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The American Morris Newsletter

December, 2007 -- Volume 27, Number 3


The Early History of the Town of Abbots Bromley

Andrew Bullen

The village of Abbot Bromley is very old. The name itself comes from two Saxon words, brom leagh, meaning broom meadow. The name probably refers to a clearing in Needwood Forest that eventually became the village. The village, a Saxon settlement, was simply known as Bromleagh. It became Bromleagh Abbatis when Wulfric the Black or Wulfric Spot (shown below as [W]ulsye or [W]ulfric), Earl of Mercia, founded a Benedictine Abbey at Burton-On-Trent in 1004 and endowed it with 72 manors, one of which was Abbots Bromley, to provide for its upkeep. Wulfric was a very powerful man, Chief Councillor to King AEthelred and a rich and powerful Earl holding a strategically important area. Wulfirc was a man of deep religious convictions, like his supposed mother, Wulfrun, who founded the Wolverhampton Monastery in 994. In May, 1010, he fought against a Danish invasion force led by Thurkill on a battlefield near Ipswich. At the battle, he was wounded, and eventually succumbed to his wounds on May 18, 1010.

After Wulfric's death, Abbots Bromley grew in size and importance as a central market town, being strategically located between Rugeley, Burton, Lichfield, and Uttoxeter. The local church, St. Nicholas, was large because of the central position of the town. The weekly market centered around the market cross, built around 1339. There was also an annual 3 day long Wakes or fair, with rights to hold the fair given by King Henry III.

Relations between the abbey and the town were oftentimes strained. The monks were often arrogant and lawless. They stole fish and cows, assaulted people, and in one instance, stole 100 shillings from a woman. When the lands of the abbey were redistributed after the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII, the village of Abbots Bromley was given to Sir William Paget, Clerk of the Signet and Henry's Privy Councillor. Sir William, a staunch Catholic, was placed in the Tower in November, 1551, fined 3,000 pounds, and his lands and property were put in disposal to the King. He was restored to power in April, 1553. The Paget family continued to own the titles to the land, but, in the early 1800s, bad debts forced the family to sell their land holdings.

The following 2 documents, written Latin with old English names, comprise the founding documents of the area that would eventually include Abbots Bromley. They are from King Edmund and his successor, King AEthelred the Unready. A hide is a measurement of land equal to 120 acres. A virgate is a measurement of land equal to one quarter of a hide (roughly 30 acres).

I have also included the entry in the Domesday Book for Abbots Bromley.

King Edmund grants forty hides at Alrewas, Bromley, Barton, Tatenhill, Branston, Stretton, Rolleston, Clifton, and Haunton, Staffs., to Wulfsige the Black ([W]ulfsye prenomine Maur), A.D. 942

Carta Sancti Edmundi regis de Alrepasse et Broml' et Barton facta anno domini dcccc

Perpetua hereditas que in sancte trinitas dei theologia ultra omnia humane mentis machinamenta manet essentialiter ultroneis meritorum . magnopere est mercimoniis comparanda . Quapropter ueraciter paterna priscorum sequens uestigia regum . Eadmund beato dei patrocinio rex er rector Angulsaexna inter innumeras quibus beauit vtriusque certaminis cateruas dapsilitates eternis prouocatur prouerbiis . hilarem datorem et cetera . alacriter [W]ulsye prenomine Maur' mirifice locupletat et honorat concedens ei has terras eiusque heredibus perpetualiter perfruendas . id est ad Alrepasse . et Bromleg' . et Barton et Tatenhyll' . et Brontiston . ant Stretton . et Ro[th]ulfeston . et Clyfton . et Hagnatun . nou is [th]isses landes feourti hye . Has denique tellures Eadmund rex ano dominice incarnationis . dcccc . xlij . et tercio annorum curriculo ex quo regalia eterni regis gratuita benignitate regebat charismata contulit cum testimonio optimatum quorum nomina inferius adnotantur . [W]ulfsye salua manu . non causa philargirie set studio deuotissime fidelitatis habendas .

