Thame Local History
The Quartermain Family and the Domesday Book

In February 2001 the English Historical Review published an article by Dr John Blair, of Queen's College Oxford, which gives a fascinating insight into how the See of Dorchester-on-Thames, and Thame itself, were governed in the years immediately following the Norman Conquest.

The Quartermain Coat of Arms
The Quartermain Coat of Arms

Dr Blair's article proposes with some confidence that one of the Bishop of Lincoln's men at arms mentioned in Thame's entry in the Domesday Book, named as 'William', was in fact a William Quartermain.

This would establish an unbroken link between the Quartermain family and the manor of Thame from the Norman Conquest to the year 1478, when the last prominent member of the Quartermain family, Richard Quartermain, died.

There are to this day several reminders of Richard Quartermain in and around Thame, including Rycote Chapel, which he built, St Christopher's Chapel within Thame's St Mary's Church, which he also built, and the Alms Houses in Church Row, which he originally founded.

Richard Quartermain is buried along with his wife Sybil in St Mary's Church.

Dr Blair also puts forward an explanation for the family name, derived from a Norman nickname for one of the knights brought over to England from France, who was given the job of carrying money for the new Norman lords.

'Quatre mains' means 'four hands' in French, as reflected on the family coat of arms. This nickname may have arisen, says Dr Blair, because of the need to carry money bags, or to defend himself whilst carrying money.

If Dr Blair is correct, what we have in the Quartermain family, and the good works of Richard Quartermain, is a tangible link between the Norman Conquest, the importation of Norman knights to govern Oxfordshire, and several of our most prominent local landmarks.

Thame Alms Houses founded by Richard Quartermain
Thame Alms Houses founded by Richard Quartermain

English Historical Review Website

Thame and the Norman Conquest

Thame's entry in the Domesday Book

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