Chute Family: Baron Edward Research
Baron Edward and the Chute Family History

  by Steve Chute, 2006

[Jackie's Note: Note: I had a choice: I could wait until all of the footnotes and source reference notes appended to the original document had had arrived, or I could post it in its roughest outline form. I went with the latter - Steve is still collecting this data from Dennis, and has taken a long overdue vacation in Arizona ... and I didn't want to wait that long!]

So yes, the historians of the Chute Family will no doubt justifiably complain that there are no footnotes and sources - and yes, you're right. They'll be arriving and the essay will be updated when Steve returns from Arizona and clarifies some of the sources with Dennis.]

Oral Tradition: Alexander Chewte

Our Chute family tradition refers to our descent from a shadowy figure Baron Edward or Edouard le Chute who came to England in 1066 with William of Normandy.... a seafaring man by some accounts, a regimental commander at Hastings in others. However our written record begins with an Alexander Chewte associate with Taunton in Somerset, England. On two ancient pedigree scrolls that survive from the 17th century Alexander is recorded as being of Taunton in 1268. John Burke in his History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland elevates Alexander to the position of Lord of the Manor of Taunton in 1268.** A number of professional Genealogists, as opposed to family historians, place our families origins in the Royal Forest of Chute in Wiltshire. So what if any of this family lore has historic foundation? Although often muddled such tradition frequently contains nuggets of truth.

My brother Robert Dennis Chute has in his own words spent "every spare moment" for the past three years pouring over books and manuscripts relating to the times surrounding the Norman Conquest. I will not attempt here to include any sort of complete list of the sources he has consulted. He has had the assistance of several historians in England and France as well as the services of the research librarians at the University of Alberta and at the University of Calgary in the province of Alberta. Many of the documents he consulted relate to commercial activity, legal proceedings and land transactions, often available only on microfiche. Such records include those of the Bishopric of Winchester, the port records of Dover and of Wissant, the early assizes of England, church records, old French records relating to the Marcher Barons and old German records of Frisia Magna. Published sources include such works as The Anglo Saxon Chronicles, Les Noms des Personnes scandinaves en Normandie de 911 a 1066 by Adigard de Gautries, the 1065 manuscript Historia Novorum by the monk Eadmer, The History of the Town of Taunton in the County of Somerset by Joshua Joumia , Concise History of Chute Forest by Dr. John Chandler and The Norman Conquest by E. A. Freeman in the Folio Edition, to name a few.

**The significance of the date of 1268 has not been known until recently and has usually been taken as a death date. However, Francis Chute of Slindon in England has learned that at this time King Henry III replaced the current Bishop of Winchester, John Gervais de Gernsey, with Nicholas de Ely. Gervais had sided with Simon de Montfortıs supporters in his rebellion against the King. When Simon was killed at the Battle of Evesham Gervais fled to Italy seeking a papal pardon but he died there in January of 1268. Francis argues that the new Bishop would have sought to replace the various factotums looking after the Bishopıs lands and interests in Somerset with his own men. At this time one Alexander of Taunton may well have found himself elevated to a position such as a steward, bailiff, under sheriff etc. associated with Taunton, leading future generations to refer to him as Lord of the Manor.

Recently I received a draft of some of Bob's findings ... his search is continuing. His objective has been to put an historical face on our mysterious "Baron Edward" and below I will attempt to briefly summarize his findings to date. The story that unfolds here provides an intriguing circumstantial case for a real flesh and blood Edward of Jutish origin resident in England long before the Conquest. As is usually the case with family history in the years preceding about 1500 it is necessary to "draw straight lines" between isolated bits of data. The inferred linkages thus formed may not ever be capable of absolute verification nor on the other hand can they be summarily dismissed.

Sebert, King of the East Saxons

Bob's story begins with a quote from a short note I wrote some time ago about the armorial bearings of a Saxon King. My note was based on an entry in Joan Corderıs Dictionary of Suffolk Arms, Suffolk Record Society Vol. II, page 453. I will begin my summary in a like fashion:

SEBERT (King of the East Saxons, 595)

"Gu three seaxes barwise Arg., hilted and pommeled Or"

The Seaxes used in heraldry are notched curved swords which evolved from the Saxon short sword or sword-knife, which varied from between 20cm to 45cm in length and was about 5cm wide. The weapon was common from about the sixth century and used in one form or another, as a item of a man's personal equipment, until the 1300s.A complete seaxe has not been found, although archaeologists believe the sword was straight, not curved. It is also likely that the notch was a heraldic device introduced to distinguish the seaxe from the scimitar. A straight seaxe was found in Kent and dates back to the ninth or tenth century and is in the British Museum.

