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Bayleaf

WALTHEOF: FIRST EARL OF HALLAMSHIRE

Few things are more difficult to produce than a faithful and vivid picture of men of the past, their work and their habitations. Little is known about Sheffield and its people before the Norman Conquest. The town cannot look back on the distant past as do the ancient cities of York, Lincoln, and Leicester. We do not even know the time when Sheffield first bore its present name. It would be a richly-wooded, well-watered-place, surrounded by wild picturesque scenery, as indeed it is today. The spot where Sheffield now stands has been pictured as a

"deep solitude, the silence of which was broken only by the rivers pouring their waters in natural cascades through the woodland scenery, and by the cries of wild animals."

In those days the great forests of Hallamshire were realities. Tradition tells us that its early inhabitants manufactured arrow heads for early British archers in their conflicts against invaders. The region known as Hallamshire and the surrounding district was possessed by the Saxons, and formed part of the kingdom of Mercia; and was afterwards possessed and ravaged by the Danes.

One corner of Sheffield, near Wincobank Hill, is believed to have been occupied by Roman soldiers nearly 2,000 years ago, whilst at Templeborough, some four miles further, on a spot now covered by steel works, was a Roman camp, supposed from coins and several other remains found during excavations, to have been constructed about A.D. 55.

At Dore, five miles to the south of Sheffield, is a field known as King’s Croft, where, in the year 828, Egbert King of Wessex (who had conquered Mercia, in his march to Northumbria, which reached to the Humber) accompanied by his army, met the Northumbrian nobles, who peaceably submitted to his sway and owned him as their Overlord, so uniting the English races in Britain under a single leader.

From these far-off events we turn to Waltheof, Earl of Northumberland, one of the first lords of Hallamshire, who lived in the Eleventh century, a barbarous age, in which history is strangely intermingled with legend, tradition and tragedy.

In the Domesday Book, a most important national survey of lands made by William the Conqueror, completed about 1086, we have one of the earliest records relating to Hallamshire, a district which embraced Sheffield. Here is a translation of one of the entries:

One manor. In Hallun with 16 berewicks, there are 29 carucates of land for geld. Earl Wallef had a hall there. Twenty ploughs may be there. Roger [de Busli] , has this land of Judith, the Countess. He has two ploughs there, and 33 villanes, having 12 ploughs and a half. Eight acres of meadow there. Wood pasturable four league in length and four in breadth. The whole manor ten league in length and eight in breadth. T.R.E. it was worth eight marks [106s. 8d.] of silver; now 40s. Two other manors—•—Attercliffe and Ecclesfield, are also mentioned.

[A berewick was a hamlet or corn farm; a carucate was as much land as a man could plough in a year; geld was tribute or tax paid by the landowner; a villane was a man attached to the land—one obliged to remain on hi s lord’s estate and do him service, known as "boon service].

The Countess Judith here mentioned, who was niece of the Conqueror and widow of Earl Waltheof, was a large landowner.

Before referring to Waltheof himself we may ask where is the village of Hallun in which his Aula (hall) stood? For generations past local historians and archaeologists have been seeking for a satisfactory answer to the question, and their opinions have greatly differed. To-day the site of the Hall of Waltheof appears to be as great a mystery as ever.

Hunter, the historian of Hallamshire, says that

"where the vill [village] of Hallam stood there was the Aula of its Saxon lord."

He was inclined to put the position of the hall at the junction of the Sheaf and Don, where Sheffield Castle subsequently stood.

Mr. J. D. Leader, in his Records of the Sheffield Burgery, held a similar view, and contended that the "Hallun " of Domesday was not coterminous with the Hallam of to-day, but extended up to the rivers Sheaf and Don, and he maintains that

" Waltheof’s Hall stood on the site in Sheffield now known as Castle Green."

Other opinions are those of Mr. S. O. Addy, who leans to the view that the hall was in the Rivelin valley near to Stannington; the late Mr. Thomas Winder thought it was at Burnt Stones; whilst Mr. T. W. Hall holds that it was near Stumperlow Grange Farm, on the hillside, on the crest of which runs the Redmires road, at the foot of which is the river Porter in Whiteley Woods. But we must leave this vexed and very interesting question in the realms of uncertainty, and say something about Waltheof.

Mr. Addy’s "The Hall of Waltheof," affords us little help concerning the man himself. Born about the middle of the eleventh century Waltheof was the only surviving son of Siward, the Danish Earl of Northumbria, who had successfully led the armies of Edward the Confessor against Macbeth, the usurper of the Scottish throne. He and his elder son, who was slain, appear in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. He built a church at York, where St. Mary’s Abbey afterwards stood, and dedicated it to St. Olaf, and was buried there.

