PASE: Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England

Domesday

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

Aki 4 Aki the Dane, fl. 1066

Male
Author: CPL
Editorial Status: 4 of 5

Discussion of the name  

Summary

Aki the Dane (Aki 4) was a housecarl who served in turn the Danish kings, Edward the Confessor, and Harold, and accumulated by 1066 some 95 hides worth over £120, scattered across nine shires between Wiltshire and the Suffolk coast. His father Toki had left a Worcestershire manor to the church of Worcester, probably in the earlier 1050s.

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
Berkshire 44,4 Harwell Achi Aki the Dane - Roger d'Ivry - 5.00 5.00 6.00 C Map
Berkshire 62,1 West Hendred Achi Aki the Dane - Grimbald the goldsmith - 5.00 4.00 4.00 C Map
Cambridgeshire 17,4 Harlton Achi Aki the Dane Edward, king Walter Giffard Walter fitzAubrey 3.50 7.00 6.13 B Map
Cambridgeshire 17,5 Barrington Achi Aki the Dane Harold, earl Walter Giffard Walter fitzAubrey 0.33 0.50 0.50 B Map
Cambridgeshire 17,6 Orwell Achi Aki the Dane Harold, earl Walter Giffard Walter fitzAubrey 0.25 0.14 0.10 B Map
Essex 24,45 Notley Achius Aki the Dane - Swein of Essex Godbald 'of Nayland' 0.75 2.00 3.00 E Map
Essex 53,1 Great Easton Achius Aki the Dane - Matthew de Mortagne - 5.00 10.00 15.00 E Map
Essex 53,2 Margaretting Anschillus Aki the Dane - Matthew de Mortagne - 5.00 5.00 6.00 E Map
Hertfordshire B10 Hertford Achi Aki the Dane - William, king Hardwin de Scales 0.00 0.00 0.00 B Map
Hertfordshire 20,13 Westmill Achi Aki the Dane Harold, earl Robert Gernon Ansketil 'the man of Robert Gernon' 7.25 20.00 17.00 B Map
Hertfordshire 22,1 Flamstead Achi Aki the Dane Edward, king Ralph de Tosny - 4.00 12.00 11.00 B Map
Hertfordshire 37,22 Bramfield Achi Aki the Dane Harold, earl Hardwin de Scales - 5.00 5.00 4.00 B Map
Huntingdonshire 17,1 Covington Aschil Aki the Dane - Roger d'Ivry - 8.50 8.00 10.00 E Map
Huntingdonshire 19,16 Winwick Aschil Aki the Dane - Eustace the sheriff Odilard the larderer 2.50 2.00 2.00 E Map
Middlesex 17,1 Laleham Achi Aki the Dane Edward, king Robert Blund Estrild the nun 8.00 6.00 3.00 A Map
Northamptonshire 33,1 Grafton Underwood Achi Aki the Dane - Robert Blund Roger 'of Grafton Underwood' 3.00 2.00 2.00 A Map
Northamptonshire 55,4 Winwick Achi Aki the Dane - Eustace the sheriff Odilard the larderer 0.50 0.50 2.00 E Map
Suffolk 6,85 Westleton Aki Aki the Dane - Robert Malet Gilbert Blund 4.00 5.00 5.00 C Map
Suffolk 66,1 Ixworth Achius Aki the Dane - Robert Blund - 3.00 4.00 6.00 A Map
Suffolk 66,2 Walsham le Willows Achius Aki the Dane - Robert Blund - 2.00 2.00 3.00 A Map
Suffolk 66,3 Great Ashfield Achius Aki the Dane - Robert Blund - 3.00 3.00 3.00 A Map
Suffolk 66,4 Wyken Akius Aki the Dane - Robert Blund - 1.00 1.50 1.50 A Map
Suffolk 66,13 Gislingham Achi Aki the Dane - Robert Blund - 0.25 0.33 0.33 A Map
Suffolk 66,15 Finningham Aki the Dane - Robert Blund - 0.02 0.00 0.00 A Map
Wiltshire 24,21 Broad Blunsdon Achi Aki the Dane - Edward of Salisbury Robert 'the man of Edward of Salisbury' 5.00 2.00 3.00 C Map
Wiltshire 60,1 West Lavington Achi Aki the Dane - Robert Blund - 2.75 4.13 3.30 A Map
Wiltshire 60,1 West Lavington Aki the Dane - Robert Blund 2 sons-in-law of Robert Blund 7.25 10.88 8.70 A Map
Wiltshire 66,7 Selkley Achil Aki the Dane - Stephen the carpenter, king's serjeant - 3.00 1.00 2.00 C Map
Total               94.85 122.98 127.56  

