PASE: Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England


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

Æthelræd 74 Æthelræd the forester, king’s thegn in Devon (fl. to 1086)

Author: CPL
Editorial Status: 4 of 5

  Discussion of the name  



Æthelræd 74 was a royal forester with five small manors on the fringes of Dartmoor, worth nearly £3 but assessed at only around 5 virgates. In 1086 he retained two of them, worth 25 shillings.

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

List of property and lordships associated with this name in DB




The identification of a minor TRE landowner in Devon who survived in 1086 holding two of his manors as a king’s thegn is complicated by the treatment of his name in GDB. The two manors that Æthelræd the forester retained are the second and third of three successive entries in the GDB chapter for the king’s thegns, assigned respectively to Eldred, Eldred, and Edred (Devon 52:26–28). The first has a gap in place of the TRE holder’s name but the other two still belonged to their pre-Conquest owner(s). The places in question are an unidentified ‘Week’ which may be Lashbrook Week in Thornbury parish, Manaton, and Bickford.

Eldred would normally stand for Ealdræd and Edred for Eadræd, but in all three cases Exon provides a different and more authentic spelling. The holder of Lashbrook Week probably was called Ealdræd, since Exon has Aldretus (Exon 481a1), with the diagnostic spelling in –ld–. But Exon names as Adret the holder(s) of Manaton (Exon 488b1) and Bickford (Exon 488b4). Moreover the Manaton entry ‘most likely’ corresponds to a holding recorded in the Devon Geld Inquest under the name Aderet foristarius (IG xxiii; Exon 69; Phill. Devon, II, note 52,27). Adret and Aderet both stand for Æthelræd: the scribe of GDB changed the names to Eldred and Edred when he was rearranging the Exon entries (which were in hundredal order) by grouping together the holdings of each distinct name in the order Colwin, Godwine, Godric, Oda, Eldred, Edred (a slip for Eldred?), Alweard, and so on.

Significantly, where the scribe of GDB was copying the name Æthelræd and it was a TRE name only, he made phonetic alterations but not substantive ones. At Clifford, Exon’s Adredus (Exon 470a1) became Edredus in GDB; at Neadon, Exon’s Adret (Exon 312a2) became Edret in GDB; and at Shapley, Exon’s Aret (Exon 297b1) was unchanged in GDB. The Exon forms should be taken as the prime evidence for the personal name, and the spellings in A– all stand for Æthelræd rather than Ealdræd or Eadræd.

The five manors in question all lay on the fringes of Dartmoor, Bickford on the south-western slopes towards the Tamar estuary at about 650 ft, the other four in the upper valleys on the north-eastern side, towards Exeter. Clifford was named after a ford in the narrow defile of the Teign at 285 ft, though included higher moorland on both sides of the valley; Neadon and Manaton adjoined one another in the hills above the Bovey, 7 miles across the moors from Clifford, and Shapley stood in a side valley 2 miles further into Dartmoor. Those last three places are all around 920 ft above sea level.

The four manors on the north-east side of Dartmoor make a coherent group for a minor royal forester: in 1066 they were worth nearly 50s., though had very low assessments totalling only 1¼ hides. The resources available to Æthelræd were quite extensive: land for eleven ploughs, 18 acres of meadow, 27 acres of private pasture, and 10 acres of wood, besides (we can safely presume) rights over common land on Dartmoor.

Whether Bickford, 25 miles away along the roads skirting Dartmoor, really belonged to the forester Æthelræd rather than a namesake must be open to some doubt. It was a tiny holding of only one ploughland, with 1 acre of meadow, 12 acres of pasture, and 1 furlong of wood, worth just 5s. Æthelræd’s name is unusual enough, however, to tip the balance in favour of him being the same person.

In 1086 Æthelræd the forester retained Bickford and Manaton. At Bickford he had a single demesne ploughteam and 6 dairy cattle; at Manaton 2 teams, 3 cattle, and 10 sheep; the whole was worth 25s.



Phill. Devon: Domesday Book, ed. John Morris, 9: Devon, ed. Caroline and Frank Thorn, 2 vols (Chichester: Phillimore, 1985)

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