PASE: Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England


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

Æthelnoth 69 Æthelnoth Cild, fl. 1066

Author: CPL
Editorial Status: 2 of 5

  Discussion of the name  


A provisional attempt has been made to identify this person; however, the material remains to be checked and edited, and the profile remains to be written.

Distribution map of property and lordships associated with this name in DB


List of property and lordships associated with this name in DB



Æthelnoth Cild is so called in Kent, Sussex (8:1–2), Surrey (5:1a), Hampshire (23:5), and Buckinghamshire (4:29). Elsewhere, when DB uses a byname, it calls him ‘Æthelnoth the Kentishman’, using either the Old English adjective centisc (chentiscus, chentis, chentisc: Bucks. 4:36, 17:25; Oxon. 7:4) or a latinate version cantuariensis, formed from the fuller Old English name of Kent (Centware, literally ‘the people of Kent’) and probably therefore denoting Kent rather than Canterbury (Northants 2:6). DB also calls him ‘a thegn of King Edward’ (Bucks. 4:29, 36, 38), and the Buckinghamshire entries between them prove that the references are all to the same person.

Æthelnoth has been recognized since the time of Freeman as a major landowner, but recent scholarship has understated the extent of his lands (Clarke 1994: 117, 237–8; Williams 1999: 58): rather than 216 hides worth £260, he probably had 310 hides worth £328. They formed a coherent pattern of mostly large or at least middling estates, mostly after the Conquest to Bishop Odo of Bayeux, and they spread across southern England between East Kent and the Cotswolds.

Æthelnoth appears once outside Domesday Book. John of Worcester, relying on some source that was most likely a lost version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, added to the list of English notables whom William I took on his triumphal return to Normandy at Lent 1067 the name of Agelnothus Cantuuariensis. John thereby associated Æthelnoth the Kentishman with a group of the very highest rank: Archbishop Stigand, Abbot Æthelnoth of Glastonbury, Edgar the atheling, and earls Edwin, Morcar, and Waltheof. Moreover, John called him a nobilis satraps, perhaps consciously using satraps (a Latin loan-word from Persian) in something like its Classical sense of ‘military governor of a province’. That reading would make Æthelnoth in effect a senior general, perhaps with a regional command over Kent or the wider south-east.

Æthelnoth was presumably the Æthelnoth whose name appears among the witnesses to three late pre-Conquest charters. In the Waltham charter of 1062 he was listed 19th of 26 laymen after the earls, with the title princeps (thegn) rather than any of the ornamental ‘official’ titles which are a feature of that charter (S 1036). In Westminster abbey’s Third Charter he appears 6th of 12 laymen after the earls, again as a thegn (minister) and in the company of five stallers preceding him and a military official, Wigot of Wallingford, immediately afterwards (S 1041). In Westminster’s First Charter he comes 7th of 10, changing places with Wigot, following the same five senior men (not in the same order) and preceding the same group of three (S 1043). All three charters are forgeries in their present form, but they seem to have used authentic witness lists of the earlier or mid 1060s. No other Æthelnoth of similar status is known, and the charter witness is likely to have been Æthelnoth Cild.

Æthelnoth is explicitly given his byname Cild in most of the Kent entries that refer to him in DB. He was named third of the seven persons among the Kentish landowners who shared a set of important duties and privileges. They provided a bodyguard for six days when the king was at Canterbury or Sandwich. They were not obliged to attend the shire meeting other than at its traditional meeting-place of Penenden Heath. And their heirs were exempt from paying heriot to the king. Further, Æthelnoth was one of the four persons over whose lands in Canterbury the king did not have sake and soke, that is, Æthelnoth had an exempt urban jurisdiction subject to himself alone.