It is stated that Waltheof was intended for the monastic life, which intention was abandoned on the death of his elder brother. We learn that he was the last Earl of purely English blood, tall, and of more than ordinary strength, matchless as a warrior, having slain not a few with his own hands. Treacherous, weak, and unstable in character, he again and again failed to keep pledges which he had made. This weakness helped to make him a tool for conspirators, and ultimately led to his death. He is described as “a religious man, a constant and devout attendant on divine services, and very liberal to the clergy, monks, and poor." He greatly enriched Croyland Abbey, which accounts for the honour paid to him by the monks after his tragic death.

After the Battle of Hastings Waltheof made his submission to the Conqueror, and the two became attached friends, which led to Waltheof taking as his wife Judith, a niece of the Conqueror. He was a great favourite with the English, who by the Normans were regarded as little better than barbarians. More than once he rebelled against the Conqueror. An old chronicler tells us that about 1070 Waltheof joined a fleet of 300 ships which had been sent out by the King of Denmark. After meeting them in the Humber he went with them to York, where they ravaged and burnt the city and its cathedral, slew 3,000 men, and took back to their ships much booty.

In consequence of this the wrath of the Conqueror was strongly kindled, so that after a time he wasted all the country between York and Durham, leaving it desolate and untilled. In course of time Waltheof was again reconciled to the Conqueror, and received the Earldoms of Northumberland, Huntingdon, and Northampton. He was the last Saxon Earl of the Manor of Hallam, of which Sheffield became the capital. While most of the lands of the Saxon lords had been seized by the Conqueror and granted to a great extent to his Norman companions, the Manor of Hallam appears either to have been continued to Waltheof or re-granted to him on his marriage to Judith, the Conqueror’s niece.

The proud spirit of Waltheof, however, could not long endure submission to the Norman yoke. In the year 1075 he was present at the wedding feast of Wader, Earl of Norfolk, where he was invited to join a conspiracy to divide the whole country between himself and the Earl of Norfolk. To this proposal he reluctantly gave his consent, but afterwards repented, and confessed his guilt to Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury, a trusted friend of the Conqueror, who prescribed a penance, and counselled Waltheof to lay the matter before the King, who was then in Normandy.

This he did, told him what had taken place, and implored forgiveness. He was, however, arrested, and brought to trial at Winchester, on the charge of rebellion against the King, when he admitted that he knew of the conspiracy, but denied that he had in any way abetted it.

Sentence was deferred, and meanwhile he was committed to strict custody. An ancient chronicle says that whilst a prisoner, he passed his time in prayers, watchings, fastings, and almsgiving. He would often weep bitterly, and daily recite the whole Psalter which he had learned in his youth. Amongst other things he besought the King to allow him to become a monk.

In May 1076, his case was reconsidered, and he was condemned to death for consenting when men were plotting against the life of his lord, and for not having resisted them, and also for having forborne publicly to denounce their conspiracy.

A fortnight later, wearing the robes of his rank as earl, he was taken from prison to St. Giles’ Hill, outside the city walls, and be-headed, this being, it is said, the first example of beheading in England. On arriving at the scaffold, he asked permission to say the Lord’s Prayer, but when he had uttered the words

" lead us not into temptation,"

his voice gave way.

The impatient headsman could wait no longer, and, drawing his sword, with a single blow cut off the Earl’s head. The body was treated with great indignity and buried in the crossroads near.

During a visit to the ancient city of Winchester, in May, 1927, I stayed at an old oak-timbered hotel bearing the strange sign of

" Ye Olde Hostel of Godbegot,"

a house which takes its name from Aelfric, named Godebegeata or Goodsgetter, its owner in the tenth century. The doors of the various rooms bore historic names, one of which was Waltheof.

One evening I stood by a spot on St. Giles’ Hill, at the foot of the High Street, where Waltheof was beheaded. Nearby were the crossroads where his body was ignominiously buried. Shortly after the execution, on the intercession of Judith, Waltheof’s widow, the Conqueror granted the urgent request of the monks of Croyland to take Waltheof’s body to their church, where he was buried in the Chapter House. Ten years later it was, with much ceremony, re- moved to a place of honour by the high altar. Tradition says that the body was still uncorrupt, and that the head was again joined to it.

We are told that many miracles were wrought at the tomb, and that strange visions of Waltheof appeared to the monks. He was regarded as the champion of English freedom and acclaimed as a national hero. An old writer describes him as

"the innocent and murdered martyr of freedom."

In keeping with the prevailing temper and superstition of the times, he was for long venerated as a saint and martyr.

When Earl of Northampton, Waltheof had given to Croyland Abbey the village of Barnack, noted for its fine stone quarries. He was a great benefactor to the Abbey church, so much so, that, in an old list of monasteries, he is said to have been one of its founders.

He left three daughters, the oldest of whom became the wife of David I., King of Scotland.

