Holystone : Estates And Parochial Centres
A further clue regarding the origins of Holystone is provided by its status as the centre of an ecclesiastical parish which is firmly attested from the early 14th century onwards and can be traced back to the early 13th century at least. Many parish churches are thought to have begun life as estate chapels established by local landowners during the 9th-11th centuries, with the possible result that the parishes associated with those churches may, effectively, have fossilised the boundaries of the original estates (cf. Winchester 1987, 22-7). It is noteworthy that the parochial centres of medieval Redesdale and North Tynedale all have toponyms incorporating personal names.
Thus Elsdon (Ellesden in the earliest sources) presumably signifies Elli's or perhaps Aelf's valley, whilst Corsenside (Crossensete) combines an Irish personal name, Crossan, with the Norse term for hill pasture saetr, and may hint at Irish-Norse settlement (Beckensall 1992; Mawer 1920, 55, 74). Similarly the parish of Simonburn ('Simondeburn' in 1228-9), which embraced most of North Tynedale, seems to incorporate a personal name, Sigemund (Mawer 1920, 180). It is tempting to infer that such place names preserve some memory of early estate holders. That this form of place name can be associated with early landholdings is demonstrated by the case of Gilsland (Gilles' land) which derives from the territory of Gille son of Boet, who held the western end of the Tyne gap up until the reign of Henry II.
However, as noted above, Holystone does not fall into this toponymic pattern, and there is no conclusive evidence that the parish of Holystone actually does represents a pre-Norman estate covering the south side of upper Coquetdale, and Holystone itself the original caput. Indeed, the pattern of settlement and landholding in upper Coquetdale during the 9th - 11th centuries is very obscure.
Three sites might plausibly represent the centres of wider estates on the basis of their later medieval significance: Holystone, a medieval parochial centre next to a copious spring beside a Roman road; Alwinton, another parochial centre; and Harbottle, later the caput of the liberty of Redesdale and the site of the Umfraville lordship's principal castle in the upland dales. The latter could conceivably be the site of a much earlier estate centre, if -botl placenames are correctly interpreted as signifying 'lord's hall' and as forming an early element in Anglian place name formation (but cf. Barrow 1998, 67-9).
Hence it is unclear whether upper Coquetdale was divided between two or three late Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Scandinavian estates or formed a single landholding centred on one of the above sites which was later subdivided between separate parishes and baronies following the Norman feudal settlement of the area in the early 12th century.