Buglawton in Domesday Book

In 1086 Buglawton, like Congleton, was part of the honour of Earl Hugh of Chester and was held by Hugh son of Norman. Hugh was the brother of Earl Hugh’s steward Ralph, and, like Ralph, was a honourial baron, that is, one of the chief men of his lord. In addition to Buglawton he held estates in Church Lawton, Byley, Goostrey, Bosley, Marton, Kerincham, and Somerford, as well as the manors of Ketsby and South Ormsby in Lincolnshire and several parcels of land in Suffolk. Of the Cheshire lands, only Byley was stocked; it was managed on Hugh’s behalf by two radmen, ‘riders’ who acted as bailiffs. The rest, including Buglawton, was waste, that is, produced no income, probably as a result of the harrying of the county in 1070 after the revolt of the men of Chester in 1069. Nevertheless, there was still a survey of Hugh’s lands, and an account is given of Buglawton. It is described with Church Lawton in these terms:


Hugh holds of the earl Lawton. Godric held and he was a free man. [There is] 1 hide gelding there. There is land for 3 ploughs. It is waste. Wood there 1 league in length and 1 in width and 1 acre of meadow. In the time of King Edward it was worth 16 shillings.
Hugh holds of the earl Lawton. Godric held. [There is] there half a hide gelding. [There is] land for 3 ploughs. It is waste. Wood there 2 leagues in length and 1 in width. In the time of King Edward it was worth 20 shillings (DB i, 266c).

Which Lawton was Buglawton is impossible to determine; the Domesday scribe did not feel it necessary to distinguish the one from the other and there are no characteristics of the entries which help us to rectify his omission. Hugh himself may well have been equally vague. There is little information in either account that unequivocally attests seigneurial administration and management. Assessment to the geld was a public concern and was almost certainly a matter of record; the estimate of ploughlands was probably furnished by the Domesday commissioners who organized the collection of data; and value (a record of what the lord received in cash rents and the like) was common knowledge. The extent of woodland alone looks like the privileged knowledge of the lord or his reeve. Even here, however, it is not impossible that a local jury was privy to the facts. Hugh had right to all of his lands through Godric and probably succeeded to them in their entirety, but, with his main residence in Lincolnshire, he had taken no steps to redevelop them. It was not until the twelfth century that Hugh or his successor took a more active interest in Buglawton.

Unlike Congleton, the estate was destined never to be a ‘central place’, that is a settlement with a more than local function. This had probably always been its fate. Modest horizons are suggested by the status of the man who held the land before the Conquest. Godric is a common name and it is therefore not possible to identify Hugh’s predecessor as an individual. Nevertheless, the Domesday evidence does hint at the sort of person that he was. In the Lawton entries, as repeatedly elsewhere, he is described as ‘a free man’ and it is thus clear that he was no mere creature of a lord. But by the same token, he was not of the highest status in the county, for nowhere did he hold with the sake and soke that would identify him as a king’s thegn (the pre-Conquest counterpart of a baron). The spread of his estates suggests some importance and power, but probably in the patronage of a greater lord. My guess would be that he held his lands under the pre-Conquest earl of Mercia in return for some personal service such as acting as a reeve, steward, huntsman, or the like. Typically, peripheral elements of large estates were granted for the support of such officers, and so Buglawton is perhaps best characterized as one such. In origin it was presumably a member of the large estate of Astbury, in the parish of which it was situated.

ã David Roffe, 2000.