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
Cambridgeshire 17,4 Harlton 4 sokemen, men of Aki the Dane Aki the Dane, thegn of Edward, king Walter Giffard Walter fitzAubrey 0.38 0.75 0.66 B Map
Suffolk 66,3 Great Ashfield Ketil 'of Great Ashfield' Aki the Dane, thegn of Edward, king Robert Blund William Blund 1.00 1.50 1.50 A Map
Suffolk 66,13 Gislingham Achius Ælfgar 'of Gislingham' Aki the Dane, thegn of Edward, king Robert Blund - 0.15 0.26 0.26 A Map
Suffolk 66,13 Gislingham Achius Godric 'of Gislingham' Aki the Dane, thegn of Edward, king Robert Blund - 0.15 0.26 0.26 A Map
Suffolk 66,13 Gislingham Achius Godwine 'of Gislingham' Aki the Dane, thegn of Edward, king Robert Blund - 0.15 0.26 0.26 A Map
Suffolk 66,14 Westhorpe Achi 4 free men Aki the Dane, thegn of Edward, king Robert Blund - 0.04 0.07 0.07 A Map
Suffolk 66,16 Wyverstone Achi 2 free men Aki the Dane, thegn of Edward, king Robert Blund Robert Ouethel 0.25 0.25 0.25 A Map
Total               2.12 3.35 3.26  

Profile

 

Bibliography

Aki the Dane is first and foremost identified by the fact that manors assigned to his name (without the byname) in four shires passed together to the minor Norman tenant-in-chief Robert Blund, forming by far the greater part of his fief in 1086, namely his only manors in Middlesex, Northamptonshire, and Wiltshire, and nearly all those in Suffolk. Indeed Robert’s only other holdings were some smaller ones in Suffolk clearly added later on, like 200 acres at Ixworth which had first belonged to his brother Ralph (Suff. 66:10). This is a particularly clear case of antecessorial succession, and the identification of a single Aki in the four shires concerned is as nearly certain as can be.

Aki thus identified is described in DB in different ways. Middlesex calls him a housecarl of King Edward. In Northamptonshire he is simply said to have held his 3 hides freely (libere). In Wiltshire his tenure is not glossed in any way. The first entry in Robert Blund’s Suffolk fief says that Aki was a free man (liber homo). No weight should be placed on these differences.

The manors concerned are very far apart, yet certainly held by a single Aki. That fact alone encourages the idea that other references to Aki as a TRE landowner across the same swathe of southern England involved the same man, even though they did not pass to Robert Blund. It is theoretically possible that there were other Akis in the same region, but the origin and history of the name suggest that we should not identify a mass of different Akis simply on the grounds of different Norman successors.

The clearest link is between Aki the king’s housecarl and Aki the thegn of King Edward, since all the king’s housecarls were necessarily his thegns. In Cambridgeshire, Aki the king’s thegn held the sizeable manor of Harlton, and must be the same man as the Aki who held smaller estates in the adjoining vills of Barrington and Orwell, even though in both places he was called a man of Earl Harold. Domesday itself proves the point, since it tells us that the virgate at Orwell ‘belongs to Harlton’. Furthermore, the three properties passed to the same Norman tenant-in-chief (Walter Giffard) and subtenant (Walter fitzAubrey), and the 40 acres at Barrington continued to be held of the lords of Harlton in the later thirteenth century (VCH Cambs. V, 148, 216).

The ICC entry for Harlton (ICC: 74) omits the information that Aki was a king’s thegn, and its entries for Barrington and Orwell (ICC: 75, 79) call him a man of Earl Harold. From ICC alone one would think that this Aki was Harold’s man, not the king’s, throwing doubt on the identification with the king’s housecarl. But there is no reason to allow ICC to outweigh GDB where it lacks a piece of information given in GDB (given that ICC survives only in a later copy). The explanation is probably that Aki was consecutively Edward’s thegn and then Harold’s when Harold became king.

The ICC spelling of Aki’s name is Achillus, and the entry for Barrington gives him a byname, danaus, evidently for danus (‘the Dane’). The variant spelling is so non-standard as to be a different word, the Classical Latin adjective meaning ‘Greek’, from the name of the mythical founder of Argos and frequently used of the Greeks during the siege of Troy. The scribe of ICC, copying his text at a time in the later twelfth century when Classical learning was spreading widely and when personal names drawn from the Classical tradition were all the rage in certain circles, turned Aki the Dane (Achi danus) into something like Achilles the Greek (Achillus danaus).

