Æthelmund 33 was a major landowner in western Mercia, whose estates were centred in south Shropshire but extended into Staffordshire and Warwickshire. In all they were assessed at nearly 56 hides and worth over £34. He was still living in 1086 but by then his son Alweard had succeeded him as head of an important family of English survivors.
Distribution map of property and lordships associated with this name in DB
List of property and lordships associated with this name in DB
Two obstacles stand in the way of a straightforward identification of Æthelmund 33 as a major landowner in Shropshire and neighbouring counties to the east: the varied ways in which the name was spelled and the existence of a second landowner of the same name at Clunton on the Welsh border.
The area covered by this grouping of estates was relatively large, over 70 miles separating the two furthest flung manors. More telling than its apparent dispersal, however, is the fact that occurrences of the name Æthelmund were so markedly concentrated in three contiguous shires of western Mercia. For the size of the estate (to anticipate the conclusion that they did all belong to one man), it was coherent and manageable. All the manors in south and west Shropshire were within 20 miles of the largest, Munslow Aston, and no manor anywhere was more than 25 miles from the next nearest.
In Shropshire, succession after 1066 does not help in identifying pre-Conquest landowners, because almost the whole shire was handed to Earl Roger irrespective of pre-Conquest tenure. On the other hand, Earl Roger’s succession to all five of Æthelmund’s manors in Staffordshire and to three of the four in Warwickshire is good evidence that they belonged to the Shropshire Æthelmund. In Warwickshire in particular, Earl Roger had only a small fief in the east of the shire, on either side of the Foss Way where it crossed Dunsmore heath, and made up of three manors of 10¼ hides belonging to Æthelmund 33, three manors of 10 hides belonging to Wulfwine (Warws. 12:1–2, 6), and one manor of 5 hides belonging to Ketilbern (Warws. 12:5). Earl Roger’s fief in Staffordshire was rather larger, and in part had a geographical rather than a tenurial rationale, but only one of Æthelmund’s manors in Staffordshire or Warwickshire, Mackadown, did not fall into Earl Roger’s hands. It passed instead to the Englishman Thorkil of Warwick, probably because it was in the part of Warwickshire where Thorkil was the dominant landowner in 1086.
The first complication in being sure of Æthelmund 33’s identity is that the large manor of Clunton was held as three manors TRE by two Æthelmunds and a Wulfric, named in the order Æthelmund, Wulfric, and Æthelmund. The fact that the two Æthelmunds had their names spelled differently (Elmund and Ælmund) probably confirms the conclusion that two different landowners were involved, rather than one being named twice over (though that should perhaps be retained as a remote possibility). The second Æthelmund is identified here as Æthelmund 34, and he has not been attributed any other estates. The best guess would be that he was a junior member of the wider family headed by Æthelmund 33.
A further complication needs to be disposed of. The different spellings of the name in DB suggest that some consideration should be given to the possibility that Æthelmund 34 owned other manors besides part of Clunton. The spellings across Shropshire, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire can be resolved into two main groups, the first in El– (Elmund) and the second in Al–, Æl–, Ail–, and Æil– (for convenience now referred to as Almund). When mapped, Elmund and Almund overlap in complicated ways. Both are found at Clunton in the far west and at Wolston in the far east of the range, and both are in effect scattered across the whole territory. If Elmund was one person and Almund another, then the two men had holdings of very much the same size, Elmund’s 32 hides worth nearly £21, Almund’s 25 hides worth £15. On this reconstruction, the two must still have been kinsmen, or the geographical pattern and their possession of almost (but not quite) identical names would be inexplicable.
Although it is not impossible that two kinsmen and near-namesakes held such interlocking estates, that solution is less attractive than the one we have adopted, that Æthelmund 33 was a big landowner and Æthelmund 34 a very small one. Clarke (1994) did not consider Æthelmund among the thegnly holders of estates worth over £40, perhaps because he did not recognize the Shropshire landowner as the thegn who owned land in Warwickshire and Staffordshire.
On this analysis, Æthelmund 33’s lands were centred in the dales of southern Shropshire, scattered from the valleys of Camlad and Clun in the west to the Severn in the east and north. His largest manor was Munslow Aston in Corvedale, at the heart of the estate. There were outlying manors in four other areas: Moreton Say in north-east Shropshire, a scatter near Stafford, Mackadown on the western boundary of Warwickshire, and the little group near Dunsmore heath in east Warwickshire. The overall pattern makes it more appropriate to call him Æthelmund ‘of Shropshire’ than to name him from any one of his manors.
Æthelmund survived as a subtenant of Earl Roger in 1086 at just one place, Amaston (16), where he was co-tenant with his son Alweard. Alweard was an important English survivor of the Conquest, with a dozen manors on the Welsh border in the vicinity of Amaston, assessed at over 25 hides and held as a tenant variously of Earl Roger and the Shrewsbury minster churches of St Chad and St Alkmund. Apart from the special case of the Norman Osbern fitzRichard, he was in fact much the most important English survivor in Shropshire in 1086 (Lewis 1990: 22). His father Æthelmund is likely to have been an old man by then, but his former prominence in Shropshire and more widely in western Mercia is suggested by the fact that Alweard was repeatedly identified in Domesday Book not by his own name but as ‘the son of Æthelmund’ (Salop. 4.27:18–21).
It is distinctly possible that Æthelmund 33 was the thegn Æthelmund (Ægelmundus princeps) whose name was included among the witnesses of the Waltham (Essex) charter of 1062 (Æthelmund 24). The charter itself is likely to be a post-Conquest fabrication (S 1036), but the names of the witnesses largely correspond with people known to have been prominent in the 1060s. Æthelmund’s name comes after an Eadric and before a Siward, both of them also designated princeps, meaning thegn. It is striking that this little group of three had the names of the three leading thegns of Shropshire in the 1060s, Eadric the wild, Æthelmund ‘of Shropshire’, and Siward the fat. Their names may have been recycled for the purposes of the Waltham forgery from some other (and authentic) document of the years immediately before 1066. If so, Æthelmund’s presence alongside two Shropshire thegns of undoubted importance reinforces the identification proposed here.
Clarke 1994: Peter A. Clarke, The English Nobility under Edward the Confessor (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994)
Lewis 1990: C. P. Lewis, ‘An introduction to the Shropshire Domesday’, The Shropshire Domesday, ed. Ann Williams and R. W. H. Erskine (London: Alecto Historical Editions, 1990), 1–27.