Chapter I.

From the earliest period to the end of the Norman Line, A.D. 1154.

Some, possibly, would consider an apology necessary from the author, on account of the insignificance of the subject for a history—the most obscure of hamlets, without church or monastery, and only noticeable for the Kings' House, the remains of which are not of sufficient interest even to be included in the routine tour of the Dukeries, nor yet, pictorially, in any published series of local views or photographs that I have seen. I am of opinion, however, that none is needed for chronicling the annals of a spot deemed worthy of entertaining at least half-a-dozen English monarchs and one Scottish king, with abundance of nobility, which has been associated with quite a remarkable succession of noble lords, and which has been the scene of an English Parliament.

In this work I have discarded the many old variations met with in the orthography of Clipstone and Kings' Clipstone in favour of the modern style. No object would be served by their retention, and the copying and re-copying of so many occurrences would most likely result in numerous errors. The present style of spelling with a final 'e,' I may mention, is a comparatively recent innovation, and some able authorities do not follow it. Certainly the latter syllable is properly 'ton,' not 'stone' as evinced by numerous instances, from the time of Domesday, in the earliest of which it appears as "tune,' the ancient equivalent. The circumstance that there are other Clipstones, including another in our own shire, is sufficient to account for its distinctive prefix or affix.

The origin or derivation of the name I must leave to those better versed in philology, as unlearned conjectures are worse than useless. I may mention, however, that the earliest forms of the word—Clipestune in Domesday Book, and Clipestone, Clippeston, Clipiston, &c., until 1495, and probably later—shows that the first portion of the word was originally two syllables, and in another English occurrence of this name it has been said that this was derived from a Saxon personal name.

The origin or remote history of the village before the Conquest should next claim attention, as also the question whether it or the 'Palace' first sprang into existence. As there is every reason to believe that Sherwood is a primeval forest, it is not unlikely that the first settlers here, before the time of Forest Laws—whether during the Saxon or an earlier period—chose this site in its depths on account of its attractiveness and natural wealth in the shape of abundance of fish, flesh, fowl, wood, and pasture. The Manor House may have been built after such settlement, or if built first the cluster of huts, as predecessors of the village, perhaps grew around it as a shelter for retainers or dependants. The reasons for the erection of the House are doubtless to be looked for in the pleasures of the chase. On these points, however, it is vain to search for historical evidence. I have found no reference to Clipstone earlier than that period at which most parish histories begin, viz., the time of the Domesday Survey, a little over eight hundred years ago.

Doubtless many readers have come across the statement that the House is said to have been founded by one of the early kings of Northumbria. Such reports appear to have had their origin in the following passage from Laird's Nottinghamshire, 1813, taken from a Harlein manuscript, the veracity of which we have no means of determining:—"The water of Man descendeth northward from the town of Mansfield through the forest and through Clipstone Park, and so by the town of Clipstone, where was an ancient house of the princes of this realm, but (built?) before the Conquest by the king of Northumberland."

There is another point to which we may look for indirect evidence. There is now every reason to believe that the battle of Hatfield, A.D. 633, took place, not as has generally been supposed at Hatfield, near Doncaster, Yorkshire, but at or near Hatfield in this neighbourhood, a short distance from Edwinstowe. (An article on this question, it may be added, appeared in the Nottinghamshire Guardian of 13th July, 1889.) The conflict was between Edwin first king of Northumbria, and Penda King of Mercia with Caedwalla king of Wales. Edwin was slain, and his body, though afterwards removed to Whitby, was probably buried at the place which bears his name—it is said on the site now covered by the church. If Clipstone was then, as in later days and now, comprised in Edwinstowe, and a royal residence existed, possibly it was here that he was interred. There is nothing more than theory to support this idea, yet a degree of presumtive evidence appears in the circumstance that the chapel within the Manor House was dedicated to St. Edwin.

