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The Domesday Manors:

The early manorial history of Hungerford is more complicated than for many small towns.

The Domesday Survey, carried out under the orders of King William I in 1086, does not name Hungerford itself by name. However, many of the manors that became part of Hungerford, or are immediately adjacent to the town are recorded, including:

- Charlton (Hopgrass and Charnham Street),
- Eddington,
- Inglefol (Hungerford Engleford),
- Leverton,
- Kintbury,
- Inkpen,
- Denford,
- Avington,
- Chilton Foliat and
- Shalbourne.

Whilst the manors of Hopgrass and Charnham Street, Eddington, and Hungerford Engleford were named, there is now little doubt that there was no separate village of Hungerford at the time of the Domesday survey. Indeed, archaeological evidence of Saxon (and earlier) occupation of the area is abundant.

Eddington (later to be known as Hidden-cum-Eddington) was a significant manor – between 600 and 1200 acres, with a mill, meadowland and woodland. 

For the first written evidence of the town, one has to wait just a few years more until 1108, when documents refer to the church of Hungerford being assigned to the Abbey of Bec-Hellouin in Normandy. Of this church there are no remains, although there is a beautiful Norman church standing today in an idyllic setting at Avington, just a mile or so east of Hungerford.

After 1086, the large manor of Kintbury was granted by King William I to Robert de Beaumont, Count of Meulan, and the manor remained in the family for several generations.

The 12th century:

A document dated sometime between 1103 and 1118 records that Robert de Beaumont granted "a manor near Hungerford, Edenetona by name" to the church of the Holy Trinity at Beaumont in Normandy. A community with the name Hungerford clearly existed by this date.

In 1119, just after Robert de Beaumont's death, a charter refers to a debt of £2 owed by Robert to the churches of St. Mary of Bec in Bernay and St. Nicaise in Meulan (both in Normandy) in respect of Robert's manor in Hungerford. Together, the two manors of Hidden-cum-Eddington on the northern side of the River Kennet, and Hungerford to the south formed an important unit, and required the de Beaumont family to maintain the ford (over the river Kennet) and the later bridge (which certainly existed by c.1220). This ford and bridge became a key crossing on the important route between Oxford and Salisbury.

At this time the manor of Inglefol (Hungerford Engleford) (which in Domesday is recorded as being around 180-360 acres) developed further, the manor of Hidden-cum-Eddington was absorbed into the parish of Hungerford, and Hungerford itself began to grow, particularly in the neighbourhood of the church.

By 1147 there are records of a parish church at Hungerford, which appears to have been in existence for some years previously. An agreement makes clear that Robert de Beaumont (1st Earl of Leicester), who was lord of both Eddington and Hungerford, wished to prevent the development in Eddington of a rival church to that at Hungerford. This suggests that Robert de Beaumont was wishing to promote the further development of Hungerford as a developing community – perhaps as a developing market town.

In the 12th century therefore, there were four estates comprising what we now know of as Hungerford:

- The Manor of Hungerford – under the lordship of the de Beaumont family,
- The Manor of Hungerford Engleford,
- The estate in the parish of Hungerford of the Abbey of Bec, and
- The fee of Sanden – a rural estate which lay all around the town of Hungerford, but which later became identified with the town and borough.

The 13th century:

In 1241 Hungerford is named as a borough, and is represented at the Assizes by a bailiff and 12 jurors.

The market is mentioned in a court case dated 1248, and there is strong circumstantial evidence that by this date the "new" model town existed, with its north-south main street, and burgage plots along each side. By this time some Hungerford Engleford properties lay within the town, and some of its lands lay within the fee of Sanden. Similarly, some of the Bec properties were intermixed with the lands and property of the town, but each retained their own lord and their own manorial courts.

The "new" model town appears to have been laid out on land in Sanden fee. The new town developer must have been lord of the manor of Hungerford, and one must presume that this redevelopment came about because it was in the lord's interest, by an increase in the market tolls and other revenues. As well as lying on the north-south route between Oxford and Salisbury, Hungerford lay on the east-west route between Newbury and Marlborough. There was also an old market road from Hungerford to Newbury on the south side of the river Kennet.

As early as 1174 the townsmen of Hungerford had referred to themselves as burgesses, which suggests that a form of burgage tenure had already been established. Burgage tenure meant that a householder might own his dwelling as freehold and not as previously by copyhold, i.e. dependent on the lord's manorial court. Under burgage tenure he would be free to sell or lease the property as and when he chose, and paying only a fixed nominal rent ("quit rent") which released him from all other services to his feudal lord. Burgage tenure was a feature of the new "model" town, and was an indication of freehold rights within the manor of Hungerford. Annual quit rents were set at the rate of 8d per annum for a full (width) burgage, and pro rata for smaller (or larger) properties, e.g. 4d for a half-burgage, 2d for a quarter-burgage. This unchanging quit rent helps historians identify the various properties and their owners and occupiers over the centuries.

