1066 Info 10 for Norman Origins
Domesday and Eccleston manor


This paper sets Eccleston in the Domesday context of Earl Hugh’s Cheshire land and looks at the landscape surrounding Eccleston and Chester.

Eccleston was an important manor in the gift of Earl Hugh. It is the first listed manor in the Domesday holdings of Gilbert de Venables and, if this follows the Domesday pattern, it was his home.

Gilbert's importance as the fourth most important person within the Palatine 1 court of Hugh is demonstrated by the strategic importance of Eccleston which protected the Palatine capital of Chester. It is located on a north-facing spur of land that carries the old Roman road of Watling Street into Chester: a route to the important port of Chester, some 3¼ km away, and for any invading Welsh. This same spur creates a meander loop in the River Dee at Chester, effectively separating the fresh water of the River Dee and tidal waters of the Dee Estuary; another possible invasion route from Wales and also from Dublin.

Eccleston today

Eccleston lies south of A55 Chester bypass and east of A483 Wrexham road.

The village gives every appearance of being an affluent village with houses built in solid Cheshire sandstone. The same white cast iron village style house nameplate, surmounted by a golden dog, adorns many of the houses or gateposts. The settlement and its cathedral-like church, built in the Early English style and consecrated in 1900, has been, and may still be, heavily influenced by the affluent Grosvenor Estate at Eaton Hall, 2km south along Waiting Street. It is a village worthy of the Duke of Westminster, one of the richest British persons in the United Kingdom, whose property investments were valued by The Sunday Times Rich List 2020 as £10.295 billion.

The Ordnance Survey map shows an insignificant 'mound', located at grid reference SJ 414 428, at the north-eastern end of the village overlooking the River Dee and between Watling Street and the river. In 2006, the 'mound', though distinct, had the appearance of a bramble bank rising out of the undulating grassland. Trees, slightly more than sapling, grew from the river side. A view from the top still commands the outlook to the bypass and out into England, but not over the western ridge.

Ormerod writes of the 'mound': 'Below the church, in one of the glebe fields, was formerly a Tumulus (adjoining a bath), the site of which is now planted with trees. It stood on the Roman road which ran from Chester to the Iron Bridge over the Dee. The tumulus was opened by the Rev. Charles Mytton, then rector, about half a century ago, and a great quantity of human bones and, some say, coins were discovered.' 2 However, whilst this single 'mound' is certainly not the size of a motte neither does if have the usual skyline location of a tumuli cluster. The Victoria County History (VCH) describes it as a 'round earthen mound; diameter 20m height 3m. Many human bones and, according to some, coins found in late 18th century. Mound was badly disturbed in c. 1770 and 1850.' 3

Hoverbox Photo Gallery - Eccleston motte - Author: February 2007
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1. The Eccleston 'mound' looking north, showing the much reduced brambled 'hump'.   2. The Eccleston 'mound' looking east, showing the December flooding of the Dee valley.
1 2
  Eccleston motte - 31kB jpg Eccleston motte - 31kB jpg Eccleston motte and Dee - 39kB jpg Eccleston motte and Dee - 39kB jpg
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In 1993, Historic England re-scheduled the mound and classified it as a motte:

The motte and associated earthworks east of the Old Rectory at Eccleston is one of a group of early post-Conquest mottes and motte and bailey castles forming a defensive system, the aim of which was tocurb Welsh raids on the rich farming areas of Cheshire. Equally important was the role these sites played in imposing and demonstrating the new post-Conquest feudal order on the area. The monument is a motte and associated earthworks strategically situated on a local high point overlooking the River Dee. The monument includes an oval earthen motte, or mound, mutilated on its eastern side, and partly surrounded by a ditch and bank with other earthen banks to the south and south-west. The motte measures 28m by 14.5m by 3m high and is flanked on its north and west sides by a ditch 8m wide and 0.3m deep, beyond which are faint traces of an outer bank 14.5m wide by 0.1m deep which continues in a south-westerly direction for a distance of approximately 17m. To the south of the motte, and running along the crest above the slope down to the river, is a bank measuring 23.5m long by 10m wide and 1.3m high.' 4
Gilbert's 'castle' motte may have carried a simple watchtower keep, whilst the inhabitants of the village lived in the surrounding area of the bailey. 5