In Hertfordshire, three scattered manors belonged to Aki, described in different entries as a thegn of King Edward and a thegn of Earl Harold. The three places passed to different Norman lords, none of them Aki’s successor in Cambridgeshire.

In Bedfordshire, not so very far from the manors in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire just described, Achi was named as the TRE holder at Haynes (Beds. 23:15) and Colmworth (Beds. 23:38) and identified as a king’s thegn at both places. Achi is much the commonest spelling of Aki in DB, but in these cases it certainly refers instead to Eskil of Ware (Eskil ), whose name was usually spelled Aschil. The proof is twofold. First, two small estates of 1 virgate and ½ hide in the nearby vill of Easton were soke of Achi’s manor of Colmworth and could not be detached from it even though their holders were free to sell the land to whom they wished. But under Easton each holder was called a man of Eskil (Aschil) rather than Aki, and one of the entries describes Colmworth as belonging to Eskil (Aschil) not Aki (Beds. 17:4; 23:24). Secondly, Eskil of Ware was a king’s thegn who was the antecessor (at one remove) of the Norman baron Hugh de Beauchamp (Lewis 1997: 82–3) and Hugh held both of the manors attributed to Achi.

The succession to Aki’s lands of Walter Giffard in Cambridgeshire, and of Robert Gernon, Ralph de Tosny, and Hardwin de Scales in Hertfordshire demonstrates that Aki the housecarl’s lands did not all pass to Robert Blund. Identification of Aki’s property can thus be widened further.

In Wiltshire, an Aki held two manors besides the one (West Lavington) that passed to Robert Blund. The larger of the two was Broad Blunsdon, some 25 miles north of Lavington in north-east Wiltshire. It passed after the Conquest to the sheriff Edward of Salisbury, but his tenant there was a Robert who may well have been Robert Blund (as VCH Wilts. II, 137). The other manor was an unnamed holding in the hands in 1086 of the king’s serjeant Stephen the carpenter, and placed in Selkley hundred from the evidence of the Geld Rolls (VCH Wilts. II, 199–200). Its location can be narrowed further. Stephen the carpenter had only one other Domesday manor, 1¼ hides at Earlscourt (Wilts. 66:6; VCH Wilts. II, 207) which formed a detached part of the parish of Wanborough on the northern slopes of the Marlborough Downs and in the twelfth century was held of the lords of Wanborough, the counts of Perche, presumably having been transferred to their lordship when Henry I gave Wanborough with his illegitimate daughter Matilda to Count Rotrou II (VCH Wilts. IX, 174, 176–7; Thompson 2002: 164–7). If Stephen the carpenter’s unnamed 3 hides in Selkley hundred passed down the same line of succession it must have lain in Aldbourne parish, given to the counts of Perche with Wanborough and their only property in Selkley hundred (VCH Wilts. XII, 62–198). Aldbourne and Wanborough were large adjoining parishes, and presumably Stephen’s (and Aki’s) unnamed 3 hides were at the north end of Aldborough close to Earlscourt.

Some 20–25 miles east of Aki’s manors in north-east Wiltshire were two manors in Berkshire assigned TRE to Aki, a free man, at West Hendred and Harwell. They were in different tenures after 1066, Harwell held by Roger d’Ivry from the fief of Earl William, and Hendred belonging to Grimbald as his only manor in the shire.

Two further manors in the vicinity of Aki’s at Grafton Underwood (Northants) can also be assigned to him with some degree of confidence. One comprised two distinct holdings at Winwick, a vill divided between Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire (VCH Hunts. III, 120).  The smaller part, ½ hide in Northamptonshire, was entered in DB with the name Achi; the larger part, 2½ hides in Huntingdonshire, with the name Aschil. Both passed to Eustace, sheriff of Huntingdon, and were held from him by Odilard. The suggestion that Achi and Aschil were the same person was first made long ago (VCH Hunts. III, 120) and is entirely plausible. There is no reason to identify that person with the Eskil whose Northamptonshire manors were at the far end of the shire and passed to Earl Hugh.

There was another Aschil at Covington, not more than 10 miles from either Grafton Underwood or Westwick; although in theory this might have been a distinct individual called Eskil, given that the manor was a large one and there were no other Eskils in the neighbourhood, it is marginally more likely that it too belonged to Aki the Dane.