We have suggested above that the new "model" town was in existence by 1248. For such an ambitious scheme to succeed, it must have occurred at a time when the manors of Hungerford town and Hungerford Engleford were held by the same lord, who must at the same time have been holder of the Sanden Fee. All three areas were involved in the re-development.

The two possible periods were under the lordship of Robert de Beaumont (who died in 1190) and under the lordship of Simon de Montfort (who died in 1265). Both were Earls of Leicester; both enjoyed enormous power; both spent large periods of their life overseas; both were strong-willed, ambitious men; and the careers of both men were affected by quarrels with their respective monarch.

Robert de Beaumont (the son of Robert, 1st Earl of Leicester) inherited his father's lands and title on the latter's death in 1168. His lands were confiscated in 1173-4, but restored to him in 1177. He went on pilgrimage to Palestine in 1189, and died the next year. It is possible that he could have planned and developed the new town between 1177 and 1189. However, it should be noted that there is no surviving evidence that Robert ever held Sanden Fee.

Robert died childless, and the Hungerford estate passed to the de Montfort family, eventually via Amauri de Montfort of Normandy, who resigned his English estates to his younger brother Simon de Montfort (born 1208). Robert de Beaumont had been great-uncle of Simon de Montfort.

Simon came to England in 1229 (aged 21), and found that all his Leicester estates were in the hands of the Earl of Chester. He petitioned King Henry III for their restoration – which he achieved in 1231. He married the king's sister, Eleanor, in 1238, and was soon made Earl of Leicester. As Earl of Leicester, he would have owned the vill of Hungerford, and the fee of Sanden. The church, however, had been granted by Robert de Beaumont to the Abbey of Bec.

In 1232, the king (Henry III) gave letters of protection to the Hospital of St. John the Baptist in Hungerford, and also to the leprous sisters of St. Lawrence in Hungerford. These may have been at Simon de Montfort's persuasion.

Simon de Montfort's main power bases were at Leicester and Kenilworth. However, Hungerford seems to have become an administrative centre for Simon's activities and lands in the surrounding area, the King directing in 1248 and 1259 that large sums of money should be paid to Simon at Hungerford.

Furthermore, in 1247-49 he developed nearby Balteley Wood into a deer park (which later became Hungerford Park). He removed all common rights of herbage and pannage in Balteley Wood, and there is much evidence that de Montfort took a personal interest in the development of the park. King Henry III himself made gifts of deer for the park in 1248 and 1249.

A further agreement removed the rights of the Abbey of Bec over a certain area away from the town, in exchange for which the abbey estate acquired certain rents arising from a property including a tenement of Jordan de Mareyse and a cotsetlam of land with the house of John Ginegome. These various rents were to be held by the Abbey "free from all secular services, disputes and exactions". This is the key to the abbey's estates in Hungerford being exempt from quit rent. The renunciation of common rights in Balteley may be the origin of their corresponding exclusion from the rights of common enjoyed by later free-suitors of Hungerford.

There is much to support the suggestion that the development of the "new" model town of Hungerford coincided with the development of the deer park in Balteley Wood (i.e. c.1247-49). Simon de Montfort appears to have pushed both projects forward.

The manor of Hungerford Engleford is thought to have derived from an estate at Inglefol (in Domesday Book) in the Hundred of Kintbury Eagle, owned by Robert Fitzgerald. The land approximates with the later Hungerford Park.

It seems that Simon de Montfort may have exchanged certain lands in Hungerford Engleford manor for others in Hungerford itself – and this may be why there are a number of burgage strips belonging to Hungerford Engleford along Hungerford High Street, especially on the east side.

The manors of Hungerford and Hungerford Engleford were separate, each having its own territory, its own lord, and its own manorial court. Both manors acknowledged the Crown as overlord; both properties would have been included in town surveys, and the inhabitants of both had commoners' rights in certain lands in Sanden Fee (though the areas of common may differ).

Important notes on the Duchy of Lancaster:

Dramatic events at the end of the fourteenth century brought a Duke of Lancaster to the throne of England.

When Edward III died in 1377, his ten-year-old grandson, Richard II came to the throne. The young king was heavily influenced by his powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, who acted effectively in the role of regent. John of Gaunt was so powerful that he became a key target for the rebels who, during the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, destroyed his Savoy Palace in London.

But John of Gaunt's fortunes changed. His son, Henry Bolingbroke, made an enemy of King Richard II and was banished in 1398 from the kingdom for six years. When John of Gaunt died in 1399, Richard II confiscated the enormous Lancaster inheritance and extended Henry's banishment to a life sentence.