Right: An artist’s illustration of la Motelle in Gilbert’s Venables, whose Seine riverside location bears some similarity to Deeside Eccleston
Venables la motelle - 46kB jpg
Hoverbox Photo Gallery - Eccleston  Author: February 2007
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1. Shelter Church Road The 'centre' of Eccleston, at the start of the continuing Roman Road to Eaton Hall, showing the tower of 20th century Early English style church . 2. Eccleston's substantial Cheshire sandstone buildings, built above the river footpath.
3. The large house.

1 2 3
  Eccleston Church Road - 32kB jpg Eccleston Church Road - 32kB jpg Eccleston - 39kB jpg Eccleston - 39kB jpg Eccleston0 - 71B jpg Eccleston0 - 71B jpg
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OS map of Eccleston - 210kB jpg
Above: OS Explorer map of Eccleston c.2006
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Today's landscape

It is possible to construct the hypothetical, but reasoned, description of the landscape inhabited by Gilbert. It must be emphasised that the theories are based on the interpretation of broad geographical facts rather than specific and detailed research. This paper attempts to recreate the Domesday landscape of Gilbert's estate by:

Today's Ordnance Survey map places Eccleston on the western bank of the Dee river escarpment, which increases in height from 5m to 35m. At 35m, this is the highest land in the immediate vicinity. It gives 360° protective visibility over the 25km western dip-slope falling to the Dee Estuary, to England in the east and towards Wales. The River Dee flows in a narrow maturing valley with a flood plain varying in width from 450m to 120m. It has a generally straight course broken by acute angled meanders at the Crook of Dee, in the city of Chester, and by five more rounded obtuse angled meanders. Beneath Huntington, the flood plain is wider and a 20m river cliff suggest a historical change in river course or function through erosion.

The Dee estuary is a large funnel shaped lying between the Wirral Peninsula and Flintshire averaging 6km in width. This is now thought to have been caused by the scouring of an Irish Sea glacier. 6 Forming along the present south-western Wirral shore are extensive areas of constantly shifting intertidal sand, mudflats and newly forming salt marshes. Numerous creeks bisect this area.

A narrow navigation channel follows the Welsh shore of the Dee until it reaches the Golftyn to Chester canalised section, opened to shipping in 1737. The reclaimed land adjacent to the canal has been industrialised by the old Shotton steel works and the modern Deeside Industrial Park.

The silting of the estuary affects the historical landscape.

The site of Eccleston

The motte at Eccleston commanded Watling Street and the access to Chester. Though on the 15m contour it is within easy distance of the Norman estuary coast, lying just across the narrow peninsular. The width of the River Dee at Eccleston provides a sheltered location for the boat and net mentioned in Domesday.

Having forded the River Dee, the peninsular of land is Watling Street's natural route north: relatively straight, hugging the river, yet just above the flood plain. It should be noted that south of Heronbridge, Watling Street lies 'somewhat east of the present road' 7, therefore taking out the modern Eccleston 'dog-leg' and bringing the road closer to the motte.

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Domesday records Eccleston as:

Eccleston's Domesday entry - 32kB jpg
Eccleston's Domesday entry

GISLEBERTUS De Venables ten do Hugone ECLESTON.
Eduin tenuit.7 lib ho fuit. Ibi.V.hidæ geld.Tra.e.VI.car.
In dnio.e.una.7 II.ferui.7 IIII.uitti 7 I.bord cu.I.car.Ibi nauis
7 rete. 7 dimid ac pti. T.R.E. ualb.x.fol.Modo.L.fol.Wast fuit

Gilbert of Venables holds ECCLESTON from Earl Hugh.
Edwin held it; he was a free man. 5 hides paying tax/Land for 6 ploughs.
In lordship 1; 2 slaves; 4 villagers and 1 small holder with plough
A boat and a net; meadow; ½ acre.
Value before 1066, 10s[hillings]; now 50s; it was waste.

