The Manor of Dunham on Trent

Dunham-on-Trnet church, c.1920. Dunham-on-Trent church, c.1920.


SEVERAL suggestions have been made with regard to the derivation of the name Dunham. The most probable is that the first syllable is a personal name Dun (a), the termination "ham" being the Old English for "homestead" or "village," therefore meaning "the homestead of Dun." Or it may be from "dun " (Old English) "a hill," so that the name may mean "the village on the hill." However one is inclined to believe that the chief part of the village has always been, as it is now, on the level.

The mention of Dunham in Domesday survey is as follows:—

"Manor in Dunham with the four Berewics Ragene-hil, Wimentun, Derlunetun, Suanesterne. King Edward had 5 carucates of land and a half to be taxed. Land to 12 ploughs. The King has now there 2 ploughs in the demesne and 60 Villanes and 3 Bordars, having 10 ploughs and one mill of three shillings, and one fishery of ten shillings and eight pence, and 120 acres of meadow. Wood pasture 6 quarentens long and 4 broad. They paid in King Edward's time 30 pounds and 6 sextaries of honey, now 20 pounds with all things that belong to it."

Then follows a list of the sokes of the Manor, namely, Drayton, East and Great Markham, Little Greenley, Ordsall, Grove and Headon, Upton, Normanton. Particulars of the land in each is given.

The King was the chief landowner in Nottinghamshire, the extent of whose possessions may be gathered from Domesday survey. Stretching across some 60 vills, they were in fact almost entirely grouped as "sokelands" or "berewicks" round the five great manors of Dunham, Bothamsall, Mansfield, Arnold, and Orston. It is interesting to note that Dunham stands first on the list, and therefore was the most important of the King's manors in the county. Berewicks are manors within manors. Dunham was the chief manor, to which was attached the manors or berewicks of Ragenhil, Wimentun, Derlunetun, Snanesterne. Each of these manors held a court called Court Leet, but the manor of Dunham held jurisdiction over these. Two of these berewicks, Wimentun and Snanesterne, have entirely disappeared. Wimentun still existed in the 15th century, but of the latter nothing is known except as a field name, which is frequently mentioned in deeds of transfer. Independently of these favoured areas the king had others which lay further from the centre; these he reduced to "sokes," which meant that they were merged or incorporated into the chief Manor of Dunham.

From Domesday we learn that the first owner of the Manor of Dunham of whom there is any record, is King Edward the Confessor (1041-1066). How long it had been in possession of the kings of England is not known. Henry I. (1102-1135) gave Thurston, Archbishop of York, the Church of Dunham that he might make it a Prebend of Southwell. Thurston resigned his See in A.D, 1140, and died at Pontefract. We are informed that he liberally endowed the two Prebends of Beckingham and Dunham in the Church of Southwell; the endowment of the latter was at the King's command transferred from this parish, and from that time until recently the patronage of the living of Dunham was in the gift of the Prebend. The last Vicar to be thus appointed was the Rev. Henry Jubb, Vicar from 1856 to 1883, his uncle, the Rev. T. C. Percival, having the patronage as being a member of the old foundation of Prebends.

During the reign of King John (1199-1216) frequent mention is made of Dunham. He made a State visit here on May 21st, 1207. He was wont to travel about the country with the Judge of Assize, and in his wanderings he was accompanied by huntsmen and all the paraphernalia of the chase. His Court constantly travelled between thirty and forty miles per day, and on particular occasions the King travelled a distance of fifty miles. In one year he changed his residence 150 times, visiting religious houses and his castles and manors, in some cases consuming the rents due to the Crown, and thus impoverishing the country by the rapacity of his purveyors. Two orders to the Barons of the Exchequer are dated from Dunham, May 22nd. In his Itinerary several visits are recorded to Kingshaugh (in the parish of Dunham). In 1205 there were consigned to the King at Bristol forty tuns of wine, which he ordered to be sent to Nottingham, one tun of which was to be sent, probably by boat, to Dunham, which would no doubt be for use at his mansion at Kingshaugh. In 1212, Matthew, Earl of Boulogne, appears to have been made Lord of the Manor. In 1216, Henry III., then only nine years of age, gave land to Rad Plucket, "who gave to the monks of Rufford, for the souls of his father and mother and ancestors, one toft in Dunham, on the south part or the town, contiguous to the Gyldehouse, four perches long, and as many broad, and the said monks were not to receive any more land in that town, but by the favour and goodwill of himself and his heirs; the witnesses were Gilbert de Archis, Swain de Hoiland, Robert de Draiton, William de Draiton, Richard de Laxton, Thomas, Clerk of Headon." (Thoroton). It is evident that in those days Dunham was a place of some importance.