Æthelnoth’s largest cluster of property in Kent was centred on Boxley (worth £25 a year), on the downs immediately north of Maidstone. Boxley parish (and presumably the Domesday manor) included much of Penenden Heath (the rest was in Maidstone itself), including the area where the county assembled in later centuries (Hasted 1797–1801: IV, [check page no.]). That makes Æthelnoth the custodian of the shire’s meeting place and suggests that he may have held Boxley in some official capacity (as satraps?) rather than as inherited family property. In the immediate vicinity he also owned Eccles (£3) down the Medway valley to the north-west, West Farleigh (£8) up the valley to the south-east, and Chart Sutton (£12) on the other side of Maidstone. Two further manors were large and stood apart from one another in East Kent: Bilsington on the cliffs above Romney Marsh (£10 but perhaps undervalued since it was at farm for as much as £70 in 1086), and Easole on the Downs equidistant between Dover, Sandwich, and Canterbury (£9).

Brasted, in the Darenth valley almost on the county boundary with Surrey, very probably also belonged to Æthelnoth Cild. It was said in DB to be held by Alnod abbas from the archbishop of Canterbury, abbas being interlined in the way that titles and bynames were normally treated by the scribe of GDB. There was an Abbot Æthelnoth in 1066, but he was abbot of Glastonbury and there is no reason to think that the head of so distant a monastery held any land in Kent. DM instead has Brasted as held from the archbishop by Wlnod Cild, but there is no ‘Wulfnoth Cild’ anywhere else in DB whom the name might represent. The most likely explanation is that there is an error in both records, that DM’s Wlnod stands for Alnod and DB’s abbas is simply a mistake. The archbishop’s tenant at Brasted was likely Æthelnoth Cild.

Æthelnoth thus had a core holding in the heart of Kent worth £48 a year, two manors of £19 in East Kent, and one manor of £10 in West Kent taken on lease from the archbishop, presumably with the deliberate intention of acquiring a foothold in that part of the county. Eccles included houses in Rochester, and there was clearly a substantial urban estate in Canterbury of which there is no record apart from the note of Æthelnoth’s jurisdictional rights in the city.

Two of the men who held land from Æthelnoth were in his core area near Maidstone: Godric at Bensted and Wulfric at Allington and Offham; a third, Alwine, held at St Paul’s Cray in West Kent. Some time after King Edward’s death another local thegn in West Kent, Leofstan, who had the unidentified manor of Eddintone somewhere in the Darenth basin, commended himself to Æthelnoth, suggesting a widening of the latter’s influence under King Harold.

Æthelnoth was in fact active throughout Kent. On the king’s manor of Milton Regis, centred opposite Sheppey, he took part of a Wealden denn by force (per uim abstulit) from a certain villan; and at the other side of the county, ‘through Harold’s violence’ (per uiolentiam Heraldi) he acquired land from the canons of St Martin’s of Dover either through an unfair exchange or at an unfair price, DB’s iniqua commutatio being ambiguous. Part of the land taken was at Hawkhurst, deep in the Weald, and so, presumably, was the other part, at the unidentified Merclesham.

In Sussex, Æthelnoth Cild was named explicitly as the holder of the enormous manor of Alciston, assessed at 50 hides and worth £48 a year in 1066. The manorial centre was on the Cuckmere river, below the scarp of the South Downs, but Domesday and later evidence show that Alciston had outlying members scattered widely on the Downs and in the Weald: 4 hides in Totnore hundred to the west are covered by the next entry in DB, and the entry for Alciston itself mentioned houses in Lewes and land which after the Conquest was detached from the manor because it lay to the east in the count of Eu’s rape of Hastings or to the west in William de Warenne’s rape of Lewes. A charter of Henry I notes that 7 hides were separated from the 50 hides which belonged to Alciston; the places where they lay included Ovingdean, 10 miles to the west, and Shoyswell far into the Weald (VCH Suss. I, 394 note 1).

