Until the Domesday survey, Duston and nearby manors were held by the Anglo-Saxon Gytha, wife of the Earl Ralph of Hereford. Ralph was a nephew of Edward the Confessor. In 1086, the manor of ‘Dustone’ was founded by the Domesday Survey and Gytha’s lands were given to William Peverel, a mysterious figure. He is not known to have been a supporter of William I ‘The Conqueror’ in any battles and is not recorded among the Peverels in Normandy. He is said to be the illegitimate son of William I by an Anglo-Saxon girl, and was subsequently adopted into the Peverel family by her marriage to one of them. Given the nature of the feudal system, the amount of land he receives at Domesday, William’s own illegitimacy, the names he gives his own children and the final outcome two generations later, this story is almost certainly true.
The Peverel LineThere are known to have been four generations of William Peverals, referred to here as I, II, III and IV. William Peverel I, was probably born in 1052 and died in 1113. He was married to Adelina who died in 1119. William I had five children: William II died in 1100; Matilda (who was alive in 1130); William III (presumed deceased prior to 1149); Henry (who married Oddona) and Adeliza (married Richard de Rivieres). He founded Nottingham Castle and Lenton Abbey, and it appears that the Peverels were Sheriffs of Nottingham until the time of William Peverel IV.
William Peverel I gave 40 acres of land on which to build an abbey (St James Abbey) at Duston, plus a wooden Church in 1103 or 1104. Henry I, the youngest son of William the Conqueror (born 1068) was friendly with William Peverel and, if we accept the story, was his half-brother. Henry I reigned from 1100 to 1135 and was a good scholar (‘Beauclerk’ was his nickname, and he is credited with the comment ‘an unlettered king is only a crowned ass ‘). It is due to his charters and recording that we begin to learn about Duston in print – he visited Northampton, possibly to check up on Simon de Senlis, William Peverel and their buildings: Northampton Castle/St. Andrew’s Priory and St. James’ Abbey respectively.
William Perverel III had two children: Henry, who predeceased his father, and William IV.
William IV married Avicia de Lancaster and supported King Stephen against Matilda and Henry II. William IV had a child named Margaret, who married William, Earl of Ferrers (Higham Ferrers). William Peverel IV, the Sheriff of Nottingham, fled on the advance of Henry II and entered a monastery in 1155. Henry II gave the ‘Honor of Peverel’ (including Duston) to Ranulf, Earl of Chester, which reverted to John ‘Count of Mortaine’ in 1174, marking the end of the Peverel line.
ReferencesFor a fuller profile of the Peverels, see Bridges’ and Bakers’ separate accounts in their ‘Histories of Northampton ‘ and look at the Peverel Society’s documents held at Nottingham Library.
Article kindly contributed by local historian Dave Blackburn.