The Roman ford at Iron Bridge appears to be a location that fixes the position of the historical course of the river. The ancient wetlands may be evidenced by the 'foundation of piles', discovered in front of Eaton Hall, on the alignment of Watling Street to the Alford causeway ford. 8 It is possible that the landscaping of the Eaton Hall estates has adopted the old course of the River Dee.

Domesday records a fishery with a thousand salmon at Eaton, on the manor held by Earl Hugh. To the east and south of the present Eaton Hall are a series of three ornamental ponds located on the flood plain of the River Dee. The middle modern ornamental lake has every appearance of being an isolated abandoned meander formed by the natural straightening the Dee below the Iron Bridge. It can be argued that the Domesday fishponds were located in these abandoned meanders of the Dee, which may have been flooded the Chester weir and, perhaps, in the area of heavily drained flood plain, now called Duck Wood.

The Domesday quantity of salmon infers farming in ponds, rather than wild fishing in the river. As tenant-in-chief, Hugh must have retained this major source of nutrition and income.

As there were no ponds at Eccleston, it is reasonable to suggest that the 'boat and net' 1 at Eccleston was associated with the salmon running the river rather than the fish farming. It should be noted that the manor of Hunington only merited the mention of a 'small boat and net'.

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Historical Eccleston - 179kB jpg
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Earl Hugh’s Domesday manors around Eccleston

This map, 2 based on information from the OS 1:25 000 series but drawn from the 1:50 000 series, shows the location of the manors mentioned in Domesday, centred on some form of antiquity: including two moats without an associated motte or motte and bailey. 9 These manors, being above the 10m contour, hint at the division between land and sea, there being no settlements of antiquity below the 10m contour. 10

Although Historic England has classified the mound at Eccleston as a motte, there is no known primary evidence linking this motte to the position of Gilbert's motte and bailey.

Reconstructed Norman coastline - 89kB jpg
Above: A hypothetical reconstructed of the Norman coastline
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Dee Estuary tenants of Earl Hugh

Modern name Domesday name Sub-Tenant Sub-Tenant 2 Sub-Tenant 3 Known
Aldford/Lea Lai Bigot of Loges     Motte 11
Aston Estone Hamon of Mascy      
Blacon Blacheloi Ranulf Mainwaring      
Broughton Brouchetune Ralph the Huntsman Robert of Rhuddlan Hugh fitzOsbern  
Claverton Vlaventone Hugh fitzOsbern     Moat
Clayton Colesely William Malbank      
Doddleston Dodesune Osbern filtzTrezzo     Motte
Eaton Etone Earl Hugh      
Eccleston Eclestone Gilbert de Venables     Motte
Handbridge Bruge William fitzNigel Hugh delaMere Hugh fitzOsbern  
Hawarden Haordine Earl Hugh     Motte
Kinnerton Edritone Hugh fitzOsbern Richard    
Marlston Merleston William fitzNigel Asgar   12
Overleigh Lee Hugh delaMere      
Poulton Pontone Richard the Butler     Moat
Puddington Potitone Hamon of Mascy      

Dee Estuary sub-tenants of St Werbergh's church

Modern name Domesday name Sub-Tenant Sub-Tenant 2 Known
Cheaveley Cavelea St Werbergh's Church Anonymi 13
Huntington Huntitone St Werbergh's Church Anonymi 14
Lache Leche St Werbergh's Church    
Pulford Pulford St Werbergh's Church Hugh fitzOsbern Motte 15
Saughall Salhare St Werbergh's Church William Malbank  
Shotwick Sotowiche St Werbergh's Church Anonymi Motte 16
Wepre Wepre St Werbergh's Church William Malbank  
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The relative values of Dee Estuary manors 17

