The county of Rutland

A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1935.

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'The county of Rutland', A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 2, (London, 1935), pp. 1-4. British History Online [accessed 19 June 2024].

. "The county of Rutland", in A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 2, (London, 1935) 1-4. British History Online, accessed June 19, 2024,

. "The county of Rutland", A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 2, (London, 1935). 1-4. British History Online. Web. 19 June 2024,


The origin of the county of Rutland has already been traced so far as can be ascertained from the evidence available. (fn. 1) The district which the county now covers, having been forest land, was of late settlement. The types of villages, laid out round a green, and the prevalence of pasture land are indicative of a forest area. The county was afforested land in the time of Henry I, but the forest being destroyed during the 'anarchy' of Stephen's reign, Henry II reafforested it. Henry III, by a mistake in the terms of a writ for perambulation, proposed to disafforest the lands that his grandfather (Henry II) had afforested. On discovering the error, however, in 1227 he ordered proclamation to be made that the county should remain forest. (fn. 2) Leyfield Forest, on the west side of the county, is a survival of the Forest of Rutland, and remained forest into the 17th century. (fn. 3)

On account of the nature of the land, the formation of the county was gradual. Rutland can scarcely be said to have been a county in 1086, when the return for what is called Rutland is entered in the Domesday Book as subsidiary to Nottinghamshire and consisted only of the Hundreds of Alstoe and Martinsley (fn. 4) (including the Soke of Oakham). There was no earl until Edward Plantagenet was created Earl of Rutland in 1390, a date when an earldom, in the old sense, had lost its connexion with its county. Although William de Albini, a justice of the forest, is usually given as sheriff of the county in 1129–30, yet his return to the Exchequer is more in the nature of a bailiff's account than that of a sheriff, and occurs amongst other accounts which cannot claim to be those of shrievalties. (fn. 5) Rutland, however, undoubtedly had a sheriff by 1154, for in 1155 Richard de Humez, constable of Normandy, owed for the farm of the previous year and is described as sheriff. Nevertheless the collections of the Danegeld from Alstoe and Martinsley Hundreds still belonged to the shrievalty of Nottingham, (fn. 6) and that of another part, possibly Wrandike or East Hundred, to the shrievalty of Northampton, (fn. 7) while the remainder was returned by the sheriff of the county. (fn. 8) This arrangement remained as long as the Danegeld was collected (c. 1162). Escheats also appear to have belonged to the shrievalty of Nottingham; at all events an escheat in Wrandike Wapentake appears to have been so claimed in 1169, but it was returned by the sheriff of Rutland in 1177. (fn. 9) Further, according to the Hundred Rolls, the county was not made entirely independent of Northamptonshire until the time of King John, (fn. 10) and in 1202 the Hundreds of Alstoe, Martinsley and East gave their verdicts before the justices sitting at Northampton, but these verdicts are entered separately from those of Northamptonshire. (fn. 11) Wrandike Hundred does not seem to have made an appearance before the justices. The independence of the men of Rutland in this respect was assured by Henry III in 1227, when he directed that they should not be bound to plead before the justices in eyre outside their county. (fn. 12)

In 1204 King John made a grant of the county to his queen Isabel, (fn. 13) but resumed it in 1205 and granted it at a fee farm rent of £10 to Ralph de Normanville and his heirs. (fn. 14) Ralph had been sheriff from 1202, and continued to take the profits of the county until 1209. He and his sons forfeited their lands, and although they were pardoned by Henry III, they did not recover the county of Rutland, which was given back to Queen Isabel. After the death of the queen in 1246, Henry III apparently granted the county with the shrievalty to his brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in 1252, who either acted as sheriff or appointed a deputy. (fn. 15) The county with the Hundreds of Martinsley, Alstoe and East and the shrievalty were specifically granted in 1312 to Margaret widow of Piers de Gaveston. (fn. 16)

Henceforth the office of sheriff followed the descent of the Barony of Oakham (q.v.) (fn. 17) until the death of Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, in 1397. After this date the sheriff was appointed in the usual way by the Crown.