+ Ego Edmund rex huius donacionis dominium in locis campestribus uel siluaticis . seu piscosis laticibus libenter signaculo sancte .
+crusis conscribo fruentibus .
+ [W]ulstan archiepiscopus .
+[W]ulfgar episcopus .
+Cenðald episcopus .
+[W}ulfhelm episcopus .
+Cynsige episcopus .
+AEðelmund dux . et ceteri duces . vque . in omnes cum ceteris eiusdem milicie sodalibus hec certe territoria triumphali tropheo conscripserunt . Acta est videlicet hoc regale prerogatiuum in loco celeberrimo qui Wincelcumb nuncupatur . Pax et perhennis prosperitas hiis qui fas
(the rest is missing)


King AEthelred grants three hides (cassati) at Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire, to Wulfric, minister, A.D. 966

Pollente perpetualiter domini nostri Iesu Christi regno . Huius instabilitas uitae fortuitis atteritur casibus . ac uariis uilescendo meroribus . terminum sue commutabilitatis iamiamque praesignat affuturum . ut ueritatis praesagio predicta eius mulitforma malorum iacula electorum corda non ad desperationem seu tedium diuini amoris peruertant . uerum etiam ad desideria regni celestis . et ad piae deuotionis famulatum magis magisque acuant . iuxta illud dominicum . His autem fieri incipientibus rescipicite et leuate capita uestra . quoniam appropinquat redemptio uestra . Huiusmodi diuni documenti oraculis premonitus ego Aeðelred rex Anglorum . cuidam meo fideli ministro a populis [W]ulfric apellato . quandam ruris trium scilicet cassatorum in loco quem accole uicini aet Bromleage cognominant partem impendo . ut ipse dum sospitatem uitae habuerit illam sibi in usum necessarium sicut mater ei largita est uoti compos optineat . et post uitaesuae terminum cuicumque sibi placuerit relinquat superstit . Consistat autem suprascripta tellus ab omni seruitute secura . tribus exceptis . expeditione . arcis . pontisue constructione . Qui uero nostrum hoc donum euertere laborauerit . timeat se in profundo auerni inmersum aeternaliter torqueri: nisi quantotius a sua peruersitate discedat . Attamen si quislibet antiquum siue nouum protraxerit libellum . et hanc nostram titulationem superare nisus fuerit . binis mortis periculis obiurgetur obnoxius . quia aut rapina . aut furto illum subdole adeptus est . Huiusmodi terminis predicta tellus circumducitur . Of ðam lytlan hlapan to Þan longan snapan on ða straete forð aefter strete oð cume to Þan readan acon 7 ðer ðpers ofer ða puda Þaet cyme in pire brocos haefde 7 aefter pire broc ðaet hit gaeÞ in bliðe up aefter bliÞe oð hit cyme in ceabbe broc aefter broce Þaet cume in ðan forde from ðan forde aefter Þaere streteÞeligeð cumb pelle lea cume on Þa grene pege 7 forð aefter grene pege oð hit cymeÞ aeft to ðan lytlan laupan . ðus hit haefde eadelm 7 aeflred 7 aeÞelpold spa spa hit Þulsige ðe blaca 7 aesebryht hit geaerdeden heom . Hic libellius caraxtus est anno incarnationis dominice . dcccc . xc . ui indictione ix his testibus consentientibus quorum nomina inferius anootantur.

The Domesday Entry for Abbots Bromley

Name of Estate  Brunlege
Saxon Possesor  Abbas de Bertone
Tenant in capite  Abbatia Stae Mariae de Bertone
Tenants in Fee  None
Subtenants  I Presbyter
Hides  0
Virgates  2
Carucates  None
Terra quot Carucis  1
Acra Praeti  None
Silva of Domesday  2 leu. x 1 leu
Acres of Wood  2,880
Value in domesday  1,0,0
Features  Abbatia tenet Brunlege. Ibi dimidia hida cum appendiciis
Parochial Acreage  5,278