The extent of Æthelnoth’s manor of Alciston strongly suggests that most of the other references in Sussex to an Alnod unqualified by the byname Cild were also to him. With two exceptions in western Sussex (which we have attributed to other persons) they were all within the area over which Alciston’s tentacles extended: Charleston, Wilmington, and Alfriston in the immediate neighbourhood of the manorial centre; Hailsham 6 miles north-west, with salt-works in the Pevensey Levels, and Wartling just north of the Levels; Ovingdean and Harpenden between Lewes and the sea; and Wealden outliers, some near the known members of Alciston, at Shovelstrode and in Netherfield hundred (by a process of elimination most probably Eatendon in Mountfield parish) 15–20 miles distant from Alciston.

Altogether, the Sussex manors which can be attributed to Æthelnoth Cild with a fair degree of confidence were actually worth more (by a small margin) than his Kent manors. At Wilmington he had been a tenant of Earl Godwine. At Ovingdean he had 5 hides independent of the outlier of Alciston, and another 3 hides belonged to an Eadgyth who held ‘in parage’ (in paragio). They were connected in some way, since when William de Warenne’s tenant Godfrey de Pierrepont entered into possession of Ovingdean ‘he found them in one manor’. Eadgyth was perhaps a kinswoman of Æthelnoth.

In Surrey, as in Sussex, a single great manor was explicitly attributed to Æthelnoth Cild in DB: Bramley in the south-west of the county, of 34 hides worth £40 in 1066 but paying almost twice as much in 1086. It represented the ‘privatized’ western half of the royal hundred of Blackheath, headed ecclesiastically by the minster church of Shalford (Blair 1991: 25–6, 31, 53, 113, 119). 

Bramley passed after the Conquest to Æthelnoth Cild’s successor in Kent, Bishop Odo, as did Banstead in east Surrey, whereas a group of four manors near Banstead (Chivington, Blechingley, Tillingdown, and Buckland) went instead to Richard fitzGilbert. Nonetheless, all five probably belonged to Æthelnoth Cild rather than some namesake, as has been recognized elsewhere (Blair 1991: 116). The value of his six Surrey manors in 1066 was almost on a par with what he owned in Kent or Sussex.

The three south-eastern counties together accounted for well over two thirds of the value of Æthelnoth Cild’s lands in 1066. Further afield a scatter of mostly smaller manors can be attributed to him with varying degrees of confidence. In Hampshire, the Æthelnoth who had 2 hides at each of Overton and Hurstbourne Priors by lease from Stigand as bishop of Winchester can be identified as more likely than not Æthelnoth Cild on the grounds that the latter was also Stigand’s tenant in Kent. Æthelnoth explicitly owned in his own right the much larger nearby manor of Monk Sherborne, which went after the Conquest to Bishop Odo. Hampshire had many other manors held by an Alnod but none was large and none passed to Odo, so there is no reason to think that any of them was Æthelnoth Cild.

In Buckinghamshire, Æthelnoth Cild had three manors clustered within a mile or two on the Oxfordshire boundary west of Buckingham and abutting the territory of Buckingham itself, but also a commended man who owned land nearly 20 miles away in the north-east of the shire. Not far to the west, in Oxfordshire, he had larger manors worth £20 and £30 at Great Tew and Stanton Harcourt. All five manors in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire passed to Bishop Odo. Geographically between the two, at the southern tip of Northamptonshire, one Wulfric held ‘from Æthelnoth’ little more than 1 virgate at Walton Grounds. Wulfric’s holding was recorded in the form of a manorial entry but was also said to be soke of King William’s manor of King’s Sutton. Probably Sutton belonged to King Edward in 1066 and Wulfric’s relationship to Æthelnoth was one of commendation rather than tenure. Finally, Bishop Odo also succeeded an Æthelnoth (the name miscopied as Elnoc) at Hazleton in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds; likely than not he was Æthelnoth Cild too. Hazleton was only 3¾ hides and no valuation was reported for 1066, but soon after the Conquest Bishop Odo was able to grant it at farm for as much as £16.


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