A low degree of confidence is also necessary in assigning three Essex manors to Aki the Dane. They lay between the Middlesex and Suffolk manors which were certainly his, and in the same general area as the Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire manors discussed earlier. His name was spelled Achius at Great Easton and Notley but Anschillus at Margaretting. The last ought to stand for Eskil, but Margaretting and Great Easton passed together to the minor Norman baron Matthew de Mortagne as his only manors in Essex, which strongly suggests that they had belonged to the same person TRE rather than to two men with strangely similar names known to have been confused elsewhere in DB.

Finally, a Suffolk Aki whose only manor stood some distance from Aki the Dane’s and passed to a different Norman, is likely nonetheless to have been the same man. Although the place in question, Westleton, passed to Robert Malet rather than Robert Blund, it was held from Malet in 1086 by Gilbert Blund, presumably a kinsman of Robert Blund.

The holdings discussed here which went to Normans other than Robert Blund would not be assigned to Aki the Dane if they had been small parcels of land. But they were not. Blund’s acquisitions, three single manors and a tight cluster in west Suffolk, were of 10, 9¼, 8, and 3 hides or carucates, worth between £15 and £2. Of the other fourteen properties, eight were of 5 hides or more, five were of 3–4 hides, and only one was smaller (¾ hide). Likewise, nine were worth £5 or more, and five between £1 and £4. These were substantial manors, not likely to have belonged to a scatter of men bearing the same name, a name which other evidence suggests was not at all common.

It remains to explain why succession to Aki the Dane was antecessorial only to a limited degree, and in a part of England where the estates of king’s thegns and housecarls were often handed to a single successor. In the present state of research, no comprehensive explanation can be offered, though there are some pointers. We can start with the observation that rich southern housecarls probably lost their manors very soon after the Conquest, so that they would have been available for redistribution early in the new reign. Then there is a distinct pattern of succession by royal officials. Aki’s principal successor Robert Blund served at some point before 1086 as sheriff of Norfolk, and probably Suffolk, since the two usually went together (Green 1990: 60, 76; Norf. 1:66). It is therefore striking that several of Aki’s other manors were also acquired by sheriffs (Swein of Essex, Eustace of Huntingdon, and Edward of Salisbury) or minor royal serjeants (Stephen the carpenter and Grimbald, evidently a goldsmith: VCH Berks. IV, 303) or the king’s butler (Roger d’Ivry). 

If this reconstruction of Aki’s landholdings in 1066 is correct in every respect, he had almost 95 hides worth over £120, scattered between Wiltshire and the Suffolk coast. He was a housecarl of King Edward and King Harold in turn, his byname ‘the Dane’ suggesting that he was of Danish birth or parentage and that he or his father arrived in England in the reign of Cnut or his sons. It seems like that the housecarl was the same person as the Aki (Aki 4), ‘a powerful king’s thegn’ (potens et ipse minister regis), son of Toki (Toki 7), ‘a very powerful and rich king’s thegn’ (prepotens et dives minister regis), who had dealings with the church of Worcester during Edward the Confessor’s reign over the manor of Teddington, at the foot of Oxenton Hill between Tewkesbury and Winchcombe. Teddington had a long association with Worcester; latterly, 3 hides were held from 977 on a three-life lease which somehow did not revert to the church until Toki 7 left the estate (which included adjoining land in Alstone and a plot (curtis) in Worcester) to Bishop Ealdred (Ealdred 37). In Hemming’s account, Aki tried to have the will set aside and keep the estate for himself but was persuaded to give up his claim in return for 8 marks in gold, the large sum of £48, after which Ealdred transferred Teddington to his cathedral church (VCH Worcs. III, 468–78; Hearne 1723, I, 396–8; S 1408). That final stage can be dated between 1051 and 1056, and presumably Toki died not long before.

Teddington is not especially near any of the DB estates of Toki the Dane, but it was no further away than other components of a scattered estate. It is not likely that Edward the Confessor had more than one rich housecarl with the unusual name of Aki.

It is therefore also more likely than not that Aki the Dane was the Akig miles (Aki 2) whose name appears among the witnesses of a charter of King Harthacnut for Abingdon abbey dated 1042: the charter itself is suspect but the witness list has generally been regarded as authentic (S 993). 

Aki the Dane’s landed estate as reconstructed here was very dispersed, across as many as nine shires and with no single dominant centre, but that might be taken as typical of the families which arrived in England under Cnut and his sons, inserted into the existing tenurial fabric wherever opportunity existed.

