10 April 2018
Created by Barry Thompson © 2011-2018 Aston on Trent on Trent Local History Group, all rights reserved
Aston on Trent History – Settlement and Colonisation - Part 1 Aston-on-Trent is first recorded in 1086 in Domesday in the form Acetum, the East farm. Although it was a single settlement, there were two estates there, one a Berwick or outlying farm of the royal manor of Weston, and the other a tiny estate held by Henry de Ferret. The original settlement probably dates back to the early days of the Anglican invasion in the mid 6th century. Its name East Farm suggests a very early relationship with Weston, the West Farm. They were possibly twin settlements. The lie of the land suggest however, that Weston, nearer the river but sheltered from it by a slight bluff, was a better site for original settlement and that Aston on Trent was probably colonized from Weston. The main village of Aston on Trent lies along the 125 feet contour. The low lying land to the east and south between the village and the river must have presented considerable difficulties to the early settlers and it seems likely that they first cleared the slightly higher land north and west of the village for their arable/. The belt of arable lying between the lower marsh and meadow and the higher moor and heath cannot have been large. Both settlements must have suffered during the first wave of Danish occupation after the battle of Repton in 873, and probably also during the later Anglo-Saxon counter campaign which resulted in the capture of Derby in 917 by Aethelfraed, Lady of the Mercian's, daughter of Alfred the Great. This was followed by the campaign of Aethelfraed’s brother Edward the Elder, to secure his northern borders. He strengthened Derby and built new forts at Nottingham and Bakewell to control the lines of possible Norse and Northumbrian invasions. Great tracts of land flung across Derbyshire were reserved to the crown for strategic purposes, as lines of supply and defence. These in the later forms of royal manors could still be traced in mid and north Derbyshire as late as 1066, but only fragments then remained of the line along the river Trent. This was split up probably before the end of the 10th century. Even so, as late as the mid 17th century there were three chains of manors along the Trent. Starting in the east with the manors of the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, in whose diocese Derbyshire lay, and then, interlinked the manors of the king and Earl of Alfgar. Earl Alfgar was head of one of the two most influential families in pre- Norman England, and head of the only family to have held high office in England before the Danish conquest. He was the third of his family to be appointed Earl of Mercia, a post that gave him almost regal powers throughout the Midland where lay his vast inherited estates. Very few men outside the families from which the Earls were appointed were able to acquire more than tiny estates of one or two manors. It is probable that Earl Alfgar’s string of manors along the Trent were originally given to the family by the Crown for strategic reasons. It was almost certainly strategic reasons that William 1st took these Trent manors held by the Earl Alfgar into his own hands, adding them to those held by Edward the Confessor.