Bolingbroke exacted a swift revenge. In 1399, whilst Richard II was campaigning in Ireland, Henry returned to England to claim his inheritance. Supported by leading families, he regained control of Lancastrian strongholds and captured Richard II. The king abdicated and was imprisoned in Pontefract Castle.

Duke and King:

Henry Bolingbroke was crowned Henry IV on 13th October 1399. His first act was to stipulate the conditions under which the Lancaster inheritance should be held.

The regulating charter was known to contemporaries as the Charter of Duchy Liberties. Later the Great Charter of the Duchy specified that the inheritance should be held separately from all other Crown possessions, and should descend to Henry's male heirs.

Henry was anxious that the Lancaster possessions should not merge with other Crown interests, and be lost to his family should he lose the throne. Keeping the inheritance separate was a shrewd move to protect his descendants' inheritance.

15th and 16th Centuries: In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the Duchy of Lancaster went from strength to strength.

Wealth and warfare:

Henry IV left the direction of Duchy policy and administration mostly in the hands of Duchy officers, but it remained an important asset.

Henry IV often used the private Duchy revenues for military purposes and to reward his followers. The Duchy castles around the country provided security and strengthened his precarious position.

The inheritance descended to his son, Henry V. Duchy tenants served as men-at-arms and archers in Henry V's famous French campaign, ending with the victory at Agincourt in 1415.

Henry V's son, Henry VI, became King in 1422. During his reign, a number of grants were made using Duchy revenues, including Eton College (founded 1440) and King's College, Cambridge (founded 1441).

Lancaster vs. York:

Towards the end of his reign, fighting erupted between Yorkists and Lancastrians. In 1461 after many years of war Edward IV of York became King. Although he had no Lancastrian blood, it was reasoned that Henry VI's possessions, including the Duchy, were forfeited and legally held in the hands of the new King.

Edward IV retained the arrangement by which the Duchy was kept separately from other Crown possessions. By Act of Parliament, he incorporated the Duchy possessions under the title "The Duchy of Lancaster" to be held "for ever to us and our heirs, Kings of England, separate from all other Royal possessions."

The reason that the traditional Loyal Toast in Hungerford is to "The Queen, Duke of Lancaster" refers back to the fact that since the time of Edward IV (in 1461) the reigning monarch has held the Duchy of Lancaster, "separate from all other possessions".

"The Queen's ancient inheritance":

The accession of Henry VII united the houses of Lancaster and York.

A charter of 1485 confirmed the Duchy as a distinct entity to be enjoyed by subsequent Sovereigns, separate from other Crown lands, and under its own management. There has been no fresh settlement since.

A number of foundations were endowed through the proceeds from the Duchy during Henry VII's reign. Henry built a hospital for "pouer, nedie, people" on the ruins of John of Gaunt's Savoy Palace. The only part which survives today is thought to be incorporated within The Queen's Chapel of the Savoy.

Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries left the Duchy of Lancaster with obligations to meet certain stipends, including those of the guides over the Kent and Leven sands in northern Lancashire.

By the reign of Elizabeth I Duchy revenues were greater than ever and the post of Chancellor was occupied by important figures such as Sir Thomas More and Sir Francis Walsingham. In 1556 the Duchy was described as "one of the most famous, princeliest and stateliest pieces of the Queen's ancient inheritance".

Attempts to abolish the Duchy:

The extravagant Stuart kings, especially James I and Charles I, sold large parts of the Duchy to raise money.

Lavishness and controversial decisions led to widespread dissatisfaction with the monarchy. Charles I was executed in 1649. Parliament passed an act abolishing kings and disabling the king's issue from the Crown and its possessions, including the Duchy of Lancaster. Many Crown and Duchy lands were sold to pay for the war. As a landed estate the Duchy ceased to exist although Cromwell did preserve the jurisdiction of the County Palatine of Lancaster.

The Restoration of the monarchy in May 1660 included the return of the Crown's succession to the Duchy. Much Duchy land was recovered, but the revenues of the Duchy had been badly depleted.

For a century the Duchy was in reduced circumstances. Under Charles II and William III sales or grants of Duchy lands continued. The low state of the Duchy's fortunes made it a target for reformers and abolitionists.

Hard times:

In 1702 the Crown passed to Quen Anne. In the first year of her reign an Act was passed preventing further sales of Crown lands to shore up the capital available to the Sovereign.

The Duchy remained in crisis for the next 60 years. In fact, during the first half of the century the Duchy was almost bankrupt. In 1760-61, profits amounted to £16.18s.4d. No revenues had been paid to the Privy Purse of the Sovereign for many years.

An age of improvement:

In the same year George III surrendered his other hereditary estates (except the Duchy of Cornwall) in return for the Civil List, an annual payment from Parliament to manage his household. The Duchy of Lancaster, however, was not mentioned in this arrangement. This may have been because its revenues were not thought worth taking or because the Duchy was seen as separate from the hereditary revenues of the Crown.

