PASE: Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England


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

Beorhtgifu 8 Beorhtgifu ‘of Gidding’ (Hunts.), fl. 1066

Author: CPL
Editorial Status: 4 of 5

  Discussion of the name  



Beorhtgifu 8 had a single manor of 4½ hides worth 40 shillings in Huntingdonshire, very likely as a berewick of a royal manor and perhaps already held for the unusual service attached to the manor in later centuries, that of hunting wolves and other large vermin.

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
Huntingdonshire 26,1 Great Gidding Britheue Beorhtgifu 'of Gidding' - William Engaine - 4.50 2.00 4.00 A Map
Total               4.50 2.00 4.00  





The name Beorhtgifu appears once in Huntingdonshire, holding 4½ hides in the later parishes of Great and Little Gidding, in the Boulder Clay uplands on the Northamptonshire border. The manor passed by 1086 to William Engaine. Apart from 1 hide belonging to Ramsey abbey (Hunts. 6:21), the rest of Great and Little Gidding was connected with the king’s manor of Alconbury, 6 miles down the valley to the south-east. Alconbury had a berewick in Gidding (Hunts. 1:6), while another 4½ hides of Gidding was sokeland of Alconbury, held as sokemen by Ælfweald and his five brothers (Hunts. 19:15). Their land was taken from them after the Conquest by Eustace the sheriff, and in 1086 they complained to the Domesday commissioners. In response, the jurors of the shire court testified that they had never seen proper authority for Eustace’s possession (Hunts. D:21)—not much good did it do Ælfweald’s family, since Eustace and his tenant Ingelran retained the land (VCH Hunts. III, 50). The jurors also said that ‘on the day King Edward was alive and dead, Gidding was a berewick in Alconbury, in the king’s farm’ (Hunts. D:22). The second point made by the jurors, which contradicts DB’s specific statement that the brothers’ 4½ hides was sokeland, may well have been understood to cover the whole of Great and Little Gidding, so that the berewick mentioned under the entry for Alconbury was a reference to Beorhtgifu’s land, not some separate holding, for which there is no other evidence (VCH Hunts. III, 5).

There is a further indication of the dependent status of Beorhtgifu’s holding, despite DB’s attribution of manorial status by use of the marginal letter M. DB says of Gidding that ‘The soke was in Cresswell hundred’ (soca fuit in hundred de Cresseuuelle). There was no hundred of that name (or anything like it) in Huntingdonshire or any adjoining county (Anderson 1934), and the ingenious suggestion of a corrupt reference to a hundred in some more distant county where William Engaine held land (VCH Hunts. III, 2) also draws a blank. There is a more probable solution. The hundred of Leightonstone (in which the Giddings and Alconbury lay) is known to have had a subdivision called the hundred of Kimbolton, named in DB and assessed at just short of 50 hides, a quarter of the notional assessment of the double hundred of Leightonstone (Roffe 1989b). Conceivably Cresswell hundred was a similar quarter division of Leightonstone. Its name means ‘spring or stream where cress grows’, common in the late Anglo-Saxon period as the name of minor streams (e.g. PN Oxon. I, 13; PN Ches. III, 3; and in the bounds of S 115, 255, 584, 601, 617, 888, 898, 1380, 1546b, and 1592, accessed via LangScape).  Perhaps Cresswell was an earlier name of the Alconbury brook, which rises just over the county boundary in Northamptonshire and flows south-east through or along the boundary of the Giddings, Hamerton, Coppingford, Upton, and Alconbury before finally leaving Leightonstone hundred and joining the Great Ouse opposite Port Holme Meadow above Huntingdon bridge. That would locate the hundred named from the stream in the same area. The Domesday assessments of those five vills in fact add up to exactly 50 hides (Hunts. 1:6; 6:21; 6:25; 11:1–2; 15:1: 19:15; 26:1). The entry for Gidding pointedly does not say, as do those for places further afield that were attached to Alconbury, that the soke lay in the manor of Alconbury (Hunts. 5:2; 19:15, 17–20).

The two principal holdings in the Giddings, Beorhtgifu’s and the sokemen’s, were very nearly symmetrical. Each was assessed at 4½ hides and had 22 acres of meadow, a precise figure highly suggestive of a recent division. Each had two ploughteams in demesne in 1086, but in their other resources William Engaine’s manor (i.e. Beorhtgifu’s) was slightly deficient: five tenants’ ploughs to Eustace the sheriff’s (i.e. the sokemen’s) six, fifteen villans to his sixteen, and three bordars to his four. The shortfall may explain William Engaine’s claim against Eustace in 1086 of the equally precise ½ virgate and 18 acres. The TRE values were different too, Beorhtgifu 40s. to the sokemen £4, but if those figures represent payments from them to the king’s farm of Alconbury, then they show that Beorhtgifu paid less rent than the sokemen.

William Engaine’s holding in the Giddings corresponded to the later Engaines manor, confined to Great Gidding alone after Little Gidding was carved out for a younger son of the Engaine family in the twelfth century (VCH Hunts. III, 48). The Engaines continued in the male line at Great Gidding until 1358, holding by an unusual serjeanty tenure, namely the service of hunting large vermin (hare, fox, wild cat, wolf, and badger) across the contiguous counties of Huntingdon, Northampton, Buckingham, Oxford, and Rutland (VCH Hunts. III, 48–9). Did Beorhtgifu, tenant of a royal berewick at an (arguably) advantageous rent, perhaps already owe such a service in 1066?



LangScape: LangScape. The Language of Landscape: Reading the Anglo-Saxon Countryside

PN Ches.: J. McN. Dodgson, The Place-Names of Cheshire, 5 vols in 7 parts, English Place-Name Society 44–48, 54, 74 (1970–97)

PN Oxon.: Margaret Gelling, The Place-Names of Oxfordshire, 2 vols, English Place-Name Society 23–24 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953–4)

Roffe 1989b: D. R. Roffe, ‘An introduction to the Huntingdonshire Domesday’, The Huntingdonshire Domesday, ed. Ann Williams and R. W. H. Erskine (London: Alecto Historical Editions, 1989), 1–23

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

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)

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