Beorhtgifu 5 was a small landowner in west Somerset, whose ½ virgate was worth 5 shillings. She may have shared the holding with a man called Beorhtmær.
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 DB Spelling
Holder 1066 ID conf.
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Beorhtgifu 'of Stringston'
Alfred d'Épaignes, the Breton
Ranulph 'of Stringston'
The name Beorhtgifu occurs once in Somerset, associated with a small estate at Stringston, between the Quantock hills and the coast. Her holding was very small, with land for only half a plough, assessed at ½ virgate, and worth 5s. in 1066, a typical peasant farm. There are no connections with any other Beorhtgifu elsewhere in England.
There are differences between the record of this holding in GDB and Exon, though they agree that Beorhtgifu’s land had been added since the Conquest to the larger manor at Stringston which belonged TRE to Alwig. GDB says that Beorhtgifu held freely (libere), Exon (371a1) that she held jointly (pariter), the word pariter being interlined as an afterthought. An abbreviated entry elsewhere in Exon (509a5) gives a different assessment and a different holder: ‘½ virgate and two parts of ½ virgate have been added to it [Alwig’s land], which Beorhtmær held jointly (Brismarus pariter) TRE’. Although it is possible that Bristiue was a gross error for Brismarus, or vice versa, such a misreading is not at all likely, and there is a more satisfactory way of reconciling the three statements. It starts with the probability that Beorhtgifu and Beorhtmær held jointly with each other (as well as both holding freely), and the further probability that GDB and the main entry in Exon have the assessment correct as ½ virgate. The abbreviated Exon entry might then be corrected to add up to ½ virgate, divided into shares of one third and two thirds. On this reasoning, the tenement in question was ½ virgate held freely and jointly, Beorhtgifu with one third and Beorhtmær two thirds. In those proportions, given that the two holders shared a name-element, we might be tempted to see a widow’s dower and her son’s inheritance.
Stringston was in an area where complex interlocking boundaries and detached parts of parishes suggest that upland grazing had been parcelled out among the lowland settlements at the foot of the Quantocks. The ancient parish of Stringston indeed consisted of four separate parts. The smallest was c. 59 acres located ½ mile south-east of Stringston village, sandwiched between Dodington and Stogursey parishes (VCH Som. VI, 170–1), in the arable lowlands rather than on the Quantocks. It has been suggested that the land in question was the ½ virgate added to Stringston manor between 1066 and 1086 (VCH Som. VI, 173). If so, and if the explanation of the GDB and Exon entries given here is correct, this patch of farmland was Beorhtgifu and Beorhtmær’s ring-fenced farm of half a ploughland.
VCH Som. VI: The Victoria History of the Counties of England: A History of the County of Somerset, VI, ed. R. W. Dunning (London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research, 1992)