Manor Hides paying Geld Ploughs Popu-
Wood in squ miles 18 Meadow in acres Value
in land units by teams 1066 1070 1086  
Aston 1 1 1 7 9       10s  
Broughton ¼ 1 1 2         5s 19
Broughton 3/8 ½ ½ 4 9 30     5s  
Broughton 3/8 ½ ½ 1 3 45     3s  
Cheaveley 3 5 4 7     30s   50s 20
Claverton 2 2 2 9       Waste 40s 21
Clayton 1 1 1 2 9       10s  
Dodleston 2 2 2 10 9       40s  
Eccleston 5 6 2 7   ½ 10s Waste 50s 22
Eaton 3 4 14   1 200s 160s 200s 23
Handbridge 1     4 13½       3s 24
Hawarden 3 4 14 16 18 ½   40s 25
Huntington 3 6 3 4   1     16s 26
Kinnerton 1 1 5   1     10s  
Lache ¼ ½         Waste Waste Waste  
Lea 1 2   2   1   Waste 2s 27
Marlston ¼ ½   1       Waste 4s  
Pilford 1 1 4     Waste Waste 5s  
Poulton 1 5 5 10   8 40s 40s 80s 28
Pulford ½ 1 1 2     4s   5s  
Overleigh ¼   ½ 3       10s Waste  
Wepre 1/3 1/3   2         ?  
Mean 2 1.8 5         26s  

In many aspects, Eccleston appears to be the wealthiest manor around the Dee estuary and reflects Gilbert’s status in the Palatine and as a sub-tenanted of Earl Hugh. It:

However, the improved value of the Eccleston manor does not appear to be secure. Eccleston has the poorest ratio of ploughland to available plough teams having only one third of the ploughs needed as generally each manor a ploughland to plough ration of 1:1 Eccleston records no woodland and only ¼ acre of meadow.

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This suggests that the Eccleston wealth came from its 'boat and net' in association with the valuable Eaton fishery which Earl Hugh retained. Domesday makes the distinction between Eccleston's 'boat' and the 'small boat' of Cheaveley and Huntington. Whilst Cheaveley is also valued at 50s, it had a higher 1066 value than Eccleston.

Reconstructing the Domesday settlements landscape and the reclaiming of the Dee

The modern river at Eccleston is less than 50m wide and it is not known how ' profitable' this would have been for the 'Boat and net’. In looking into Domesday entries, details of a possible Domesday landscape began to emerge.

Any attempt to recreate the Domesday landscape around the Dee Estuary and Eccleston must be speculative though published maps, of various dates, and the Domesday survey provide influential evidence. In determining the appearance of the Domesday landscape consideration has been given to the evidence of:

The actual course of the ancient Dee is difficult to plot. It has been determined by the present course modified to accommodate 900 years of meandering. The head of fresh water, caused by the Chester weir driving mill wheels, backed up to the Huntington meander and the wetlands of Eaton to accommodate their extensive fishing.

Historical maps and accounts provide evidence of a progressive deterioration in the Dee estuary navigation since Norman time. Man’s intervention, at the Chester weir, influenced the tidal and freshwater scouring causing silt to develop and reduced the area of sea and changes to deep-water channels.

By plotting the location of Domesday settlements the rough position of these intertidal wet lands and therefore the ancient coastline can be determined. Domesday village sites and agriculture must have been built on dry land above sea level and any tidal surge, which threatened to inundate any tenuous hold on the land. In positions surrounding the Dee estuary, settlements and their supporting motte and bailey castles, provided a defensive ring around the estuary and the access to England’s second port. Those on the southern banks further protect Chester from the Welsh. Today, these villages are above to 10m contour based on the 2006 mean sea level.

Whilst there are papers that describe the changing sea levels of the Dee and northwest England, nothing has been found to describe the sea level of Norman Deeside. However, published maps of various dates, the Domesday survey and general papers on climate and sea level change provide influential evidence.

During the last 5000 years relative mean sea-level in the north-west is thought to have remained quite stable with a Mean High Water Line (MHWL) within a metre higher of the present sea- level 31. The Roman shoreline saw a period of disastrous marine flooding with the south-Wales shoreline of Caerleon being buried under as much as 3m of alluvium in conditions which lay somewhere between mudflat and salt marsh. This land was too saline to cultivate 32 33 until this land was drained. At the Somerset Levels, no drainage was carried out until the late 12th century.

