PASE: Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England


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

Styrcar 10 Styrcar housecarl of King Edward, fl. 1066

Author: CPL
Editorial Status: 4 of 5

Discussion of the name



Styrcar 10 was a housecarl of King Edward whose six manors, scattered across 100 miles of southern England, were assessed at the equivalent of almost 24 hides and worth over £20.

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
Bedfordshire 1,1b Leighton Buzzard Starcherus Styrcar, housecarl of King Edward Edward, king William, king - 7.00 4.15 4.15 B Map
Essex 41,9 Bensted Stercher Styrcar, housecarl of King Edward - Robert fitzCorbucion Nigel 'the man of Robert fitzCorbucion' 3.50 2.00 2.50 D Map
Essex 41,12 Tolleshunt Major Sercar Styrcar, housecarl of King Edward - Robert fitzCorbucion Mauger 'of Tolleshunt' 1.00 4.00 2.00 D Map
Norfolk 49,7 Saxlingham Stergar Styrcar, housecarl of King Edward Edward, king John nephew of Waleran - 0.25 1.00 0.65 A Map
Suffolk 40,2 Somerton Starker Styrcar, housecarl of King Edward Edward, king Robert fitzCorbucion Roger 'of Somerton' 1.00 1.50 2.00 D Map
Surrey 19,10 Tooting Bec Estarcher Styrcar, housecarl of King Edward Edward, king Richard fitzGilbert Anselm, abbot of Bec 11.00 5.00 5.00 E Map
Total               23.75 17.65 16.30  



The purely onomastic reasons for identifying the six different DB spellings listed here with a single name of Scandinavian origin are discussed under the name Styrcar. They are reinforced by other considerations, not least the relatively restricted geographical distribution.

Three of the manors concerned passed to the same minor Norman tenant-in-chief, Robert fitzCorbucion, the two in Essex being only some 10 miles apart, either side of the small borough of Maldon. The third was about 30 miles away in the Stour basin in south-west Suffolk. Robert fitzCorbucion’s fief did not have a pre-Conquest antecessorial basis, but the distribution of estates in East Anglia and Essex is as yet not fully understood. Very probably these three manors all belonged to the same Styrcar.

He had held his Suffolk manor of Somerton ‘under the glorious King Edward’ (sub glorioso rege .E.), with a preposition suggesting dependent tenure. It is not clear what we should make of the fact that DB fails to name the TRE holder of the other principal estate in the vill, saying only that King William gave it to Bury St Edmunds abbey with the soke and commendation and all customary dues (Suff. 14:28). It might be right to infer that it had come directly to William because it, too, had been held ‘under’ King Edward. At any rate, Styrcar’s tenure here might be taken to imply some special relationship with the king.

That thought encourages the idea that Styrcar of Essex and Suffolk was identical with the similarly named king’s housecarl at Saxlingham (Norf.) and king’s thegn at Leighton Buzzard (Beds.), despite the fact that they passed to Normans other than fitzCorbucion. At Saxlingham the housecarl had only 30 acres in a vill of 6¾ carucates, one of eighteen distinct TRE holdings, and not among the largest. In 1086 it was in the hands of John nephew of Waleran, along with the church. It is surprising to find a church associated with so small a post-Conquest manor, and perhaps the explanation is that it had been belonged to Styrcar TRE. John had other property in the vill as a tenant of St Benet’s of Holme (Norf. 17:18), which had certainly come first to his uncle Waleran fitzRanulph (d. 1066 × 1076) by means on which DB elaborates. 1½ carucates at Saxlingham had belonged one Eadric, a man of Archbishop Stigand (Stigand 1). Eadric had been captured by Waleran, presumably during some military engagement in or soon after 1066. To redeem himself, Eadric had pledged the manor to St Benet’s for 1 gold mark and £7 in silver, evidently the price of his ransom and release. Eadric had evidently never come back into possession of the land, and instead we find Waleran’s nephew John installed as the abbey’s tenant in 1086 (Complete Peerage, XII (2), 268–70 and appendix B).

As it happens, Robert fitzCorbucion also had a small estate in Saxlingham, also of 30 acres, which had belonged TRE to Earl Harold’s man Leofweald (Norf. 35:2). Conceivably the explanation for fitzCorbucion’s holding a small estate but not his predecessor Styrcar’s is that there had been an exchange intended to give John fitzWaleran control of Styrcar’s church.

A holding of 30 acres in the middle of Norfolk is unlikely to have been the solitary estate of a royal housecarl. In particular it is more likely than not that the king’s housecarl in Norfolk was the same person as the king’s thegn in Bedfordshire, since it would be surprising if the king had two thegns who shared the same rather unusual name. The Bedfordshire estate was 7 hides at Leighton Buzzard, part of 17 hides held separately TRE but added to the royal manor after the Conquest by Ralph Taillebois when he was sheriff of Bedford (Green 1990: 25). The other 10 hides belonged TRE to an important royal officer, Wynsige the chamberlain (Wynnsige 26). The location of the 17 hides within the wider territory of Leighton Buzzard is not known, and the evidence of manorial structures later in the Middle Ages is against their correspondence with the later out-hamlets of the large parish (VCH Beds. III, 399–400, 402–6; contra Phill. Beds. note 1,1b). In any case, by 1086 the 17 hides had been fully reabsorbed into the manor, and only one set of manorial resources was reported. But the distinction between the king’s demesne manor of 30 hides and the subordinate holdings of 17 hides may well be reflected in the bipartite valuation given in 1086: a sum in cash and a render in kind, besides other payments to the queen and the sheriff. A reasonable supposition would be that the cash rent of £22 was for the subsidiary holdings and the render in kind (half a day’s feorm) for the core royal manor of 30 hides. Since the subsidiary holdings explicitly included 4 hides of glebe, separately valued at £4, it seems that the 17 hides once held by Styrcar and Wynsige paid £18 in 1086. The (approximate) value of £7 has therefore been assigned to Styrcar’s 7 hides.

That leaves only the rather distant Surrey manor of Tooting Bec. It is only marginally more likely than not that its holder, his name made pronounceable for French-speakers by spelling it Estarcher, was also Styrcar the housecarl. The chief reason for making a connection is simply the size of the estate, 11 hides TRE (though rather smaller on the ground, with land for 4 ploughs). Such large manors were not often held solo. In addition, Tooting was barely 6 miles from Westminster, where the king’s housecarls must often have been needed.

Although half the identifications of Styrcar 10 made here come with a low degree of confidence, overall the pattern of a landed estate of almost 24 hides and carucates dispersed across 100 miles of country between London and Norwich looks right in terms of what we know about more securely identified housecarls.



Complete Peerage:

Phill. Beds.: Domesday Book, ed. John Morris, 20: Bedfordshire (Chichester: Phillimore, 1977)

VCH Beds.: The Victoria History of the Counties of England: The Victoria History of the County of Bedford, ed. William Page [and H. A. Doubleday], 3 vols and index (London, 1904–14)

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