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OSMER - the Bostock progenitor?

The family commences with those who adopted the name of the village or manor of Bostock as their surname but, as this style of naming does not occur before the beginning of the thirteenth century, the early history or the family is obscure. A number of theories as to the early genealogy have been put forward, of which the majority quote a descent from a Saxon freeman named Osmer who lived at the time of the Norman conquest.

Osmer's Estates in Cheshire

According to the Domesday Book, compiled in 1086, Osmer was the Saxon lord of Bostock and nine other manors during the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066); whether he was still alive in 1086 is not clear. The name of this Bostock progenitor is a rare one. He held the manors of Shipbrook, Davenham, Bostock, Audlem, Crewe and Claverton (near Chester). He was also lord of manors at Leftwich, Essetune (a lost place name which is thought to be Austerson in the parish of Acton, near Nantwich), Wistaston and Tereth (also known as Frith a lost settlement in Wrenbury). By the time Domesday was written each of these last four manors had been combined with a neighbouring manor in the same township to create a single entity. Whilst these properties were somewhat dispersed there was a clear focus in the ancient parish of Davenham. In all Osmer's lands contained about twenty-four ploughlands (about 1500 acres), large tracts or woodland, with a number of enclosures and nesting places for hawks, and meadows. In the time of King Edward the value of these lands was a little over �6 but by 1086 they were worth about �2 less. For taxation purposes (geld) his lands were assessed as being about ten hides. Osmer's richest holding was Claverton, a few miles south of Chester, which was valued at �2 both before and after the Conquest. Here the available arable land was estimated as being two ploughlands. To this manor belonged eight burgess properties in the city of Chester, another two on the other side of the river Dee in Handbridge, and a salthouse in Northwich. Agriculturally, and perhaps territorially, the largest manors were those of Shipbrook and Audlem each of which had enough land for five ploughs and were worth twenty shillings in 1066. By comparison, Bostock was fairly small having only two ploughlands and was worth only three shillings.

New Owners

It is said that much of Cheshire was wasted and depopulated during the punitive expedition made by the Conqueror in 1070: Osmer�s manors may have suffered accordingly. The phrase waste inven (found as waste) recorded by the Domesday scribes may be testimony to the Norman destruction of the shire or else, as is thought more likely it simply means that the land bore no profit for its lord. Osmer was dispossessed in favour of Norman warriors. Hugh d�Avranches, the newly appointed earl of Chester, granted Shipbrook, Leftwich, Davenham, Bostock, Audlem and Crewe, to Richard le Vernon, as part of his barony of Shipbrook. The manors of Essetune, Wistaston and Tereth were granted to William Malbedeng, baron of Wich Malbank (Nantwich), and Claverton was granted to Hugh fitz Osbern.


Between the years 1070 and 1086 there was some recovery in the values of the places found to be waste, so that by the time of the Survey most places had recovered fifty per cent of their pre-Conquest valuation. However, whilst both Shipbrook and Audlem had lands that were not being worked to the full capacity of their five ploughlands and had valuations which dropped by fifty per cent, the value of the lands at Bostock increased three-fold and was the only one of two of Osmer's holdings (the other being Claverton) to be worked to full capacity. The prosperity of this manor may have something to do with the fact that the baron of Shipbrook held no demesne land here and that the three radmen and their two serfs who were recorded as living on the manor, worked the arable lands for themselves. Radmen, who account for only eight per cent of the recorded population in Cheshire, seem to have been freemen who did some form of riding services for their lord in return for which they received a share in the open fields. The radmen could be either Norman or trusted Saxon. The serfs, on the other hand were unfree and were tied to the manor and their lord; and may have been subservient to the radmen.

Osmer as progenitor?

It may be that Osmer, the alleged progenitor of the Bostock family, never actually resided at Bostock as before the Conquest it was his poorest manor. It is more likely that he resided either, across the river Dane at Shipbrook or in the south of the county at Audlem. He may not even have lived in Cheshire at all as a man with the same name crops up in other parts of England as the Saxon lord of other manors which subsequently associated with Earl Hugh of Chester or Richard Vernon, facts which are too much of a coincidence for it to be another Osmer. 

The manor of Bostock became the home of a family who where tenants of the Vernon family, but as to who they were during the eleventh and twelfth centuries is a matter for conjecture. It is I believe unreasonable to suppose that the family were descendants of Osmer; instead it is quite likely that they stem from one of the three radmen who lived there in 1086. One of these trusted servants could I suppose have been one of Osmer's sons (if he had any), or may even have be a scion of the Vernon family. Whatever, someone and his descendants, held the manor of Bostock from the baron of Shipbrook and adopted the place-name and styled themselves de Bostock.

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� Tony Bostock 2007