Anchetil de Greye

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Anchetil de Greye was a vassal of William the Conqueror, whom he accompanied in the Norman conquest of England.


Anchetil de Greye (rendered variously in different documents, e.g. "de Graye", "de Grei" and "Anketil") is specifically named in the Domesday Book of 1086. He was the great-grandfather of John de Gray, Bishop of Norwich, and probably also of Henry de Grey, and the great-great-grandfather of Walter de Gray, Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of England; and is regarded as the ancestor of all the Grey/Gray noble families in England.

The principal estate granted to Anchetil de Greye in England was called Redrefield (subsequently Rotherfield Greys) and the manor house, Greys Court in South Oxfordshire. Anchetil was also the mesne lord of Standlake in West Oxfordshire.[1]


Greye's origins in France are unclear. It is believed[who?] that there is a connection to an estate in the vicinity of today's Graye-sur-Mer (Calvados, Graieum 1086, Graia 1172, Gray 1183[2]) which would have been within the domain of William.

It is likely that Anchetil de Greye was of Viking ancestry in whole or in part since the given name Anchetil (from Ásketíll "God-Cauldron") was a fairly common Norse-origin name in Normandy. The "Greye" in his name then was either simply a reference to his estate, or to his mixed Scandinavian-Frankish ancestry which was also common in Normandy by the time of the invasion of England. His immediate ancestry is uncertain, but some researchers believe he was the son of a certain Hugh Fitz Turgis,[3] that means "Turgis'son" (from Thorgisl "hostage of Thor"), another clue he was from Normandy.

More than 20 superficially distinct instances of Anschitil, Anschil, Anschetil, etc. in early Norman documents must refer to a far smaller number of distinct individuals. Particularly interesting is Anschitil de Ros. According to Domesday Monachorum he was the feudal landlord, under the Bishop of Bayeux, of Craie, another Craie, and Croctune (or Crawton). These three places are in the Cray valley of Kent, which was in Norman times the foremost site of chalk mining from deneholes, on a scale rivalled only by the Hangman's Wood cluster of deneholes on the other side of the Thames in Grays.

Cray and Gray seem to be almost interchangeable in Kent place names. Cray passed from Anglo-Norman French into English as a word for "chalk", while greye is one of the wide range of French regional dialect words for "chalk". In Normandy, Grai is modern Graye-sur-Mer, and Ros is modern Rots, on the outskirts of Caen about 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) away. Between them, on the river Seulles, at Orival near Creully, lies an ancient quarry where building stone is said to have been dug and lime burned since Gallo-Roman times.

Whether Anschetil de Grai and Anschitil de Ros were two persons or one, they/he must have known about and profited from the digging and shipping of limestone in Normandy, so it is at least curious that they/he picked chalk-digging areas for their new feudal lands in England.


  • Crossley, Alan & Currie, C.R.J. (eds.); A.P. Baggs, Eleanor Chance, Christina Colvin, C.J. Day, Nesta Selwyn, S.C. Townley (1996). Victoria County History: A History of the County of Oxford, Volume 13. pp. 180–183. 
  • De Ste-Marie, M. (1842). Recherches sur le Domesday. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Crossley & Currie, 1996, pages 180-183
  2. ^ Albert Dauzat and Charles Rostaing, Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de lieux en France, Librairie Guénégaud 1979. p. 340.
  3. ^ De Ste-Marie, 1842, page not cited

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