[Jackie's Note: the image above and to the right is the Essex Coat of Arms - not Sebert's Coat of Arms. However, the Essex version is based upon the same coat of arms that Steve is describing, which may have appeared similar in appearance. As he points out, however, the blades of Sebert's arms were probably straighter, as opposed to the curved version here. These swords are closer to that of a scimitar than a seaxe. Also, the points of the seaxe's may have faced the opposite direction, and therefore more closely to the eventual Chute Coat of Arms.]

So in fact the above Coat of Arms is virtually identical to our traditional Chute Arms and it dates back to the sixth century AD!!

Although three seaxes on a red field are often quoted as the arms of the of the kings of the East Saxons, heraldry as we know it was not established until the early twelfth century. However badges and emblems have been used by nations, sovereigns and chieftains from earliest times, and perhaps the 'arms' attributed to the Saxon kings by the medieval heralds were based upon some of these badges.

The earliest known reference for the arms of the East Saxon kings was by Richard Verstegan, the author of Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, printed in Antwerp in 1605. Verstegan gives no authority for his statement "Erkenwyne king of the East-Saxons did beare for his armes, three [seaxes] argent, in a field gules", but there is no reason to doubt that he believed his source was reliable. Various spellings of the names of Saxon Kings can be found, for example Sebert is often found as Saeberht, and Erkenwyne is most likely Aescwine who was Sebertıs grandfather.

Ms. Corder's references for Sebert's Arms were given as:

1. Peter Heylyn DD, Help to English History, 1786
2. David Eisha Davy, The Armoury of Suffolk, 1796-1851

Sebert (Saeberht) was King of the East Saxons from about 595 AD to 616 AD. His father Sledd had married Ricula the sister of King Aethelbert of Kent. It is generally thought that it was through his Uncle's influence that Sebert converted to Christianity in 604 AD. However, following his death in July 616 AD, his sons Saweard and Seaxred expelled the Christian missionaries, as part of a revolt against Kentish domination, and returned to their traditional pagan ways. It was not until 653 AD that his grandson Sigeberht "Sanctus" was persuaded to adopt Christianity by Northumbrian missionaries under St Cedd. He is frequently said to have been buried on the site of present day Westminister Abbey. Some historians even claim that he built the first church on the site of Westminister. However, in Oct 2003 the tomb of an East Saxon Christian Prince was unearthed during road reconstruction that dates to Sebert's time. As late as this year the lead archeologist on the project was suggesting that the tomb was that of Sebert. The site has been compared in importance to the famous tomb at Sutton-Hoo.

At the present time Sebert's armorial forms the official Arms of the County of Essex in England and is displayed for example in the Dedham parish church where the American Chutes' ancestor James Chute [Jackie's note: Lionel and Rose's son] was christened in 1613.

Bob also found that virtually this same armorial was passed down to Swein Forkbeard from his grandmother Queen Thyra of Jutland. Swein was the father of Canute who was King of England and Denmark from 1016 - 1035. Canute was Harold Godwinson's Great Grandfather. These arms are described by Adigard des Gautries as "three saxon swords under a fist".

With further digging he unearthed two pre-conquest characters named Croc and Swain associated with armorials having elements in common with our Chute arms.

Croc arms included the motto "Fortune de Guerre" but otherwise bore no particular resemblance to the Chute arms. Swain arms featured a crest of an "armoured fist holding a broken sword". The shield in this case had three ships (not swords) on a wavy sea, the middlemost countering the other two and the motto was "on the wind". Curious, the moreso when we learn more about Swain and Croc.

Chute Surname Origins

But first a very brief digression to discuss the possible origins of our Chute surname. Bob has found nineteen places in Europe called Chute in the 11th century. There are five places in France, seven in Frisia Magna (the southernmost extent of Flanders) and Flanders proper with the remainder in Denmark, Jutland and Germany. However he is unconvinced that any of these places were of sufficient note to be a place "to be from".

Another possibility he considered is that Chute is a corruption of Jute a position supported, as Francis Chute discovered, by a reference in J. A. Manning's Speakers of the House of Commons to a quote from one Silas Taylor to the effect that "the name Chute carried the memorial of the almost forgotten third nation of the Germans that conquered the Britons, and were commonly called Jutes, and after Chutes and Wights.".

