Acwulf 7 was a thegn with three estates in north Suffolk and south Norfolk TRE assessed at nearly 3¼ carucates and with a probable value of about £3 17s. He was the commendatory lord of 20 men holding 55 acres worth about 11s, and Acwulf himself commended to Eadric of Laxfield (Eadric 113).
Distribution map of property and lordships associated with this name in DB
List of property and lordships associated with this name in DB
DB records just three estates held TRE by someone called Acwulf. Each estate lay within 9 miles of at least one of the others and this close proximity along with the rarity of the personal name renders it probable that all three were held TRE by the same man, Acwulf 7, even though each passed to a different tenant-in-chief after the Conquest. Furthermore, the DB entries for two of the estates describe Acwulf as a thegn, which increases further the likelihood that the same man is referred to.
Acwulf’s manor at Thelnetham, overlooking the fens and upper reaches of the Little Ouse River in north Suffolk, was the central one and also the largest of his three estates. Here he ran mainly a mix of arable and pig-farming, with three ploughs on his demesne land and another plough on the land of his dependent peasants, who comprised eight bordars with their households and who together with Acwulf’s six slaves provided the workforce for the manor. He also had a mill and a small area of woodland, probably providing pannage for the pigs as well as timber and fuel for the estate, along with a few cattle, a couple of sheep and a horse (possibly a draught animal, since it is described as runcinus ‘rouncey’ rather than equus, the more usual term for a horse). DB also records that fifteen free men who held 40 acres at Thelnetham were in Acwulf’s commendation.
A smaller manor was that at Ixworth Thorpe, 7 miles to the south-west of Thelnetham and where the vill was divided between numerous small holdings and free men TRE, four of whom were also in Acwulf’s commendation. In this instance Acwulf’s manor appears to have been entirely demesne, with two ploughs on the arable, some sheep and pigs by way of livestock and a peasant population of two bordars with their households. Here too Acwulf had a mill, presumably by the nearby Black Bourn or a leat of it rather than on the small stream running through Ixworth Thorpe itself.
The third, and smallest, of Acwulf’s estates was that at Burston, across the shire border into south Norfolk and just over 8 miles to the north-east of Thelnetham. Here Acwulf’s land comprised just one of the seven or so small holdings into which the vill was divided TRE. The DB entry describes him as a free man commended to Eadric of Laxfield (Eadric 113), one of the great magnates of pre-Conquest East Anglia. This estate may have been a purely arable one because no livestock are mentioned, just the presence of one plough, two bordars and 2 acres of meadow that were presumably for the oxen of the plough-team. DB does record the presence of a sokeman with a further 2 acres of land, however, and although it does not say so explicitly it seems more likely than not that this man was also in Acwulf’s lordship.
The soke of Acwulf’s Suffolk lands belonged to the abbey of Bury St Edmunds in 1086 and had probably done so before the Conquest as well, while Acwulf’s main manor at Thelnetham passed to Frodo 1, the abbot’s brother. It is also notable that at each vill the only other estate of similar size to that of Acwulf had been held by the abbot TRE. Given these associations it is possible, therefore, that Acwulf (or perhaps his predecessors) had some further connection with the abbey; but if so then DB is silent on the matter and there is insufficient evidence to press the suggestion further.
Given this possible connection and the rarity of Acwulf’s name it is conceivable that he was the same man as Acwulf 8, a very minor tenant on the abbey’s estate at Walsham Le Willows (just 4 miles to the south of Thelnetham) in 1086. However, the great difference in the scale of their respective holdings, as well as the interval of twenty years, renders this interpretation highly unlikely and it is perhaps more likely that Acwulf 8 was named because of the local importance of Acwulf 7 in the previous generation. There is no reason to consider Acwulf 7 in connection with anyone else.