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Osgod Clapalocked

(d. 1054)
  • Ann Williams

Osgod Clapa (d. 1054), landowner and exile, whose byname means 'a coarse, rough person', is usually assumed to be a Dane who followed King Cnut to England. He may, however, have been a descendant of Osgod, Eadulf's son, kinsman of Theodred, bishop of London (d. 951), for he had an estate at Pakenham, Suffolk, where Osgod, Eadulf's son, also held land. He attests charters of Cnut and Harthacnut from 1026 to 1042, often in association with Tovi the Proud, and in the early 1040s he witnessed the will of Thurstan, Lustwine's son, as a member of the shire-court of Norfolk. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes him as a staller (ASC, s.a. 1046, text D) and Hermann of Bury calls him maior domus, which suggests that he held some official position in the king's household. His office may have been connected with London, the home base of the royal fleet. He had an estate at Lambeth and in the 1030s attested a writ of Cnut (of dubious authenticity) in favour of St Paul's, signing at the head of the lay witnesses below the rank of earl (AS chart., S 992). He is also addressed in a writ of Edward for Westminster Abbey, which (if genuine) must be dated 1044–6 (AS chart., S 1121), after the bishop of London but before the sheriff of Middlesex.

In 1042 Osgod's daughter Gytha married Tovi the Proud, at Lambeth, which may have been her marriage portion, for Tovi gave land there to his church at Waltham, Essex. Osgod attests charters of Edward the Confessor between 1042 and 1046, but in 1046 he was exiled, for unspecified reasons. He fled to Flanders, where by 1049 he had gathered a fleet of ships at Wulpe, near Sluys. King Edward took this act seriously enough to dispatch a fleet against him, but Osgod, leaving his wife in safety at Bruges, ravaged around the Naze in Essex. Returning with their plunder, all but two (or four) of the ships were destroyed in a storm. John of Worcester claims that Osgod sought refuge in Denmark, but the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle merely records that he died 'suddenly, as he was lying in bed' in 1054 (ASC, s.a. 1054, text C); whether this implies that he had returned to England is a matter of opinion. No children other than Gytha are recorded. Osgod's lands were confiscated by the king on his exile, Pakenham being given by Edward to Bury St Edmunds (AS chart., S 1074). He is commemorated in the Liber vitae of Thorney Abbey, and he may be the Osgod entered, with his wife, Æthelswyth, in the Liber vitae of the New Minster at Winchester. At Bury St Edmunds he was remembered in the first instance as a despoiler, though he had a change of heart; Hermann of Bury has a vivid (though perhaps imaginary) description of him, wearing his golden arm-rings and carrying a gilded axe slung from his shoulder.


  • ASC, s.a. 1046, 1049, 1054 [texts C, D]
  • F. E. Harmer, ed., Anglo-Saxon writs (1952)
  • S. Keynes, An atlas of attestations in Anglo-Saxon charters, c.670–1066 (privately printed, Cambridge, 1993)
  • AS chart., S 962–4, 967–70, 972, 975–6, 979, 982, 992–4, 999, 1001–8, 1010–13, 1044, 1074, 1121, 1531
  • D. Whitelock, ‘Scandinavian personal names in the Liber vitae of Thorney Abbey’, Saga-book of the Viking Society, 12 (2) (1937–8), 127–53, repr. in History, law and literature in tenth- and eleventh-century England (1981)
  • S. Keynes, ed., The Liber vitae of the New Minster and Hyde Abbey, Winchester (Copenhagen, 1996)
  • P. Nightingale, ‘The origin of the court of husting and Danish influence on London's development into a capital city’, EngHR, 102 (1987), 559–78, esp. 565–6
  • A. Williams, ‘The king's nephew: the family, career, and connections of Ralph, earl of Hereford’, Studies in medieval history presented to R. Allen Brown, ed. C. Harper-Bill, C. J. Holdsworth, and J. L. Nelson (1989), 327–43
  • C. R. Hart, The early charters of eastern England (1966)
  • K. Mack, ‘The stallers: administrative innovation in the reign of Edward the Confessor’, Journal of Medieval History, 12 (1986), 123–34
John of Worcester, ed. R. R. Darlington & P. McGurk, trans. J. Bray & P. McGurk, 2–3; OMT (1995–) [vol. 1 forthcoming]
P. H. Sawyer, , Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks (1968)
English Historical Review
D. Whitelock, D. C. Douglas, & S. I. Tucker, eds. and trans., (1961)