A few hints about how he or his father acquired their lands can be gleaned. Traditions at St Albans asserted that the abbey had been given the large Hertfordshire manor of Flamstead c. 1000, which it then leased to three men with Danish names in return for their protecting the manor from wild beasts and robbers and defending the abbey itself in time of war; the unnamed heirs of the three men were said to have retained Flamstead until the Conquest (Gesta abbatum, I, 40–1; Charters of St Albans, 229–31), so that Aki was implicitly one of them. The rest of Laleham (Mdx) was a berewick of Westminster abbey’s manor of Staines and the vill may well have belonged entire to the king earlier in the eleventh century (Mdx 4:5; 8:1; VCH Mdx, II, 397).

Very likely Aki had extensive urban property. In Hertford, his fourteen houses accounted for very nearly a tenth of all the burgesses (Herts. B:1). Even more suggestive is his Suffolk manor of Westleton, the parent territory surrounding the important coastal borough of Dunwich. Aki’s successor at Westleton, Gilbert Blund, had 80 men (not explicitly burgesses) in Dunwich (Suff. 6:84); although Aki is not mentioned in the Dunwich entry it is conceivable that he was their lord in 1066.

Previous identifications of Aki the housecarl have confined him to the manors that passed to Robert Blund, giving him no more than £35 worth of land (Darlington 1955a: 66; Pinder 1991: 20).

Bibliography

Charters of St Albans: Charters of St Albans, ed. Julia Crick, Anglo-Saxon Charters 12 (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 2007)

Gesta Abbatum: Gesta abbatum monasterii Sancti Albani, a Thoma Walsingham, ed. Henry Thomas Riley, 3 vols, in Chronica monasterii Sancti Albani, ed. Henry Thomas Riley, 12 vols, Rolls Series 28 (1863–76)

Hearne 1723: Hemingi chartularium ecclesiæ Wigorniensis, ed. Thomas Hearne, 2 vols (Oxford, 1723)

ICC: Inquisitio Comitatus Cantabrigiensis, in Inqusitio Comitatus Cantabrigiensis, nunc primum e manuscripto unico in Bibliotheca Cottoniana asservato typis mandata, subjicitur Inquisitio Eliensis, ed. N. E. S. A. Hamilton (London: John Murray for the Royal Society of Literature, 1876), 1–96

Darlington 1955a: R. R. Darlington, ‘Introduction to the Wiltshire Domesday’, in The Victoria History of the Counties of England: A History of Wiltshire, II, ed. R. B. Pugh and Elizabeth Crittall (London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research, 1955), 42–112

Green 1990: Judith A. Green, English Sheriffs to 1154, Public Record Office Handbooks 24 (London: HMSO, 1990)

Lewis 1997: C. P. Lewis, ‘Joining the Dots: a methodology for identifying the English in Domesday Book’, Family Trees and the Roots of Politics: The Prosopography of Britain and France from the Tenth to the Twelfth Century, ed. K. S. B. Keats-Rohan (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1997), 69–87

Pinder 1991: T. G. Pinder, ‘An introduction to the Middlesex Domesday’, The Middlesex and London Domesday, [ed. Ann Williams and G. H. Martin] (London: Alecto Historical Editions, 1991), 1–21

S: P. H. Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters: An Annotated List and Bibliography, Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks 8 (London, 1968), revised by S. Kelly, R. Rushforth et al., The Electronic Sawyer: Online Catalogue of Anglo-Saxon Charters, published online through Kemble: The Anglo-Saxon Charters Website, currently at http://www.esawyer.org.uk/about/index.html 

Thompson 2002: Kathleen Thompson, Power and Border Lordship in Medieval France: The County of the Perche, 1000–1226 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press for the Royal Historical Society, 2002)

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

VCH Cambs.: The Victoria History of the Counties of England: The Victoria History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, ed. C. R. Elrington (London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research, 1973)

VCH Hunts.: The Victoria History of the Counties of England: The Victoria History of the County of Huntingdon, ed. William Page, Granville Proby, and others, 3 vols and index (London: The St. Catherine Press, 1926–38)

VCH Warws. III: The Victoria History of the Counties of England: The Victoria History of the County of Warwick, III, ed. L. F. Salzman and Philip Styles (London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research, 1945)

VCH Wilts. II: The Victoria History of the Counties of England: A History of Wiltshire, II, ed. R. B. Pugh and Elizabeth Crittall (London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research, 1955)

VCH Wilts. IX: The Victoria History of the Counties of England: A History of Wiltshire, IX, ed. Elizabeth Crittall (London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research, 1970)

VCH Wilts. XII: The Victoria History of the Counties of England: A History of Wiltshire, XII, ed. D. A. Crowley (London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research, 1983)

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