However, Bob favors a third possibility where our name evolves from the old German sailing term "shete". Shete referred to a line or chain from the bottom of a sail used to control its positioning. Fore sheets, aft sheets and sheet home the sails are familiar terms for even today's sailors. As we shall see, Bob believes that our early Edward might well have been a sailor of some skill and renown. I recently stumbled upon a book by Henry Barber entitled British family names: their origin and meaning, with lists of Scandinavian, Frisian, Anglo-Saxon and Norman names, published in London in 1894. One of the listings in the book is for names of people holding land in England in the time of Edward the Confessor. Here Barber records a "Chit", a "Scet" and in Norfolk a "Scheit" as land holders. I wonder if they fit in to the above "Shetes"??

Swain, Croc, Edvard and Wadard

Returning now to Swain, we find that the Swain upon whom Bob focused his attention was the Sheriff of Kent and ran a small shipping company out of Dover. Swain carried quarry stone from France to England and rope and venison from England to France. He held land in Kent, Hampshire and Wiltshire. Who was Swain? Bob suggests in his draft that he might be an illegitimate son of Swein Godwinson (who apparently had many of them). However, that would make Edward Swain's son (Bob's contender for "Baron Edward") a mere babe during the Conquest. In previous discussions with Bob he also mentioned that Swain might have been the brother of Urso de Douai who was the father of the Walter de Douai who enters this story further along. Douai was in Flanders and Swain and Urso may well have descended from ancient Saxon and Jutish stock.

During preparation of this summary of Bob's findings I questioned him about these time line problems and I enclose here his response:

"I had the same issues with the time lines. It was very tight. I have Edward being born slightly before 1030 and dying some time after 1092. I have two or three miniscule clues that I think apply to Edward's father Swain. The first is that his grandmother was Gytha of Norway who would marry Godwin. She may of course have been married before ... I can learn almost nothing about her. The second is that Swain's patrynom was de Douai. Again I know next to nothing about the de Douai family. The third is that prior to 1052 Swain (if I'm looking at the Swain that was Edward's father which I can't be certain of) was a small land holder in Kent. Post 1052 he held much more land, exclusively in areas dominated by Godwin and his sons particularly Swein who died in 1052. I know Edward's father was a sea captain who sailed out of Dover in Kent. I can't prove that the two Swains are the same. One tiny piece of land of what was probably Swein Godwinson's land would end up in the hands of Edward Swainson but that hardly proves the case. The first mention of Edward Swainson is in 1052 by which time he was certainly an adult in the eyes of the law."

Based on shipping records Swain had at least two sons, Edvard and Croc and perhaps a third Wadard who appears once in these documents. Following the Conquest Wadard is shown holding most of Swain's property in Kent. It is said that, while Wadard held this land from Bishop Odo, it was his familyıs birthright. He also apparently held other lands in Essex, Surrey, Dorset, Somerset, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Lincolnshire. He held six houses in Dover alone. He is named and portrayed on the Bayeux tapestry. Bob, writes "Sadly, his shield is turned away from us, wouldn't we like to know what it would have showed. Especially since Wadard was known as Wadard Sheet"!

According to Bob, Edvard would become known most often as Edvard Swainson but there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that he is one and the same person as the Edward Fitzswain and Edward Chewte who apear in some records of the time. He shows up many times between 1050 and 1057 delivering cargo by sea between Wissant, in what is now Boulogne-sur-Mer, and Dover. Quoting Bob, "his most common cargo was stone, massive chunks of quarry stone, often weighing tons. Given that ships were quite crude and sails rudimentary he presumably had a gift for sailing. While he commanded numerous ships, the records are always Swainson's fleet arriving or departing, we have no idea (of) their exact number or description. In the six documents that still exist or are referenced by other authors, Swainson is always delivering cargo for one of three people, Bishop Odo, Count Robert Mortain or Count Eustace II."

I might add here that these records suggest a long seafaring history for Chutes as Jackie Chute has found a record of a Chewt delivering a cargo of wine to London and I quote from her note to me: "Here's an odd record from the London Port Book, 1567-1568, entries 600-699, covering the period of June-Aug 1568. This is entry 651, dated 14 July 1568:

"Egle" of Middelburg (30) Cornilis Chewt, Middelburg, (f.200b] John Valyam; 18 tuns French wine net 15 1/2 tuns 50s ... in Medieval times, the city was an important trade centre, with goods coming from the cities of Flanders being shipped to England."

There are apparently records of Edward in Wales at times between about 1055 - 1060. Not surprising perhaps when we learn that he has a small shipyard near Appledore at the confluence of the Taw and Torridge rivers on the Devon coast near the mouth of the Bristol Channel.