Throughout history, the Dee Estuary presents a picture of ever changing land reclamation through intertidal salt marsh, shifting alluvium, erosion and deposition. It was probably first flooded around 7500 to 8000 years ago and has been infilling since the start of the postglacial period. Originally, the estuary was almost rectangular in form, over 30m long and 8km wide and extended as far as Chester, then the tidal limit. Later embankment and reclamation reduced the tidal flow and currents. 34

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Dee Estuary in 1066 - 98kB jpg

Some reclamation may date back to the Romans. 35 In late Saxon and Norman times, the estuary would have been free of the formally reclaimed lands either side of the present New Cut and so would have presented the longer and wider stretch of tidal water described above. However, there is every possibility of wet alluvium and salt marsh hugging the southern coast and filling the inlets, in a similar manner to the Somerset Levels. It would seem reasonable to argue that Earl Hugh's construction of the Chester weir or causeway, in 1093, created a head of water and separated the tidal and fresh waters. This reduced the natural scouring and caused the deposition of alluvium in the slack water eddies below the 5m contour between Dodleston and Lanche. However, the weir also created an artificial head to the tidal high water mark. Only on the highest tide would the river valley be flooded. High tides have reached Farndon, 6km south of Eccleston.

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From the 11th century human influences increased silting. In the late 11th century and until the building of the New Cut completed in 1737, the deep water navigation channel flowed along the Wirral shore, scouring and under cutting the 10m cliffs at Shotwick Castle, (pronounced Shottick). 36 The flooding of the low-lying areas of the Dee became a problem again in the 13th century when, due to warmer climate, the sea level again rose. Storms and erosion, as described by the monks of St Werburgh's and Stanlow Abbey, continually changed the coastline and its channels. The deep-water channel prevailed through to the 14th century when Shotwick had surpassed Chester as the dominant port.

In 1732 Parliament was asked to approve a new channel to Chester and to allow the enclosure of large tracts of marsh land on either side. 37 Between 1735 and 1736, Nathaniel Kinderley & Company cut a new channel on the Welsh side of the existing river from Chester to Golftyn. The new Dee channel was opened to shipping in 1737. In 1740 Kinderley's River Dee Company neglected their duty to maintain the channel, allowing it to silt up again. Instead, they turned their attention to the thousands of acres of reclaimed marshlands around Sealand and Saltney, which, by the year 1861 was raising £8,000 in annual rent. 38 The consequence was to further reduce the tidal scour and to increase estuarine silting.

The embankments of the New Cut were improved several times during the 19th century, allowing further land to be reclaimed between Shotwick and Burton Point. With further reclamation near Connah’s Quay, Flint and Mostyn, approximately 12,355 acres (5,000ha) has been enclosed since 1732. 39

If the land to the north of the New Cut has been reclaimed then the land to the south-east of the 1735 land, in the area Saltney and Lanche, would have been reclaimed otherwise the New Cut would drained to that land around. There are distinctive features that this land has been reclaimed. It too:

OS map of Saltney reclamation - 96kB jpg
Above: OS map showing the Saltney reclamation

The presence of regular field shapes and straight drainage channels, similar to those in the known reclaimed areas, suggested this was earlier reclaimed land, made productive agricultural land when the drainage reduce the salt content. Extensive reclamation, of about 25% of the original estuary, at the Chester end further reduced the tidal pattern from the mid-18th century, The reclamation of this land, and the new course of the river brought prosperity to the Shotton area on a scale it had never seen before. New farms were built on the highly fertile reclaimed land and industry was attracted to the area because of the newly navigable river. 40

The map below illustrates the regular modern drainage patterns on the lands below the 5m contour between Bretton Hall and the recent housing of Lache.

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Map locating Dee reclamation - 129kB jpg
Above: Map locating Dee reclamation Source: The River Dee & The Latchcraft Pits op cit. Origins unknown.
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The development of Chester

Between the 11th and the 15th centuries, Chester was a busy and thriving sea port, one of the largest in England. As a result of silting, first noted as early as 1405, an outpost was established at Shotwick in 1450. Continued silting necessitated further new facilities, first at Neston and then Parkgate, 41 then the most important ferry port in north-west England for travel to Ireland. 42 This accounts for the demise of Chester as Britain’s 16th century second port. During the 17th century, erosion of the estuary shore caused serious silting of the river but it was not until 1677 that the first canalised navigational improvement scheme was proposed from Chester to Flint. In the 18th and early 19th century.

