Henri de Ferrières

Henri de Ferrières of Ferrières-Saint-Hilaire in Normandy was a murderer, rapist and thief.

Henri belonged to a large gang of thugs on horseback lead by Guillaume le Bâtard, duc de Normandie. During the 1040s and 1050s, Guillaume led his gang in a series of escapades to seize land throughout northern France. Only by seizing and holding land could they extract rents to keep them in the manner to which they had become accustomed.

History is easy to understand: "follow the money" - it is almost always about seizing land and extracting rent to live off the labour of others. ("Rent" may be goods, service, cash or taxes.)

Guillaume granted stolen land to members of his gang and they in turn granted land to those who supported them. Henri de Ferrières was granted land in Ferrières-Saint-Hilaire (hence his name) and he granted land to under-tenants such as Giraline de Courson, from Notre-Dame-de-Courson, Robert de Gernon, from Montfiquet and members of the de La Barre and Boscherville families from Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville. and Bacqueville-en-Caux.

Please click here for details of a walk around Ferrières-Saint-Hilaire - with photos!

Ferrières became "Ferrers", Courson became "Curzon" (of Kedleston Hall fame), "de Gernon" became "Cavendish" (of Chatsworth) and Boscherville became "Baskerville" - in much the same way that Guillaume le Bâtard, duc de Normandie became "William 1st" and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha became "Windsor".

Cola, man of Henri de Ferrières

Following The Great Theft of 1066, Guillaume le Bâtard, duc de Normandie seized all the land of England ("to use and abuse as he sees fit") and parcelled it out to his fellow gang members. Henri de Ferrières was given 210 manors - including Trusley - and by the time of the Doomsday book, "Cola, man of Henri de Ferrières" was collecting the rent.

Over time Cola's role became that of an estate steward, looking after the manor and ensuring that rents were paid. Today that role is often fulfilled by a Land Agent or Estate Manager.

Henri de Ferrières remained local and held land throughout Derbyshire including Duffield and Wirksworth as well as Chartley in nearby Stafforshire. Duffield Castle, Tutbury Castle and Charltley castle were built by the Ferrers family to provide barracks for the knights required to keep the peasants in their place and to enforce rents.


By 1071 Henri de Ferrières had become so rich (from rent) he moved his family "seat" from the small village of Ferrières-Saint-Hilaire to the larger village of Broglie, 3 miles up the river Charentonne. At Broglie he built a huge castle on the foundations of an ancient Roman fortress. The chateau is still there (much altered) and was purchased in 1776 by the Comte de Broglie whose descendants still live there. Philippe-Maurice de Broglie is currently 9th Duke of Broglie and 8th Prince of Broglie - obviously the French Revolution didn't guillotine all the aristocracy. (Louis Victor de Broglie, Prince, then Duke of Broglie, became a Nobel Prize winning physicist in 1928.)

The Ferrers family in England finally settled in Egginton - 6 miles from Trusley.

The male side of the Ferrers family line eventually died out but following the female line leads to the Townshend family (of "Turnip Townshend" fame). The latest Townshends still hold 5,500 acres in Norfolk where the estate is managed by Tom Raynham - destined to become Marquess Townshend.

Compared with previous "empires", like the Greeks and the Romans, the Normans were a pretty uncivilised lot. No grand secular buildings for them, no great writers and philosophers - instead they maintained their hold on rent and wealth through the sword and the church. Guillaume le Bâtard's brother (they shared the same mother but not the same father), Odo Bishop of Bayeux, was an ordained Christian priest but in return for him wielding his club at the Battle of Hastings, Guillaume made him Earl of Kent and gave him the lion's share of the stolen land.

Volez-le et gardez-le - avec l'épée, la croix et la loi

"Steal it and keep it - with sword, cross and the law" was the Norman battle cry.

Power through the sword and the church morphed into power through the law, the judiciary and the military, Naturally the law was written by landholding Norman descendants in the interests of landholding Norman descendants. The law is not neutral, its primary purpose is to defend the wealth of those who have it.

England's Aristocratic Revolution (the Magna Carta of 1215) was led by wealthy landholders determined to keep the king's hands off it.

England's Middle Class Revolution (the Civil War of 1642-1651) was led by those who championed the rights of the new middling classes who became landholders and rent-takers after the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. We still await the Common Man's Revolution - the one in 1381 was ruthlessly put down by the families of those who still own great wealth today - like the Cavendishes of Chatsworth.

Almost 1,000 years after The Great Theft of 1066 we still don't know who owns England (actually, we all "own" it because it all belongs to the crown thanks to Guillaume le Bâtard, duc de Normandie). We do know that over 70% of the land is held (via freehold - "free to hold") by less than 1% of the population. The Land Registry, established in 1862, records only transactions on land - so, we don't know who holds land that has not changed hands since 1862.

Introducing Land Value Tax to replace Council Tax and Business Rates, will sort all that out - and we will, at last, know who owns England.