In 1064 he married Adelaide who Bob says some sources record as the sister of Walter de Douai.

During the buildup to the Norman Conquest Edvard Swainson is found at Bruges in Frisia Magna in command of some 400 men supplied by Count Mortain as well as by Walter de Douai, Robert Gilfead and Baldwin. He seems to have been responsible for patrolling the coast and inland waterways along the northern frontier of the Norman domain, using his own ships but Mortain's manpower.

Bob recounts that Mortain was to raise the roughly 1000 ships needed to ferry William of Normandy's men across the Channel. Many of these ships were from Dover and one can easily imagine that some of Edvard Swainsonıs fleet were involved as he seems to have been the Count's man.

On at least two occasions William seems to have called his leaders together, during the planing stages of the Conquest, at times when Count Mortain was unable to attend. As Bob reports "In each case he sends a deputy. The first time it is Edouard Fitswain who attends. The second time it is Edward de la Shete ... there is some argument for the two men being one and the same." I have asked for, but not yet received, clarification of the names of these two emissaries as an earlier communication by Bob stated the names were Edward Sweinson and Edward Chewte.

In a previous communication Bob also mentioned an Edward Sweinson in a supervisory capacity at the shipyards at Dives-sur-Mer in 1065. Bob records that "The yards were then under the command or at least supervision of William's man Edward Sweinson." Further Bob finds that "One portion of William's fleet had already sailed to Bristol under the command of Edward Sweinson also known as Edward of Essex or more commonly Edward le Chute by the 12th (Aug 1066)."

The Chute Forest

In 1052, prior to the Conquest, Edward Swainson aquired land at Langley in Wiltshire at the edge of "the wood called cetum", as Chute Forest was referred to in the Domesday Book under an entry for Collingbourne Ducis (I think this might have been Langley Gate farm on the western edge of Chute Forest). According to Bob he also apparently held land in the forest at Tidcombe aquired in payment for supervising repair work on Offa's Dyke for Edward the Confessor.

After the Conquest an Edward Fitswain served as Sheriff in Taunton. He is apparently described in Church records as a Marcher Baron, undoubtedly implying that he was one of the collection of rough and ready adventurers that William had positioned along the border lands with Wales to keep the Welsh Princes in line. Our "Baron Edward" perchance?? There ia a record of this Edward involving a dispute with the Church over some land on the edge of an estate at Tone Dale. Today Tondale is a small estate just south of Taunton near Wellington. Edward Fitzswain is also recorded as holding the Manor of Norton St. Philip's just south of Bath, at that time nominally part of Hinton Charterhouse held by Edward of Salisbury. Additionally, he held land in Chew Magna and property at Ilfracombe where he maintained six ships ferrying materials back and forth from Wales. Ilfacombe is only 10 miles north of Edward Swainson's pre-conquest shipping interests near Appledore. Noting that Fitswain is just the Normanization of Swainson we see a reasonable circumstantial case to take Edward Swainson and Edward Fitswain to be one and the same person.

Just over 10 miles SW of Taunton and Tone Dale was the Manor of Uffcumbe held by Walter de Douai. Referring to Uffcumbe Bob write "...interestingly in a lawsuit filed in 1089 the tenant of Uffcumbe, ownership of which is by this time in hot dispute, is listed as Edward Chewte." Is this Edward, Walter's brother-in-law and also known as Edvard Swainson? It certainly seems plausible and we then have Edward Swainson alias Fitzswain alias Chewte. In case such name flip-flops appear unnatural, Bob cites the case of Baldwin the Sheriff who he reports was known as "Baldwin, Baudoin of Exeter, Fitzgilbert, Baudoin de Menles, and so on."

Let us now return to Chute Forest. Quoting an excerpt from Bob's draft attributable to the Victoria County History of Wiltshire "An estate assessed at 10 hides and 1/2 yardland, part of the 50 hide estate held by St Peter's Abbey, Winchester, in 1066, had become heritable by 1086. It was held of the abbey and consisted of what became Collingbourne Valence manor, ... and what became Chute Manor. Croc the Huntsman held it in 1086."

Bob reports that this Croc was the Warden of the forest at this time, a position that his descendants would hold until about 1524. Edward Swainsonıs brother??? Then, again according to Bob, we find that Church records of the Bishopric of Winchester indicate that a portion of Collingbourne Valence was sold in 1143 to one William Rogers by Lucas de la Shete of Tone Vale. Recall the connection of Tone Dale to Edward Fitzwain/Swainson/Chewte. The portion in question, it appears, was owned by Edward Swainson in 1052. Was Edward Swainson the father or grandfather of Lucas and was the land in question Lucas' by birthrite??

