It’s hard to answer the question `Where is your family from?’. People move, which part of the family are we talking about?, and how far back do you want to go?
However, one line of my descent that goes back a long way very definitely has had an enduring association with a particular place for many centuries. The place is Whitmore, a Staffordshire manor. Where am I from? I can say that my family is from Whitmore.
My paternal grandmother’s mother’s side of the family have lived at Whitmore for nearly a thousand years. The estate has remained in the family since the Domesday Book was compiled in 1086, in the reign of William the Conqueror. The inheritance has sometimes passed through the female line, most recently to my great great grandmother Ellen Cavenagh nee Mainwaring (1845 – 1920). My father’s first cousin is now the 34th Hereditary Lord of Whitmore. Thirty-four generations have inherited Whitmore since a Saxon called Ulfac owned Whitmore and was usurped after the Battle of Hastings by a Norman knight who had supported William.
The Domesday Book was a survey of England answering the questions:
How many hundreds of hides were in the shire, what land belonged to the
king himself and what stock upon the land? What dues did the king have
by the year from the shire?
- Hundred: Pirehill
- County: Staffordshire
- Total population: 5 households (very small).
- Total tax assessed: 0.5 geld units (dry small).
- Taxable units: Taxable value 0.5 geld units.
- Value: Value to lord in 1086 £0.5.
- Households: 3 villagers. 2 smallholders.
- Ploughland: 3 ploughlands (land for). 1 lord’s plough teams. 1 men’s plough teams.
- Other resources: Meadow 1 acres. Woodland 1 * 0.5 leagues.
- Lord in 1066: Ulfac or alternatively spelt Wulfheah.
- Lord in 1086: Nigel (of Stafford).
- Tenant-in-chief in 1086: Richard the forester.
- Phillimore reference: 13,2
The name Richard the forester, the tenant in chief was associated with no places before the Conquest and 21 after the Conquest. There may have been more than one man who bore that title but all the places associated with the name are either in Staffordshire or neighbouring Warwickshire.
In 1212 during the reign of King John there was a Great Inquest of Service. Randolph de Knutton held Whitmore with other land and paid £4. 11s. 6d. of “antient right”, that is, from the Conquest of England. It is thought that Ralph de Knutton was the lineal heir or co-heir of Richard the forester.
In the 1930s my great great uncle James Gordon Cavenagh-Mainwaring (1865-1938) wrote a family history of Whitmore, supported by the citations of original deeds and documents. These he later deposited in the Staffordshire archives
- Reference: D 1743
- Description: Staffs (Whitmore, Biddulph, etc) deeds, family and estate papers
- Date: 13th cent-20th cent
- Held by: Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service: Staffordshire
County Record Office
- NRA catalogue reference: NRA 25297 Cavenagh-Mainwaring
Whitmore is one of very few properties in England that have not been sold in the last 933 years. One of my cousins wrote to me, “I was told some time ago that there are only nine estates in the same family since the Domesday book, that have never been sold. I read since then that one of them had been sold, so I suppose there are only eight.”
I look forward to visiting Whitmore again in May and seeing my cousins there.
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- Cavenagh-Mainwaring, James Gordon The Mainwarings of Whitmore and Biddulph in the County of Stafford. An account of the family, and its connections by marriage and descent; with special reference to the Manor of Whitmore. J.G. Cavenagh-Mainwaring, about 1935
- Cavenagh-Mainwaring, Christine and Britton, Heather, (editor.) Whitmore Hall : from 1066 to Waltzing Matilda. Adelaide Peacock Publications, 2013.