Manni 4 Swart was a substantial Suffolk thegn with several estates in the county and another in north Surrey TRE, together assessed at 29 carucates and with a probable value of £21 7s 6d; he was also the commended lord of men holding perhaps a further 8½ carucates with a value of about £5 7s 6d and was the father of Ulf, one of the king’s housecarls.
Distribution map of property and lordships associated with this name in DB
List of property and lordships associated with this name in DB
Manni 4’s largest single manor was at Cowlinge, in a tributary valley of the River Kennett in south-west Suffolk and in the DB entry for which he is described as a thegn; but his largest estate centred on another manor 44 miles away at Bramfield, on a tributary of the River Blyth in the east of the county, in the valuation and probably soke of which manor were included five lesser estates held by free men of whom most if not all were in Manni’s commendation. Both manors were substantial, the DB entries for each give Manni the byname Swart and both, together with the lesser estates, passed to Count Alan (Alan 1) after the Conquest, so it is reasonable to presume that both manors were held TRE by the same man, Manni 4, despite the distance between them.
The extremely rare Old Danish name Manni and the distinctive byname Swart (from Old Danish swart ‘black’) also occur together in the DB entry for Theberton in east Suffolk, where the TRE holder’s lord is described as ‘Ulf son of Manni Swart’. This relationship is also recorded in an entry in the late thirteenth- or early fourteenth-century Registrum Album of Bury St Edmunds, to which abbey ‘Ulf son of Mannig Swartingesone’ is said to have granted land at Chippenhall, only 7 miles from Bramfield and less than a dozen from Theberton (BL Additional MS 14847 fo.24; Hart 1966: 249; Palmer et al. 2002: DB Suff. 6,109 Notes). This latter record raises the possibility that Manni’s byname originated as a patronymic rather than as a nickname, although the source is too late for certainty. In either case, however, it seems likely that the ‘Ulsi son of Manni’ recorded in DB as lord of a TRE holder at Ickenham in west Middlesex represents a scribal error, and that Ulsi should be read as Ulf rather than Wulfsige and again relates to the son of Manni 4.
This link between father and son helps to confirm Manni 4’s tenure of an estate at Chessington in north Surrey, despite this being about 65 miles from the nearest of his Suffolk manors. The DB entry names the TRE holder as Magno suert; but the suspicion raised by the distinctive byname that Magno in fact represents Manni rather than Magni (an interchange also evidenced for the place-name Maunby, Yorks.: Smith 1928: 274) is put beyond reasonable doubt by the fact that Chessington ‘lay in Beddington’, an estate held by an Ulf from King Edward (Edward 15) TRE.
Men called Manni and Ulf also occur as the only TRE holders of Suffolk manors that passed to Robert de Tosny (Robert 52) after the Conquest, with the two held by Manni being at Mells and Yoxford and so only 2 and 3 miles respectively from Bramfield. It would be perverse to regard these two men as any other than Manni 4 and his son. These entries also enable Manni’s son to be identified as Ulf, one of the king’s housecarls and the TRE holder of estates from Suffolk across to Gloucestershire (Clarke 1994: 128-9, 355-6). Furthermore, they also show that the Ali holding two small estates at Bulcamp and Blundeston, also in east Suffolk, under the commendation of ‘Manni, Robert de Tosny’s antecessor’ TRE was one of Manni Swart’s men.
The picture of Manni Swart that emerges is of a prosperous thegn whose main interests lay in Suffolk but who had acquired an estate in Surrey through the offices of his son, who had also prospered and had become one of King Edward’s housecarls. Ulf’s possessions were more extensive and widely distributed than his father’s, which together with his status implies someone already in at least their twenties in 1066; this in turn implies that Manni will then have been in his forties or older. It is therefore possible that some or all of the three charters witnessed by a Manni(g) minister between 1044 and c.1053 (S 1003; S 1015; S 1407) and gathered together as Manni 2 in PASE in fact relate to Manni 4 Swart, although Knowles et al. (1972: 47) were confident that these referred to Manni 1, the contemporary abbot of Evesham.
Since the names Manni, Ulf and Swart are all Old Danish forms (although the form Swartingesone in the Registrum Album is structurally Old English), and given that the label of ‘housecarl’ seems to refer exclusively to those of recent Scandinavian descent (Hooper 1985: 173-5), it is reasonable to suggest that either Manni or his father had arrived in England as followers of Cnut 3 or his sons.
Clarke 1994: P. A. Clarke, The English Nobility under Edward the Confessor (Oxford, 1994)
Hart 1966: C. R. Hart, ed., The Early Charters of Eastern England (Leicester, 1966)
Hooper 1985: N. Hooper, ‘The housecarls in England in the eleventh century’, Anglo-Norman Studies 7 (1985)
Knowles et al. 1972: The Heads of Religious Houses England and Wales 940-1216, ed. D. Knowles, C. N. L. Brooke and V. C. M. London (Cambridge, 1972)
Palmer et al. 2002: J. Palmer, F. Thorn and C. Thorn, and N. Hodgson, Electronic Edition of Domesday Book: Translation, Databases and Scholarly Commentary, 1086, 2nd edn (2002), currently published online by the UK Data Service https://discover.ukdataservice.ac.uk/catalogue?sn=5694
A. H. Smith, The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire (Cambridge, 1928), p. 274.