In 1217, the King granted the Manor to Falkesius Breant, Earl of Boulogne, who was probably the son of the aforesaid Matthew, and he was succeeded by Reginald de Dammartin. In 1223, Henry III. was declared old enough to govern, and all who held manors belonging to the King were to surrender them on pain of excommunication. It was either in that year, or on the death of the Earl of Boulogne, that the Manor of Dunham came again into the hands of the King, who held it some time, and afterwards, in 1227, gave it to Ralph Fitz-Nicholas. "Grant to Ralph son of Nicholas and his heirs of the Manor of Dunham, late of the Count of Boulogne, to be held as Reginald de Dammartin late Count of Boulogne held it, until the King shall restore it to the heirs of the said Count of his free will or by a peace; nor shall the said Ralph be disseised for any other cause." This gift was confirmed in 1229, and again in 1233 (Charter Rolls).

Sir Ralph Fitz-Nicholas played an important part in the reign of Henry III., and spent a long life in the King's service. That he was a man of sterling integrity is evidenced by the important posts he filled. We first meet him in the service of King John, who placed great confidence in him. During the reign of Henry III. he became Sheriff of Nottingham and Derby, Constable of several castles, one of which was Nottingham, and Keeper of the Honour of Peverel. In 1226 he was seneschal of the King's household. In 1236 the weak King fell entirely under the control of his foreign advisers. The English counsellors of the King were got rid of, and among them Ralph Fitz-Nicholas. Sometime afterwards he was restored to the King's favour. He died in 1257, being still one of the King's trusted counsellors. His son Robert, upon the rupture between the King and his Barons, joined the latter, and his lands were forfeited to the Crown.

In 1258 the King granted "to his brother and faithful William de Valence the Manor of Dunham," "which the King formerly gave by charter to Ralph, son of Nicholas and his heirs, and which Robert son of Ralph after his father's death quit claimed to the King for the behoof of the said William, to whom he delivered all the charters and muniments thereof to be held by the said William and his heirs from the King by the service due thereof, £50, the value of the said Manor, being deducted from the yearly fee payable to the said William at the exchequer."

William de Valance was the King's half brother, being one of the four brothers which Isabella, his mother, had borne to the Count of La Merche, from whom she had been unjustly taken by King John whilst in her childhood, and married to himself; but whom, after the death of her royal husband, she espoused as soon as possible.

William de Valence made himself much disliked in England, where the favour shown to him and his brothers by the King was one of the causes of the popular discontent which culminated in the revolt of the barons. The Earl took a prominent part in the civil war, and was more than once forced to fly abroad. He died at Bayonne, where he had been sent on an expedition. At his death in 1296 he was buried in the chapel of St. Edmund, in Westminster Abbey, where his tomb, erected by his son Aymer, may yet be seen.

He was succeeded by his son Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, who was much employed as a general in the wars with Scotland, where he captured and put to death Nigel, the brother of Robert Bruce. He also took part in the punishment of Piers Gaveston, and in 1321 assisted Edward II. to defeat the confederate Barons at Pontefract, and to execute their leader, Thomas Earl of Lancaster. Aymer died suddenly near Paris when on an embassy to Charles IV. He was buried near the High Altar in Westminster Abbey, where is a beautiful tomb to his memory.

The men of Dunham at an early date held certain privileges, which could only have been granted by a royal charter. For instance, it is stated by Thoroton that "The men of Dunham soke and Manor, tenants of ancient demesne, ought to be quit of murder, pontage, and all other fines with the commonalty of the county." Thoroton does not give the date when this privilege was granted, probably he is referring to an order in the Close Rolls, dated 1273. The Sheriff at that time had evidently forgotten or overlooked the charter that granted the men of Dunham these privileges, and so William de Valence, Lord of the Manor, makes complaint to the King, who issues the following order:—

"1273. To the Sheriff of Norfolk, etc. Order to desist from exacting certain sums for pontage and fines from the men of the Manor and Soke of Dunham who held ancient demesne, and to permit them to be quit of murder fine, pontage and fines, as they were wont to be in times past, as it has been shown to the King by William de Valencia, his uncle, that the said men who hold ancient demesne, ought to be quit of giving murder money fine, pontage, and all fines with the community of co Notts, and have hitherto been wont to be quit, but the Sheriff exacts certain sums for such pontage fines for them to the damage of the said William and his men." These privileges were restored to William de Valence and his men.