In the 1st century, the Dee was an important shipping river with Roman merchant ships sailed along the Dee. Then war galleys tied up at Chester and the empire’s trading ships discharged their cargoes: wood and Welsh slate were imported for the building of the fortress of Deva at Chester and sandstone from the Chester area was exported for the defences of Segontivm (Caernarfon). A few courses of the Roman massive stones harbour wall are still to be found in the area of the Rondee steps to the racecourse and the Watergate. Although only a few of these stones now show above ground, they extend for at least another 5m underground and for much of the length of the wall, with traces of groin walls running off at right angles. With a sea-level probably 1m above the present level 43 Roman ships tied-up close to what are now the remains of the Norman walls.

Nothing is known of the fate of the Saxon stronghold, formerly on the site, until the winter of 1069-1070 when William came to Saxon Chester. This became the last great town of England to fall in the Harrying of the North. William granted the Earldom of Chester first and briefly to Walter de Gherbaud, who soon returned to Normandy. He was succeeded by William’s nephew, Hugh d’Avranches, known as Lupus (the Wolf). The Palatine of Cheshire (qv) and Earldom became very powerful and virtually independent of the crown. The Earl had his own parliament consisting of Gilbert and seven other chosen barons, who were not responsible to English parliamentary law. 44 Earl Hugh erected a typical Norman motte and bailey castle in the meander loop, which was soon replaced by stone. Over the course of centuries the Norman castle, grew into a formidable defensive structure of great strategic importance.

Right: Chester in 1066 45
Chester in 1066 - 61kB jpg

The Chester weir or causeway was constructed in 1093 to create a head of water to drive Chester mills, separated the tidal and fresh waters. The weir reduced the flow speed and increase siltation downstream indirectly this affected the tidal scour and the estuary silting process and possibly flooded Queen’s Park and the flood plain meander under Huntington. This may have complimented the Eaton salmon farming. 46

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Chester in 1247 - kB jpg Between 1247 and 1251, the great stonewalls, as a formidable stone strategic and defensive structure, was built to surround the city. An important anchorage developed south of the castle at the medieval Shipgate. Before silting this was the main place for ships discharging their cargo, to be carriedt by pack horse up the steep St. Mary’s Hill into the city. 47

Left: Chester Castle circa 1247 48
Until the start of the 14th century, the existing structure of the ancient walls and towers proved adequate for the port's defence. In 1322, the Water Tower was built to extend the defences further out into the river and to control shipping and taxes. Boats moored around its base, but as early as 1405, the silting of the Dee estuary affected the depth of water available to shipping.

Right: The River Dee, Watergate and the Water Tower with docked shipping 49
Document showing Watergate - 55kB jpg
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Braun's 1571 map of Chester - 210kB jpg
Above: Braun's 1571 map of Chester showing the Water Tower still surrounded by water.50
Speed's 1610 map of Chester - 85kB jpg Thirty nine years after Braun, John Speed’s map of 1610, 51 shows the Dee was still navigable to Chester. However, silting had become a major problem for Chester as the river meander has apparently moved away from the Watergate and the city walls. The Water Tower is shown standing clear of the River Dee.

Left: Speed's 1610 map of Chester
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Whereas ancient Watergate Street was once Chester's 'dock road', as the river silted and receded, quays and shipyards were established along Crane Street - the road leading out of the Watergate and curving round to the right and the now vanished Paradise Row. There was just enough room for goods to be loaded and unloaded into waiting vessels or carts. 52

During the 15th century, the continued silting at Chester meant that passengers on the regular London to stagecoaches could no longer embark for Dublin. This increased in the importance of settlements on the Wirral, which were closer to the Irish Sea and preferable to the alternative mountain tracks that lead to Holyhead. After Shotwick, the churches of Cheshire took collections for a 'New Quay' at Neston: a seaside settlement 12 miles from the mouth. The New Quay then became the anchorage for merchant ships and the point of embarkation for the regular service to Ireland with Neston its coaching station. Eventually further silting made the New Quay unusable so, in the 16th century, Parkgate, 10 miles from the mouth of the estuary, developed until silting also closed that quay.