Thus the possibility, if not the probability, yet remains of the early existence of a royal residence, and though history says nothing on that score, her silence must not be considered conclusive, for the recorded history of these times is of the scantiest. I should not omit to say that there is no mention in Domesday of possessions of the late Saxon king here; which record, however, fails to mention Nottingham Castle.

If a residence or Saxon hall stood on this historic site before the Conquest, it is unlikely that it would be in any way similar to the castlelike structure, which doubtless it was in later days. For castles, except in connection with town defences, seem to have been unknown among the Saxons. On each of the two divisions, or manors, comprised in the place before the Conquest, probably stood a hall or manor-house of some kind, as a residence. Possibly the first building after the Conquest simply superseded one of these.

1086.—Coming to the time immediately after the Norman Conquest we, for the first time, tread on the solid ground of recorded and incontrovertible history. This is what Domesday Book tells us:—

"Osbern and Ulsi had two manors in Clipstone, which paid the Geld for one caracute. The land was two caracutes. After the Conquest Roger de Busli had in demesne one caracute and a half, and twelve villeins and three borders, having three caracutes and a half, and one mill of three shillings. Wood, by places pasturable, one leuca long and one broad. In the Confessor's time the value was sixty shillings, but forty shillings at the time of the Survey."

The above is of great interest as showing the state of the place over eight hundred years ago, and is a fair example of the character of the information afforded by this incomparable work. As the old words and phrases, however, will not be understood by the general reader, a little time spent in simplifying them will not be wasted.

Domesday Book was commenced about the year 1084 and completed in 1086, by order of William the Conqueror. Its purpose was that the King might know, from the amount of land, &c., possessed by his subjects, the exact amount due to him in the way of tax, and so it was to protect both himself and his subjects. Osbern and Ulsi were the two Saxons who held the place before the Conquest, when surnames were unusual. As was commonly the case, with few exceptions, they were doubtless dispossessed of their land by the Conqueror, which was then granted to Roger de Busli. The land they had held under cultivation was two caracutes—a caracute being a rough computation, and signifying as much as might be ploughed by a single team during the year. However, they only paid the Geld for one caracute. This system of underpayment, on whatever account it was allowed, was very widespread. The Geld was a land tax of two shillings yearly on each hide of land—another measure which varied very greatly, being in some counties equal to 240 or 250 acres, and in others much under that amount; doubtless it depended much on the productiveness or otherwise of the soil. De Busli, at the time of the survey, had only one and a half caracutes for himself, but his men must have been extraordinarily industrious, haying more than double that amount, which doubtless they had for the most part reclaimed from the forest, unless we are to suppose the apparent increase was but a result of the increased vigilance of the Norman inspection. Both the number of his men and the amount of land was considerably in excess of the same in nearly all surrounding villages. His villiens and borders were the two classes of bondmen, or farm-slaves, born upon and transferable with the estates. The former, always set down first as the superior class, were allowed to hold land in their own right. The borders, bondmen of the lowest rank, held a cottage at their lord's pleasure, and beyond this appear only to have been allowed their diet in return for their labour, whence it is said arose the word boarder. Besides the land De Busli's bondmen held a mill—doubtless a water-mill on the Maun—worth three shillings yearly, as also a wood, in parts of which were pasture land, of the length and breadth of one leuca—a measure of fifteen hundred paces. The value of the place, in spite of the great additions apparently made to the cultivated land, had, as in most other places, deteriorated in value to two-thirds of what it was in the time of Edward the Confessor—in other words before the Conquest, the reign of the last Saxon king, Harold, being by William ignored as a usurper.