With regard to the hundreds of the county, Alstoe Hundred was said in 1086 to be half in Thurgarton Wapentake and half in Broxtow Wapentake (co. Notts), (fn. 18) a connexion, as Prof. Stenton points out, which must have been purely fiscal. (fn. 19) The Hundreds of Alstoe and Martinsley became known as the Wapentake of Rutland. The remainder of what was later the county formed, about 1075, the two Hundreds of Witchley (Hwicceslea) East and Witchley West, (fn. 20) and in 1086 comprised the single Wapentake of Witchley (Wiceslea) in Northamptonshire. (fn. 21) The two Witchley Hundreds, which had become East Hundred and Wrandike Hundred, were probably attached to Rutland late in the reign of William II or early in that of Henry I. (fn. 22) Maud, the first wife of Henry I, was dowered with lands here, and she, who died in 1118, gave Barrowden, Luffenham, Seaton and Thorpe, which then may have represented the Hundred of Wrandike, to Michael de Hanslope. (fn. 23) Michael had his soke at Barrowden, from which probably the hundred originated, and Henry II confirmed the hundred to William Mauduit, his chamberlain, grandson of Michael de Hanslope, 'when my men came to Woodstock' (July 1163). (fn. 24) Since this date the descent of the Hundred of Wrandike has followed that of Barrowden (q.v.).

Map of the Hundreds of Rutland

The East Hundred of Witchley Hundred, with Martinsley and Alstoe Hundreds, apparently remained in the Crown until King John in 1205 granted the county to Ralph de Normanville; in any case Henry III, in 1252, seems to have granted the county with the three hundreds to his brother Richard, King of the Romans. The later descents of these hundreds will be found under the separate accounts of them (q.v.).


  • 1. V.C.H. Rutl. i, 134–6.
  • 2. Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), ii, 169.
  • 3. Wright, Hist. of Rutl. 76.
  • 4. V.C.H. Rutl. i, 138.
  • 5. Pipe R. 31 Hen. I (Rec. Com.), 134. Hugh de Port was addressed in the position of a sheriff in 1087–92 (Dugdale, Mon. Angl. i, 301–2).
  • 6. V.C.H. Rutl. i, 138; Pipe R. 2, 3, 4 Hen. II (Rec. Com.), p. 39; Pipe R. Soc. v, p. 33.
  • 7. Pipe R. 2, 3, 4 Hen. II (Rec. Com.), p. 41; Pipe R. Soc. v, p. 8.
  • 8. Pipe R. 2, 3, 4 Hen. II (Rec. Com.), p. 42; Pipe R. Soc. v, p. 10.
  • 9. Compare entries Pipe R. Soc. xiii, p. 65; xxvii, p. 53; xxviii, p. 72, and later vols.
  • 10. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii, 49.
  • 11. Assize R. 1202 (Northants Rec. Soc.), pp. 18–20.
  • 12. Cal. Pat. R. 1225–32, p. 142.
  • 13. Rot. Chart. (Rec. Com.), p. 128.
  • 14. Ibid. 149.
  • 15. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii, 49, 50, 53, where it is stated that Henry III gave the county to R. Earl of Cornwall and the Earl's sheriff is referred to, but the grant of Oakham (q.v.) to the Earl does not include these liberties.
  • 16. Cal. Pat. R. 1307–13, p. 497.
  • 17. Cal. Chart. R. 1341–1417, 330.
  • 18. V.C.H. Rutl. i, 138.
  • 19. V.C.H. Notts, i, 213.
  • 20. V.C.H. Northants, i, 259, 296, 297.
  • 21. V.C.H. Rutl. i, 124; Pipe R. Soc. ix, p. 65.
  • 22. They were separate hundreds in 1166 (Pipe R. Soc. ix, p. 65).
  • 23. Add. MS, 28024, fol. 49.
  • 24. Add. MS. 28024, fols. 22, 49 d, 50.