Van der Keer's map of Cheshire, dated circa 1610, gives the impression that the City of Chester was open to shipping all the way to the Irish Sea and onwards to Dublin. (Note also the castle icon located at Eccleston and the few prominent settlements close to Chester.)

van der Keer's 1610 map of Cheshire - 111kB jpg
Above: van der Keer's 1610 map of Cheshire

In 1646, just after the end of the Civil War, the city authorities concerned with the declining state of the river, ordered that the weir and mills should be demolished so that the water could flow rapidly out to the estuary sweeping with it the accumulating silt that clogged the shipping channels. As this clashed with private interests, the order was never carried out so silting continued a pace. 53

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End notes

  1. OED - designating a county or other territory in England of which the earl or lord originally had royal privileges, with the right of exclusive civil and criminal jurisdiction within that territory.
  2. Ormerod G., History of Cheshire Vol.2, 1882, p.829
  3. Elvington, CR (Ed), The Victoria County History of the Counties of England: A History of Cheshire Vol.1, University of London Institute for Historical Research, 1987 p.83 (VCH)
  4. Historic England, ref: 1011118 'Motte & associated earthworks east of Old Rectory (Accessed 18 April 2021)
  5. Onger, Bernard, Venables A travers l’Histoire des origins a 1453, Marie Venables, c.2005 p.311 ISBN: 2-85480-256-X
  6. Insight into marine science - Proudman Oceanographic
  7. Shennen and Horton
  8. VCH Vol.1 p.217
  9. See table in next section.
  10. The three settlements, located below the 10m contour and which are not mentioned in Domesday, are a more modern developments on the land assumed to be Norman intertidal saltings later reclaimed.
  11. Lea Newbald civil parish
  12. Marlston Heys Farm GR 398639
  13. Cheavelethall Farm
  14. Huntington Hall
  15. Grosvernor Estate
  16. 17thCentury Hall
  17. Morris
  18. Woods represented in Domesday areas by linear leagues, which have been converted to square miles and acres. Values, expressed in Domesday in pounds have been converted to shillings (s) to aid comparisons
  19. Manors mentioned several times in Domesday are recorded under more than one tenant.
  20. Small boat and net
  21. 8 Burgess in the city, 4 across the river
  22. Boat and net
  23. Fishery paying 1000 salmon, 6 fishermen
  24. 3 oxen
  25. Church, 2 houses in the city
  26. Small boat and net
  27. Lea Newbold parish with Aldford motte & bailey
  28. 15 Burgess in the city who pay 8s
  29. A tax paid to the Crown by English landholders before the Norman Conquest, and continued under the Norman kings. (OED)
  30. A measure of land in Old English times, continued also for some time after the Norman Conquest, varying in extent with the nature of the ground. Primarily, the amount considered adequate for the support of one free family with its dependants; at an early date defined as being as much land as could be tilled with one plough in a year. (OED)
  31. Tooley MJ,Theories of coastal changes in North-West England, in Thompson FH (Ed) 'Archaeology and Costal Change', Society of Antiquities of London, Occasional Paper 1, 1980, page 84, Shennan and Horton 2002, Halcrow, 210b
  32. Williams, H, Draining of the Somerset Levels, in Thompson FH (Ed) 'Archaeology and Costal Change', Society of Antiquities of London, Occasional Paper 1, 1980, page 32
  33. Boon, GC, Caerleon and the Gwent Levels in Early Historic Times, in Thompson FH (Ed) 'Archaeology and Costal Change', Society of Antiquities of London, Occasional Paper 1, 1980, page 24
  34. Shennen and Horton
  35. ibid
  36. This began life around 1080 as one of Earl Hugh's motte-and-bailey castles protecting his earldom from attack by the princes of North Welsh.
  37. ibid
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38. The River Dee & The Latchcraft Pits (Accessed: 30 April 2021)
39. Sheenen and Horton
40. The River Dee & The Latchcraft Pits
41. ibid
42. ibid
43. Tooley MJ, Theories of coastal change in North-West England, in Thompson FH (Ed), Archaeology and coastal change, Society of Antiquaries of London, Occasional Paper I, 1980
44. Chester A Virtual stroll around the walls (Accessed: 12 April 2021) An excellent site on the history of Chester
45. Adapted from Chester A Virtual stroll around the walls (Accessed 12 April 2021)
46. VCH opt cit
47. Chester A Virtual stroll around the walls (Accessed 12 April 2021)
48. Chester A Virtual stroll around the walls (Accessed 12 April 2021)
49. Chester A Virtual stroll around the walls (Accessed 12 April 2021)
50. Chester A Virtual stroll around the walls (Accessed 12 April 2021)
51. Chester A Virtual stroll around the walls (Accessed 12 April 2021)
52. Chester A Virtual stroll around the walls (Accessed 12 April 2021)
53. Chester A Virtual stroll around the walls (Accessed 12 April 2021)