George III's long reign saw many changes in the Duchy. Lord Strange, Chancellor from 1762 to 1771, set in motion a programme of improvement. Methods of farming were being revolutionised and the ban on land sales of was gradually being relaxed. Enclosures and agricultural improvements were introduced. Canals, railways and roads were constructed across the various lands making it easier for Duchy officers to travel across the estate. The result of these improvements was increasing revenues for the King.

The Duchy of Lancaster was in a prosperous position when Queen Victoria died in 1901. In the previous year, the payment to the Privy Purse had reached £61,000, the highest figure yet.

The twentieth century saw changes in the Duchy's income. Revenue from minerals declined sharply following the nationalisation of the coal industry in 1938. This was balanced by income from agricultural estates purchased with compensation from nationalisation.

The Second World War affected the Duchy of Lancaster more than the First World War. The Savoy Chapel was bombed in 1940; some Duchy property was occupied for war purposes; and half of the Duchy woodlands were felled for the war effort, requiring a major replanting programme after the war.

With the return of peace, the Duchy estates were reorganised as part of a modernisation initiative. The estates were grouped into divisions named 'Surveys'. Money was invested in improving the supply of water, electricity and sanitation.

The area of Enfield Chase in Greater London was sold by agreement to form part of the original Metropolitan Green Belt, and the proceeds were invested in more agricultural land. Purchases were mostly made near the Duchy's historic holdings.

"The Queen, Duke of Lancaster!":

The present Queen retains a keen interest in the Duchy of Lancaster, which provides a regular income for Her Majesty to manage Her commitments. Throughout Her reign, She has made regular visits to the estate, and has strengthened the Duchy's charitable work.

Seven centuries after it began, today's Duchy is a modern, professional organisation looking confidently towards the future. All business decisions are made with the aim of ensuring that this unique and resilient institution remains in existence for centuries to come.

[With thanks to]

The estate of Hungerford Engleford eventually passed in 1420 to the Darrell family, who sold the estate (including 11 messuages, and 84 acres in Hungerford, and one tenement in Charnham Street) in 1429 to Sir Walter Hungerford.

Sir Walter Hungerford had served under Henry V in France in 1415, and fought at Agincourt. Henry awarded him Knight of the Garter. On Henry's death in 1421, Sir Walter Hungerford was an executor of his will. Towards the end of Hungerford's life, Henry VI granted Sir Walter Hungerford "the lordship of the manor of Hungerford, the town and borough, and our Park in Hungerford, the Fee of Sanden, for fealty and twenty marks yearly".

The manors of both Hungerford and Hungerford Engleford were again held by the same lord, one manor a seignorial, and the other a royal demesne. Separate audits and accounts were presented annually, and separate courts were kept in respect of each.

When Sir Walter Hungerford died in 1449, the manors were inherited by his son Robert, 2nd Baron Hungerford, and later by Robert, 3rd Baron Hungerford. The 3rd Baron was an active Lancastrian in the Wars of the Roses, and his forfeited estates were given by the Crown to Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

The accession of Henry VII brought the pro-Lancastrian family of Hungerford back into favour and power, and the manor of Hungerford Engleford remained with them, whilst the manor of Hungerford remained with the Duchy of Lancaster until its eventual purchase by the inhabitants of the borough in the feoffment of 1617.

Even then, the manor of Hungerford Engleford continued much as before. Being a separate manor, rather like Charlton/ Hopgrass or Eddington-cum-Hidden, they paid their own quit rent to their own lord, and not to the Town and Borough of Hungerford. However, unlike Charlton/Hopgrass or Eddington-cum-Hidden, they seem to have possessed Commoners' rights as townsmen.

Thus Hungerford Engleford properties do not appear on town quit rent rolls, but their residents may appear in Commoners' lists. A survey of tenants in 1580/81 lists the locations of the Hungerford Engleford properties and the names of their tenants. The manor house was located on the site of later 121 High Street, and it remained "Manor House" until the manor was sold and broken up in 1743. Most of the Hungerford Engleford properties lie on the east side of the High Street, possibly reflecting the origin in land east of the present town, adjacent to the parish of Kintbury. There are some Hungerford Engleford properties at the eastern end of Church Street, and there are some lands in Sanden Fee.

In addition to the manor of Hungerford, and the manor of Hungerford Engleford, some properties in Hungerford originally belonged to the Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary (=St. Mary), the Chantry of the Holy Trinity, the Abbey of Goring and the Dean & Canons of Windsor (DCW).

See also:

- Simon de Montfort

- John of Gaunt

- The Manor of Hungerford Engleford, by Norman Hidden