Roger de Busli, and his name probably originated from Busli or Builli near Rouen, France. He was a man of high birth and lineage, being related to Roger de Montgomery who accompanied the King on his expedition into England, and was by the King created Earl of Shrewsbury and Arundel, for Robert, his son and heir, claimed and received from Rufus the possessions of De Busli as his kinsman. Montgomery himself was related to the Conqueror. De Busli was also, in a degree, related to Odo Bishop of Baieux, Robert Earl of Mortain, Alan Earl of Brittany, afterwards Earl of Richmond, and William Earl of Warren and Surrey. His possessions, forming what was for centuries afterwards known as the Honour of Tickhill, extended over this and the four adjoining counties, comprising in all sixty knights' fees and three-fourths. These fees, it may be mentioned, have been variously estimated at 680—800 acres, or of the annual value of £20. Doubtless they were variable in acreage, much depending on the character of the soil, but were held by Custom to be as much as would support a knight, so that he might render service as such to the king. De Busli, like other large landowners, divided his estates into two portions. The greater portion he parcelled out into knights' fees and bestowed on other Normans of high family, who, in return, rendered him feudal allegiance. The other and much smaller division, comprising Clipstone and land in some eighteen other places in Notts., he retained in demesne.

1088.—This year Roger and his wife Muriel gave and granted to God and St. Mary of Blythe, and the monks there serving God, a great number of lands, &c., in their different manors, among which occurs in Clipstone the tithe of one caracute. It would be interesting to learn whether this title was charged on land of his demesne or on that of his bondmen. Probably the tithe ceased to be acknowledged or paid after the whole Manor had become royal property, for we find no further allusion to it, and it is not mentioned among the possessions of the priory, either in the Inquisition of 1379 or in the Valor of Henry VIII.

Roger was dead in 1098 (Thoroton says he died 4 Ides January 1099), leaving a son who died without issue in 1102, as also a brother Arnaldus and a sister Beatrix. Each of these produced a line of illustrious descendants, on whom, however, there is no necessity to elaborate, for in some unexplained manner, Clipstone became separated from the Honour at a very early date. In what way this came to pass it now seems impossble to ascertain. It has been said that De Busli's possessions, that is the Honour of Tickhill, escheated or reverted for lack of heirs to the Crown. If this is the truth—and it is clear that Rufus held it—the conclusion seems natural that it would take place on the death of his childless son in 1102. This, however, cannot be, and we are driven to the belief that the escheat took place on the death of Roger himself—his son, for some reason, not being allowed to inherit. For Robert de Belesme, Earl of Shrewsbury and Arundel, obtained possession of the Honour in the reign of Rufus, which terminated in 1100. The King exacted a large sum when the Earl assumed those possessions, and we can only conclude that the Monarch chose to retain Clipstone. His known fondness for the chase—at which he met his death—may have suggested that proceeding.

1130-31.—In the foregoing interval of forty-two years, I have found no local reference. The date of the present note is open to doubt, being taken from the earliest Pipe Roll, which among antiquaries has been a subject for dispute. Old writers, including Thoroton, and others down to the present day, have ascribed it to the fifth year of King Stephen, 1140. Prynne locates it in 18, Henry II., while the more modern and experienced Hunter, its only editor, settles it in 31, Henry I. the precedent I have followed.

We learn from it that Jordan Fitzalan (or son of Alan), who owed 100 shillings of the ferm of the past year—either he or his father, the said Alan—rendered, or paid, an account of 100 shillings of the ferm of the Manors of Clipstone, but Osbert Sylvan, then Sheriff, was to pay it for him.

This information, though not extensive, is of some importance. We learn from it that at this early date Clipstone was the King's demesne. It is also interesting to know—which seems to convey the impression that it had not long been royal property—that the old Saxon divisions of the place, separated perhaps by the Maun, were yet maintained, though ever after this occasion we find the place alluded to as one manor.

Ferm, also spelt firm and farm, means the yearly rent of lands, &c.; in later days coming to mean the land itself, hence our modern word farm. The towns, boroughs, villates, manors and lands of the King, from an early date after the Conquest, were wont to be let out on ferm to such persons, and on such terms, as the King accepted. In later times it became the custom to let out in fee-ferm, or at a fixed and unalterable sum, the towns and boroughs to the men and burgesses of the same.

No further light is thrown on the history of Clipstone during the rest of the period of the Norman line, nor indeed until the eleventh year of the first Plantagenet monarch.