The Barony of Alnwick and Manor of Alnham
Alnham also formed one of the constituent manors of the barony of Alnwick which was held by the Vesci lineage. The Vescis were probably granted their barony by Henry I (1100-35), in common with the great majority of Anglo-Norman barons established in Northumberland (Kapelle 1979, 199, 207, 284, 287).
They were certainly well established by 1166 when Henry II ordered all his barons, or 'tenants-in-chief', to render account of the service by which they held their lands and the holdings of all knights enfeoffed by them (Liber Niger Scaccarii, 329-39; cf. Hedley 1968, 21, 209; 1970, 90, 272). In the return he made for the barony, William de Vesci listed a total of 13 knights' fees created before 1135, plus a couple more established in the intervening thirty or so years, making it the single largest of all the Northumbrian lordships in these terms.
The earliest Vesci baron of Alnwick was probably Eustace 'fitz John, William's father, one of the 'principal agents of (the first) Henry's government in Northumberland' (Kapelle 1979, 207). Eustace witnessed his first act concerning Northumberland in 1119 and by 1121 he certainly held land north of the Tyne (Kapelle 1979, 287, n.80), suggesting that the barony was established around this time, when Henry I was finally tightening the Anglo-Norman grip on Northumberland, fifty or so years after the initial conquest.
The Vesci line was extinguished when William de Vesci III died leaving no legitimate male heirs in 1297. Possession of the barony of Alnwick then passed to Anthony Bek, bishop of Durham, and in 1310 the bishop in turn sold the barony to Henry de Percy, who was establishing his family's position on the border at that stage (Bean 1954; Tuck 1971, 33-5). Thereafter the Alnwick barony has remained in Percy hands to this day, forming the core of their Northumbrian holdings.
Alnham was held and managed directly (in 'demesne') by the lords of Alnwick, rather than being granted, either entirely or in part, to one or more of the dependent knights in the Vesci retinue, as was the case with many of the vills which made up the barony, such as neighbouring Scrainwood for example. The seigneurial estate represented a classic manor, incorporating the entire vill, or township, with no feudal sub-tenants and only one significant, free 'socage' tenant recorded in 1242 (Liber Feodorum II, 1127).
The majority of the estate was subdivided between a number of free and unfree peasant tenants who actually farmed the land. The remainder was held in demesne and directly managed by the lord's officials, whose operations were centred on the manor house at the west end of the village. As well as working their own holdings, for which they paid rent to the lord in cash or kind, the peasant tenantry also had to perform a set amount of labour on the manorial demesne, at least in the case of the unfree tenants, as well as a range of other services (see Population and Land Tenure, for more detail).