He had a grandson bearing the same name as himself, who was for some time Canon of Nostal Priory, near Wakefield, afterwards Prior of Kirkham, and later on Abbot of the great Abbey of Melrose, where he died in 1159. History says that he was a saintly man.

In the year 1124 another Waltheof, belonging to the same family, became Abbot of Croyland, but two years later, on serious accusations being brought against him by the monks, he was deposed.

Waltheof's widow, Judith, who was not supposed to have been aware of her husband's treason, was allowed to retain his estates, including the Manor of Hallam, as shown by Domesday Book which, as we have said, was compiled shortly after her husband's death. Historians, however, have made free with her memory and have treated her name in a way leaving a strong suspicion that she was treacherous to her husband.

After Waltheof’s death, she fell into disgrace with her uncle, the Conqueror, for refusing to marry a Norman knight, Simon de Senlis, "because he was lame of leg."

She founded a house of Benedictine nuns at Elstow, near Bedford, and gave part of her Sheffield tithes to the Benedictine monks of St. Wandrille, Normandy, who had a small Priory at Ecclesfield.

Her rejected suitor, de Senlis, however, obtained her eldest daughter, Matilda, in marriage, (who, after his death, married (as previously stated) David I. of Scotland.) The Conqueror made him Earl Northampton, and principal heir to the possessions of her family.

The questions remain:

(1) Where was Waltheof's Hall in Sheffield situate ? and

(2) Did he ever reside there?

Of his residence at the Hall there appears to be no evidence, but the probability is that, during his constant movements, he would be there at times. The fact, however, remains that in the eleventh century he was Lord of Hallamshire and that his name will ever be associated with the dim and distant past of Sheffield.

It is interesting to find that a new street on the Manor Estate bears the name of Waltheof Road.

In Charles Kingsley’s historical novel of the eleventh century, "Hereward the Wake," Waltheof is a prominent character. One of the chapters is entitled

" How Earl Waltheof was made a Saint."

The visit of Judith, wife 0f Waltheof, to her husband's tomb in Croyland Abbey is graphically pictured.

In the last chapter descriptive of the removal of Waltheof's body from the crossroads at Winchester to Croyland Abbey, Kingsley writes:

St. Waltheof was translated in state to the side of St. Guthlac; and the news of this translation of the holy martyr being spread throughout the country, multitudes of the faithful flocked daily to the tomb, and offering up their vows there, tended in a great degree to "resusciate our monastery." But more. The virtues of St. Waltheof were too great not to turn themselves, or be turned, to some practical use. So if not in the days or Ingulf, at least in those of Abbot Joffrid, who came after him, St. Waltheof began again, says Peter of Blois, to work wonderful deeds.

" The blind receive their sight, the deaf their hearing, the lame their power of walking, and the dumb their power of speech; while each day troops innumerable of other sick persons were arriving by every road, as to the very fountain of their safety . . . and by the offerings of the pilgrims who came flocking in from every part, the revenues of the monastery were increased in no small degree."

(From Historic Personages in Sheffield by Rev W Odom)

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DaveH

WALTHEOF: FIRST EARL OF HALLAMSHIRE

It is interesting to find that a new street on the Manor Estate bears the name of Waltheof Road.

Not only is there a road named after him Bayleaf, until its recent name change on becoming an "academy" there was a school named after him. Waltheof school is at the junction of Prince of Wales Road and the Sheffield Parkway at the bottom of the Manor.

It was my wifes old school and as a comprehensive it would compare favourably with others in the area like Norfolk and Hurlfield but it became an unpopular school in its later years before becoming an academy due to the Government "league tables" of school results which revealed it to have one of the lowest pass rates at GCSE in the City. Of course being in this situation meant that OFSTED reports were also unfavourable, possibly resulting in the move to academy status. A humiliating end to what was a fine school, it seems that the school, like its namesake the first Earl of Hallamshire came to a sad end.

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Bayleaf

Methinks Richard has been here! ;-)

Thanks for the tidy up, how do you do that? :huh:

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RichardB

Methinks Richard has been here! ;-)

Thanks for the tidy up, how do you do that? :huh:

Me, what ?

If I'm reading a good piece, I just muck about with it as I read - slows me down, makes me concentrate. I do the same with BLOCK CAPITALS in Topic titles, makes the place clean and easy to read. I have been known to dust, vacuum and fluff up the pillows ...

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dunsbyowl1867

If anyone's in the area Crowland Abbey is well worth a visit. It's not far from where I live and I picked up this little phamplet the last time I was there. Attached the relevants pages which mention Waltheof. 3 more pages won't upload will post from work!

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dunsbyowl1867

If anyone's in the area Crowland Abbey is well worth a visit. It's not far from where I live and I picked up this little phamplet the last time I was there. Attached the relevants pages which mention Waltheof. 3 more pages won't upload will post from work!

[attachmen

t=13358:crowland_005.jpg]

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