The de Shete Records

Some time ago while searching for what connections there may or may not be between Chute and Shute families I stumbled upon a record of the family of Robert de Shete settled near Shute in Devon about 17 miles mostly south of Taunton. Robert was born about 1215 and was married before 1238 to Roesia Coffin daughter of Elya & Alice Coffin. Further digging by myself and by Jackie Chute unearthed the following bits of additional information:

From the Coffin Family to Jackie:

"I'm afraid that I can't help much with your Robert de Shete. He was the son of Lucas de Shete, and Roesia Coffin was the daughter of Elias Coffin of Ingarly (now Inwardleigh), a large manor with a "fair deer park" not far from Hosworthy in Devon. This is not our line [i.e., not the ancestral line of the Coffin researcher] who held the manor of Portledge from about 1200 until the mid 1990's. There is a question about which of these families was the senior but some oF us think they are related and the Ingarly line the senior and that Portledge came to a Coffin by marriage to an heiress of Count Mortain who held Alwington where Portlege sits at the time of Doomsday.

There is a record of a deed from Alice, wife of Elias to Robert de Shete and Roesia, daughter of Alice Coffin. This is for the manor of Combe Coffin, one of several held by Elias Coffin. Combe Coffin is near Axminister, about 20 imiles NE of Exeter, Devonshire. This information comes from Devon Feet of Fines; Volume I, Richard I to Henry III 1196-1272 by The Reverend Oswald J. Reichel, pub at Exeter by The Devon and Cornwall Record Society, 1912. This was Fine 277 on p138. The fine was dated "At Exeter, 15 dys from the day of St. John the Baptist un rhe 22nd year od King Henry (19 July 1238)." This was a marriage dowry so if she was born 1210 as you said,she must have been 27 or 28 when she married, very unusual in those times."

From another researcher, Ria Mimmack to myself:

There is an interesting book that you may be able to borrow from a Public Library:
"The Story of Shute" by M.F. Bridie.
Pub. by Shute School Ltd. Axminister 1955.
Reprinted in 1995 by Creeds the Printers, Broadoak,Bridport, Devon, England. DT6 5NL

Quote from above book (page 3)

The name of the manor is variously written in ancient documents as "Shieta," "Schute," and "Shete." The earliest recorded dwellers here were Sir William and his brother Sir Lucas, and William's son Robert, who took their surnames in traditional fashion from their dwelling-place at Schete and were known as "des Schetes." The meaning of the word is variously interpreted but is probably connected with parklands on a hill, for there is a reference in the Disafforestation Charter which concerned this part of the county."

[Note that as mentioned above we now also have an alternative interpretation of Shete as the old German sailing term for a line or chain controlling a sail].

"Apparently some, at any rate, of their lands were leased, for The Hundred of Colyton in early Times, an ancient document is quoted as saying that Lucas de Schete had his rent raised in 1228.

Some of the Schetes still lived here during the reign of Henry III but when the Bonvilles settled in the Colyton district they soon became the most important family, till the arrival of the Courtenays."

"The name Schete is mentioned again briefly on pages 8 & 9 but otherwise the book is about the Bonvilles and Poles.

William Bonville built The Manor House at Shute about 1380, with bits added and altered over the years. The House is now known as Shute Barton and is in the care of the National Trust."

These two sources show some disagreement as to which of the brothers William or Lucas was Robert's father. From the dates involved one might surmise that William and Lucas were great grandchildren of the Lucas de la Shete who sold part of Collingbourne Valence Manor in 1143.

To prove or disprove the string of conjectures presented above may never be possible. What Bob has offered is an intriguing circumstantial genealogical trail leading back in time from Alexander, to Edward the seafaring, Marcher Baron/Lord and supporter of William of Normandy and beyond to Sebert and the ancient Jutish Kingdom of Kent. And the story as presented is surprisingly in tune with our familyıs oral and written traditions.

Bob closes his draft with the suggestion that we Chutes get involved with a Genealogical DNA study. Bob claims there are Crokes alive today who can trace their ancestry back to Croc the Huntsman, Dowies who connect with Walter de Douai and Chewtes living in Holland.

[Note from Jackie: I have a memory of someone - a male, direct-line Lionel descendant - telling me that they did do a DNA study already, although not with this in mind. If you're the lucky guy who did it already, please get back in touch. We may be able to use you for this research as well - and if any Douay's or Croke's are reading this - drop us a line.]
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