In "The jointures made to the Queen of England I Edward III.," it is stated," That the Manor of Dunham with its appurtenances was the ancient demesne of the Lord King in the time of Henry the Elder, but King John gave it to the Count of Boulogne, etc." There is, however, no apparent reason for the special mention of King Henry I. in these jointures, unless it was he who granted the aforesaid privileges to the men of Dunham Soke and Manor.

Thoroton mentions that there was a "Gildhouse" in Dunham (circa 1216). The Gildhouse would be that of "Merchant Gild," which was established in many towns and villages during the 12th and 13th centuries, and the charter which granted the aforesaid privileges would also grant permission to the men of Dunham to establish the Merchant Gild.

We know that Thurston, Archbishop of York (1119-1135), to whom Henry I. gave the vicarage of Dunham to form a prebend of Southwell, obtained from the King a charter to establish a Merchant Gild at Beverley, of which place he (Thurston) was Lord of the Manor. It is not therefore, unlikely that he also obtained from the King a similar charter for Dunham.

In writs issued by John, the men of Dunham and also of Darlton, are addressed as "free tenants" (Close Rolls). These privileges are referred to in a mandate, dated 1320:—

"Mandate until further order directed to the Sheriff, Nottingham, as tenants of the Manor which are of the ancient demesne of the Crown ought not to be put on assizes, juries or recognitions for the land and tenements which they hold of such demesne, that the men and tenants of the King's Manor of Derelton and Ragenhill which is of the said demesne and whom he does not wish to be duly harassed, shall not be placed on assizes, juries, or recognitions without the court of the said manor for lands and tenements which they hold."

The privileges of complete exclusion of the sheriffs and other royal bailiffs from the interference in the affairs of the borough was granted on March 23, 1314:—"Grant to Aymer de Valentia, Earl of Pembroke, the King's cousin, that he and his heirs shall have in the towns of Gainsborough, co. Lincs, and Dunham, co. Notts, and its soke, return of all the King's writs touching the said town and soke, whether of summons to the exchequer or of other matters, so that no sheriff, bailiff or other minister shall enter the said town and soke to do ought therein save by the default of this Aymer and his bailiff."

Aymer married Mary, daughter of the Count of St. Pol, who founded in 1347 the College at Cambridge which still bears the title of the famous Countess of Pembroke. Having no children, he was succeeded by his wife. On the death of Aymer in 1324, Edward II., on Nov. 24th, issued—"To John de Bounville, escheator in co Norfolk, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Essex, Hertford. Order to deliver to Mary, late wife of Aymer de Valentia, earl of Pembroke, tenant in chief in England and Wales, the following of the earl's lands, which the King has assigned to her in dower . . . . the town of Dunham with its soke, co Nottingham, of the yearly value of £7019. 8." (Close Rolls). She was very wealthy, being the possessor of land in twenty-two counties, and of no less than sixty manors. She held that of Dunham for fifty-three years, and was succeeded by Elizabeth, the daughter of David Strabolgi, earl of Athole.

It will be noticed that in the charter granted, probably, by Henry I., making Dunham a free borough, among the privileges granted was the right to hold a market. That a weekly market was held at Dunham we gather from an entry in the Close Rolls, which is as follows:—"1330, February 22nd, Westminster, To the Justices in eyre in co Nottingham. Order to permit Mary, late wife of Aymer de Valentia, earl of Pembroke, lady of Dunham, to have a market on Tuesday in every week at Dunham, which is 20 luce distant from the town of Nottingham."

The entry follows a similar order to the lady of Wellow, Notts, but fuller in detail. The meaning of the two writs relating to Wellow and Dunham markets was that the King's justices being on eyre at Nottingham, for their safety had issued a proclamation prohibiting all gatherings of the people, even at markets and fairs, within a certain radius of Nottingham, during their sojourn. This proclamation stopped the two markets of Wellow and Dunham. The two ladies appealed to the King to remove the restraint, which he did.

A market continued to be held here weekly until recent times. On market day Dunham would be quite a busy place when farmers came in from the neighbouring villages to transact business, and their wives to sell butter, eggs, etc. In White's Directory of Nottinghamshire, 1844, it is stated that "a market is held on Friday, and butter, etc,, are bought by the hucksters who pass through the village from Lincoln to Sheffield." It is owing probably to the introduction of railways, and consequently the increased facilities of reaching the more important markets at Lincoln, Retford, and Newark that the weekly market at Dunham ceased to be of any consequence; few attended, and so it was abandoned.

