OUR FIRST RECORDED HISTORY
by Ron Dale
People have lived in the area of our village for thousands of years, but there is
no written record of their existence, only their archaeological remains in the soil
and in Stanstead these have been few. Even the Romans who built their villas around
here only bequeathed us a few coins and some bricks to remind us of their stay. The
first known written mention of the village name, Stanestede, was in the Domesday
Book of 1086 (or 1085 as it is now reported). It is possible that somewhere lurks
an older record of our village name on some shrivelled and stained parchment within
the dusty depths of the National Archives, but for the moment we are compelled to
begin our village story with the reign of Alwine, the Saxon lord of the manor, who
would have been replaced by the Norman knight Ranulf at some time shortly after 1066.
Full details of the village at the time of the Domesday Survey may be found elsewhere
on this web-
He was lord of the manor of Stanestede in 1066, according to the Domesday Record
and therefore, our village history begins with his tenure. We do not know what happened
to him after the Conquest or when his lands were seized by Ranulf, brother of Ilger,
who was still lord in 1086. What would their first meeting have been like? Was it
violent? We can only guess that it was certainly not friendly. When Daniel Secker,
surveyor, was hired to do a stone-
We know little else about Alwine except that a Frith Wood was named after him.
Alwine’s Frith was a wood with a house within it, mentioned several times in
the 12th century charters of Waltham Abbey, its existence forgotten for centuries,
but recently rediscovered. In the 12th century it was tenanted by Sir Simon of Stanstead,
but owned by lord of the manor, Roger de Wanchy. (Early Charters of Waltham Abbey,
ed. Ruth Rainsford, Boydell Press, 2004). It would seem that the Frith had always
been the property of the local lord and it was obviously once owned by Alwine for
this reason and it also carried his name. This being the case, he probably lived
at the Frith in a large wooden hall, common for a lord at the time. The Frith was
located on the hilltops of Easneye (the exact site located by Ron Dale and Ray Dixon
on the ground, July, 2014). This historic piece of land was a 10-
Our Saxon lord’s name is usually recorded as Alwine Gottone, but sometimes Gotton
or even Godtone. I first believed the secondary name to be proprietary as many are
and searched in the U.K. and throughout Europe for a place called Gottone or Godtone
but was unsuccessful. After hours of searching I found mention of the word Gottone
in a book about the Fall of the Roman Empire. In Birth of the Stormers of Rome: Gothic
Ethnogenesis and Migrations, by Periklis Deliglannis, it is recorded here that the
old Latin word for a Goth was Gottone. Once again, this is an example of reverting
to a study of ancient language to discover new information. (See The Meaning of Easneye
elsewhere on this web-
(In Domesday Book is a record of a man called Gothmund who was overlord and tenant of a cottage and small toft of land in our village, both in 1066 and still in 1086, an exceptional occurrence. He also would have had Gothic origins).
Alwine held only a few manors, in addition to Stanestede, these being Hunsdon, Ayot (St. Lawrence), Codicote, Oxwick and Broadwater in Hertfordshire with Quicksbury and Harlow in Essex. He was also overlord of Stanestede, Ayot and Sawbridgeworth. Alwine’s estates were in a cluster, fairly close to each other on the borders of Hertfordshire and Essex. At that time Stanestede was classed as a town and was far more important than his other manors and it is believed that for this reason he would have made our village his base.
RANULF, BROTHER OF ILGER
Our first Norman lord, Ranulf, brother of Ilger, was far richer, holding 33 manors scattered across eight Home and East Anglian counties. As there were several Ranulfs mentioned in the Domesday Survey (as there were Alwines), he was identified by the fact that he had a brother named Ilger (this is today a family name). Ilger was the tutor to King William’s second son, Robert who was killed by a stag in the New Forest when only a young man.
Statue of William the Conqueror at Falaise, France
In addition to being the first Norman lord of Stanstead, Ranulf’s many other estates included Nazeing and Epping. After his death his estates were broken up, and he died without issue. Waltham Abbey was granted many of these, with Nazeing granted to them in 1189 by King Richard I and the Fitzwilliam family taking over some of the other lands. Nazeing was classified as a Shroudlands by the abbey (i.e. its income used to supply clothing allowances for the canons).
In the Domesday Survey we encounter for the first time the complex names of
Normans to whom our lands were given by the all-
In Stanstead’s Domesday Survey are mentioned several Normans, the lowest in
rank being Ranulf, brother of Ilger, the lord of the manor and above him was Geoffrey
de Bec as overlord, one of the knights listed with William at Senlac and he had several
manors in the south-
For the tiny manor or Rye which had then no residents and is today part of Stanstead
Abbotts, Peter de Valognes was the lord, one of his many estates. He was also lord
of Hertford and had Hertford Castle. The overlord of Rye was Odo, the half-
William of Normandy became King William I of England when he was crowned at Westminster
on Christmas Day, 1066. This meant that in that fateful year England had three Kings:
Edward the Confessor, Harold and William. William had persuaded his knights to invade
England by offering them lands in a country which they knew was well organized under
the Saxons and was Christian and was also very rich. Its only problem, William understood
well was that it had not been ready to defend itself and a country not ready to fight
would soon be swallowed up as he had done. He soon began building mighty castles
across the land, as many as 86 were built during his 21-
Understandably there was much resentment from the local population at this take-
William took over the estates of those who fought against him at Hastings and Stanstead was on King Harold’s land! Some of the Saxon English who were prepared to submit to the Normans even changed their Saxon names to Norman names such as William and were allowed small estates. There were attempts at revolt, especially in Yorkshire, but William ruled with an iron fist and was determined to stamp out any signs of opposition. By the time of his death in 1087 there was hardly any property left in the hands of an Englishman. He was cruel and harsh and after the death of his wife Mathilda in 1083 he became tyrannical. He died in Normandy on 9 September, 1087. Writing in circa 1130 many years after William’s death, historian Orderic Vitalis recorded what purports to be a deathbed confession from the dying Conqueror:
‘I treated the native inhabitants of the kingdom with unreasonable severity, cruelty, oppression, and caused the death of thousands by starvation and war, especially in Yorkshire. In great fury I descended on the English...’ (N.B. Even if God forgave him, I do not think Yorkshire folk have).
These do not sound like the words of the brutal tyrant history shows him to have been, but perhaps they are the words Orderic thought history would like to hear.
Inevitably we will have gaps in the history of our village, but not many. We have no knowledge of any names before Alwine in 1066 but few villages have. After the death of Ranulf we have another gap. We know that later in the 12th century our lord of the manor was Roger de Wanchy (or Wancy), who was the man responsible for the loss of the manor to Waltham Abbey circa 1170 due to his debts. From about this time the abbot and canons of Waltham Abbey were the lords of the manor until 1531 when it was handed back to Henry VIII. From that date onwards, our record of manorial lords is more or less complete to the present day. (See A History of Stanstead Abbotts, Rye House and St. Margarets, S.A.L. H.S., 2012, featured on our home page).
The 12th and 13th century histories were mainly provided to me by the early
charters of Waltham Abbey (see these also on this web-
Ron Dale, May, 2017