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A History of Horncastle by James Conway Walter

Including the demesne of Thimbleby


to the name Thimbleby, given in _Domesday Book_ as Stimbelbi, it doubtless meant originally the Bye (scotice "Byre"), or farmstead, of a thane, or owner, in pre-Norman times named stimel. {165} In the survey made by the Conqueror, A.D. 1085, there are two mentions of this parish, (1) It is included among the 1,442 lordships, or manors, of which King William took possession on his own behalf, ejecting the previous owners; none of whom, in this instance, are named. Under him it was occupied by 22 soc-men, or free tenants, and 18 villeins, or bondsmen, who cultivated 4.5 carucates (540 acres), with 240 acres of meadow. This, however, did not comprise the whole parish, for (2) another mention gives Thimbleby among the lands granted by the Conqueror to Odo, Bishop of Baieux, who was half brother to King William, on his mother's side, and was created by him Earl of Kent. His brother was Earl of Moretaine, and his sister Adeliza was Countess of Albermarle. He had been consecrated Bishop of Baieux before William's conquest of England, in 1049. He was subsequently made Count Palatine and Justiciary of England. The old historian, Ordericus Vitalis, says "he was reputed to be the wisest man in England, and 'totius Angliae Vice-comes sub Rege, et . . . Regi secundus'"; and this was hardly an exaggeration, since he was granted by William 76 manors in Lincolnshire, besides 363 in other counties. But we have observed in several other instances how insecure was the tenure of property
in those unsettled times, when might was deemed right, and this ambitious Prelate was no exception. He aspired to the Papacy, the highest ecclesiastical office in Christendom, and was about to start for Rome, with the view of securing it through his wealth, when he was arrested and imprisoned by his royal kinsman, and his estates confiscated.

The portion of Thimbleby granted to this Odo comprised 250 acres of cultivated land, with 12 acres of meadow and 30 acres of underwood. This was worked for him by three free tenants and five bondmen. {166a} On the attainder of Odo, this land passed again into the King's hands, to be bestowed doubtless upon some other favourite follower. Accordingly we find that, shortly after this, the powerful Flemish noble, Drogo de Bevere, who had distinguished himself greatly at the battle of Hastings, along with many other manors in Lincolnshire, held that of Thimbleby. He was, by Royal Charter, Lord of all Holderness, and took his title de Bevere from Beverley, the chief town in that division. As is also related elsewhere, {166b} the Conqueror gave him his niece in marriage; but, being of a violent temperament, Drogo got rid of her by poison, and then, having thus incurred the anger of William, he fled the country. His estates, in turn, were probably confiscated, for we find that a few years later Stephen, Earl of Ambemarle, {166c} had five carucates (_i.e._ 600 acres) of land between Thimbleby, Langton and Coningsby.

This noble was distinguished for his piety, as well as his other great qualities. The chronicler describes him as "praeclarus comes, et eximius monasteriorum fundator," an illustrious earl and distinguished founder of monasteries. Among other such institutions he founded, on the feast of St. Hilary, A.D. 1139, the Priory of Thornton, in North Lincolnshire. This Stephen also received the lordship of Holderness, which had been held by Drogo. He was succeeded by his son William, who was surnamed Crassus, or "The Gross," from his unwieldy frame. His great-granddaughter, Avelin, succeeding to the property in her turn, married Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, surnamed Gibbosus, or humpback. But they had no issue, and so, as the "Book of Meux Abbey" says, "for want of heirs the Earldom of Albemarle and the Honour of Holderness were seized (once again) into the King's hands." What became of the demesne of Thimbleby is not specified; but we find from the survey, already quoted, that in the same century Walter de Gaunt, son of Gilbert de Gaunt, {166d} held Thimbleby and other neighbouring parishes 24 carucates, or in all 2,880 acres of land. We have traced elsewhere {166e} the descent of the Willoughby family from the Gaunts, and about 100 years later (circa 1213, Survey, as before) William de Willoughby succeeded to these estates, including the demesne of Thimbleby. He was ancestor of the present Earl of Ancaster, and Lord Willoughby de Eresby, who now represents this division in Parliament. How long the estates, in whole or in part, remained with the Willoughbys is not clear; but we have evidence of their connection with Thimbleby nearly 100 years later, in a document dated 1302, {167a} concerning a dispute as to lands in Thimbleby, Langton, Woodhall, and several other parishes, between John de Bec and Robert Wylgherby, the two families being related; in which the said Robert surrenders to the said John all property in dispute, for his lifetime, on condition that, after his decease, the whole shall revert to the said John Willoughby, and his heirs, for ever. {167b}

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