This market place was a plot of ground in the village street, now turned into a garden. It is very probable that at this time the village cross was erected here, a portion of which was recently discovered by the writer in 1909, and placed in the Church. It had been dug up in a garden twenty years before, and since then had been used by a woman to stand upon when hanging out the clothes. The portion found was the top stone of a 14th century pedestal, the carving on which indicates what a fine and handsome piece of work the cross must have been when complete. It was placed there to remind buyers and sellers and all passers by that the cross must be borne daily by Christ's disciples, and that all they do should be done so as to be blest by Him Who died thereon. In White's Directory, 1853, we read "that a fine old cross which stood in the village was taken down about thirty years ago by Mr. Robert Mills by order of William Crawley, lord of the Manor."

Aymer de Valentia had a half sister, Joan, who married John Cumin of Badinock. They both died before Aymer, leaving two daughters, Joan and Elizabeth. Joan, the elder of the two, who was heir-at-law to the Manor of Dunham, married David de Strabolgi, tenth earl of Athole, who died in 1326. They had a son David, aged nineteen at the time of his father's death, who married Katherine, daughter of the Earl of Buchan. He was killed at the siege of Kildrummy Castle in 1334, at the age of twenty-seven. He left a son who became twelfth Earl of Athole, who was also called David. This last earl of the family fought with the Black Prince in France, sat in the English Parliament, and died in 1375. He was heir-at-law to the Manor of Dunham. He married Elizabeth, relict of Lord Ferrers of Groby. She died 1376. They had no son, but left two daughters, aged fourteen and twelve respectively, Elizabeth and Philippa, the elder of whom, on the death of Maria de Sancto Paulo in 1377, became Lady of the Manor.


The two daughters of the twelfth Earl of Athole, orphaned at such an early age, married brothers, sons of the Earl of Northumberland. Sir Ralph Percy, who married Philippa de Strabolgi, was taken prisoner, with his eldest brother, by the renowned Hotspur, at the Battle of Otterburn or Chevy Chase, and died without issue.

Sir Thomas Percy, the husband of Elizabeth, became, in her right, lord of the manors of Gainsborough and Dunham, and left a son Henry.

"1388. May 21. Westminster. Licence for £20 which Elizabeth, late wife of Thomas de Percy, knight, the younger, and John de Halsham and Philippa his wife have paid to the King for them to enfeoff John de Lincoln, clerk, and Master Topcliffe of the castle and manor of Mitford, etc., and soke of Dunham to re-enfeoff the said Elizabeth of the premises first named above as far as the Manor of Dunham, co Notts, inclusive, to hold to the heirs of her body with the remainder to heirs in general and similarly to re-enfeoff the said John de Halsham and Philippa his wife of the residue of the premises, to hold to them and the heirs of the body of Philippa with the remainder to her heirs in general." (Patent Rolls). In each case the wife survived and married again, Elizabeth to Sir John Scrope, and Philippa to Sir John Halsham.

Sir Henry Percy de Athole fought at Agincourt (1415), and died in 1432. "Henricus Percy d'Athell, Miles, et Elizabeth uxor ejus Cratfelde Manor, Iselham Manor, Dunham Manor et soca cum Passag' ultra aquam de Trente cum piscar' extent' amp', Notts." (Cal. Inquisitionum).

He in his turn left two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, aged 20 and 17, respectively, at his death.

Elizabeth Percy became the wife of Sir Thomas Burgh, and Margaret became the wife of Lord Grey of Codnor. In the division of property that ensued, Gainsborough fell to Sir Thomas Burgh, in whose family it remained for 150 years. Dunham and its soke fell to Margaret.

"Confirmation of full liberty to Henry Grey de Codnor and Margaret his wife, William Lucy and Elizabeth his wife, the blood relations and heirs of Philippa, late wife of Ralph Percy of their estates of Gainsborough in co Lincoln, and of Dunham and its soke in co Nottingham." (Date 1444).

Lord Grey de Codnor and his wife Margaret had a son Henry who succeeded to the Manor. He died in 1508, leaving no issue, so the Manor became the property of his cousin Sir Edward Burgh, grandson of Elizabeth, the elder daughter of Sir Thomas Percy de Athole, who for her first husband married Sir Thomas Burgh.