) from Roger Bigod 1 free man, Brun by name, the reeve of Ipswich, and commended to the queen, and he has (habet) 17 acres’. Brun’s commendation to the queen was undoubtedly in the past in 1086, and the implication that he was still reeve of Ipswich and held the property from Warengar in 1086 may be just a slip. On the other hand, this holding was on the fief of Roger Bigod, who also had custody of the (now royal) borough of Ipswich in 1086 (Suff. 1:122a–g). It is plausible that the pre-Conquest reeve of Ipswich continued in office under new masters after 1066, but it is not proven.


Bärbel Brodt, ‘East Anglia’, in The Cambridge Urban History of Britain, I: 600–1540, ed. D. M. Palliser (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 639–56

Margaret Gelling and Ann Cole, The Landscape of Place-Names (Stamford: Shaun Tyas, 2000)

A. H. Smith, English Place-Name Elements, 2 vols, English-Place-Name Society 25–6 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956)

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