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The Lordship of Shoddesden – A holding with pre-Norman provenance

Shoddesden is an interesting title. It’s one of those that actually has clear roots from before the Norman Invasion, which is unusual because it was William the Conqueror who formalised the process mostly. Shoddesden has deep history, therefore; it’s really old.

The initial title holder was Aghmund (or Agemund) of Wellow. Aghmund was a Saxon thegn and held nine titles before the Normans changed the course of English history. All were in Hampshire, and they were a holding of Queen Edith, the wife of Edward the Confessor, which made her Shoddesden’s overlord.

However, once William had won the Battle of Hastings and his record keeping began, it can be seen that Aghmund’s holdings changed a little. Shoddesden is clearly referenced in the Domesday Book, though. It was a compact little holding made up of one household, and tax assessed to be one geld unit. Basically this meant it was enough ploughland for half a lord’s plough team. In medieval terms, a holding of this size was often referred to as worth one hide. A hide being an amount of land that was enough to support one household.

By 1086, Aghmund’s list of titles had shrunk to only four, but Shoddesden remained one of them. The difference at this point, though, was that it was now a holding directly conveyed from William the Conqueror.

Small but well formed…

It’s clear, therefore, that Shoddesden was a small holding. But that is not to infer it was of no value. In fact, we would say that the history of Shoddesden, rather than being one of mindless clout, suggests that it was actually appreciated for the value it held. It was sold many times, rather than just passed on to an heir. It genuinely had intrinsic worth.
By 1482 it was held by Thomas and Elizabeth Waite. An interesting moment in its history, for it (possibly) brushed shoulders with royalty. Though Thomas died in that year and left Shoddesden to his brother, William Waite, his wife had already developed a bit of a reputation. Referred to at the time as ‘that wanton wench’, Elizabeth Waite was rumoured to be the mistress of Edward IV. In itself, that’s of note, but it is also believed that the Lady of Shoddesden was the mother of Arthur Plantagenet; Edward’s illegitimate son. And it is Arthur’s large collection of correspondence in the Lisle Letters that makes his life one of the best-documented of his era.

But we digress…

After being held by the Waite family, Shoddesden then found itself passed from heir to heir until 1561, when John Thornborough sold the holding to his brother-in-law, Richard Kingsmill. Richard was a colourful character. He was very active in parliament and, for example, served on a parliamentary committee to decide whether all MPs, or just new MPs, should take the Oath of Supremacy, where they swear allegiance to the monarch. We can only surmise that the points he raised were controversial with respect to Elizabeth I, for his vocal input in another argument regarding aspects of succession were noted as particularly bold and judicious. They were much to the Queen’s displeasure, bearing in mind Elizabeth had no wish to marry and thus would have no direct heir.

But he couldn’t have fallen massively out of favour, for in 1573 he was then appointed Attorney to the Court of Wards. Quite how the finances worked for that post is unclear, but he did then later have to vociferously defend his position in 1584 by claiming himself to be “an honest poor man” who would not profit from the post. One might not be blamed for thinking that he was trying to make good the damage he’d done to his relationship with his monarch, for he’d then said, “For any profit I get in my office, more than the dignity of serving her Majesty, I would rather another have it…”.

The limelight then continued to shine on him. Having been made Knight of Hampshire in 1585, in 1590, he found himself the subject of a petition to the Privy Council that had been raised by a gentlemen called Richard Beckinsawe. The petition was on behalf of 500 people living on Sir Richard’s manors in Hampshire; Shoddesden being one of them. He was accused of being in breach of “customs, innovations of titles, encroachment of pasture… and alternations of tenure.” The outcome of the petition, we’re not sure, but this flowery character then passed away without an heir, and Shoddesden switched to his nephew, William.
The English Civil War came next, but Shoddesden remained in use as a title. And it was still considered for its worth afterwards, for it continued to find itself being sold on from time to time by a bearer who needed some cash. Then, in 1756, final reference is made to it being conveyed by Thomas Humphries and his wife to a gentleman named John Peachey. And thereafter, records fall silent.

A title deeply embedded in old English history…

So there you have it. The Lordship of Shoddesden has provenance that spans back to Edward the Confessor. It is a title that has withstood the test of time and been genuinely appreciated for its worth. It’s a title that has been linked with wanton wenches, kings, queens, and outspoken MPs. But since the mid-eighteenth century, it has not been used.
Could it possibly be worth a dusting off now? We think so… And could it possibly be a title to grace your shoulders in the near future? That’s for you to decide!Lordship Title of Shoddesden

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