More information 1
Return to text The Eccleston Boat

As the coracle has a long association with Welsh rivers and salmon fishing, it is suggested that the Eccleston ‘boat’ mentioned in Domesday, was a coracle. A coracle is a small one-person boat made out of circular woven basket frame of hand-cleft laths of willow or hazel. The rope work was made from animal hair may have been used to secure parts of the framework together. The waterproof covering was a hide, such as cattle or bull.

The coracle has a long history spanning Domesday. On his 49BC Spanish campaign, Caesar used a wicker boat covered with hide of a type he had seen in Britain. In 1188 Gerald de Barry, while visiting Wales, described a coracle but not exactly its location. 'The Mabinogion', a 13th century Welsh text, refers to a 'leather bag' boat. Edward III used coracles on his French campaign of 1360 and Henry V in 1414. In the 15th century, the Gododdin poem reads, "He would kill a fish in his coracle". Later poems in the Later poems in the next century recall a coracle covered in a black skin from a black bullock and waterproofed with tallow cake.

Until 1920, two types of coracle were used on the Dee: the lower and upper Dee types. The propelling force of the almost round a coracle is a single-blade paddle used a "reach forward" stroke, or a "figure of eight", where the paddle acts as a single propeller blade swinging from side to side. The paddle is held in front of the boat, with the paddler facing in the direction of travel.

The traditional net was made from hemp, horse hair and cow horn. Though there are different ways of using the net there is always a weighted line, called the footrope, running along the bottom of the net. At the top the net hangs from the stapling line with cowhorn rings evenly spaced and whipped on with cord. The headline is threaded through the rings along which they run in the same way curtain rings are opened and closed. The technique for landing a fish into the coracle is for one of the coraclemen to drop his end of the net while the other pulls the headline, which closes the net in the way a drawstring purse would and locally called "strangling" the net.

Hoverbox Photo Gallery - Coracle fishing on the Dee
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1. A modern Dee coracle
2. Paddling a coracle
3. Coracle netting
4. Dee coracle fishing nets
1 2 3 4
1066info10, sheet 20

More information 2
Return to text Techniques

The Wirral Explorer Ordnance Survey map of 1:25 000 scale was scanned and stitched together, by the computer, to make a template from the:
  • longitude of the River Dee east of Eccleston to a longitude west of Wepre, Deeside; to the
  • latitude of Puddington south to the latitude below Poulton, adjacent to Eccleston
This template was placed into a computer Vector drawing package and features were ‘traced’ features using the Vector cross-hairs on positions in the OS template. Accuracy was improved by adjusting the Vector nodes and arcs and increasing the magnification. Included on the drawn map were:
  • present sea-level by following the present high water;
  • the modern 5m and 10m contours representing the higher land adjacent to the coast;
  • the location of sites of manors mentioned in Domesday, to confirm the position of dry land, and sites of antiquities, such as Chester Castle, which appears to pre-date 1400;
  • some settlements.
A second map located the areas of reclamation with their given dates.

If the coastline premise is true then Gilbert’s manor at Eccleston would appear to be one of seven self-contained Norman/Domesday coastline manors in the locality of Chester.

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This page was created by Richard Crompton
and maintained by Chris Glass
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Updated 07 May 2021