Quartermain Origins



The historical evidence identifies the Oxfordshire Quartermains in the Great Milton region as having come over to England during the Norman Conquest. Below I have merely edited extracts from some of the available sources on the Internet and added them below without comment.


The Quartermain Coat of Arms


In February 2001 the English Historical Review published an article by Dr John Blair, of Queen’s College Oxford, see here and here. His article proposes with some confidence that one of the Bishop of Lincoln’s men at arms mentioned in Thame’s entry in the Doomsday Book, named as ‘William’, was in fact a William Quartermain. For the Thame Doomsday book entry see here.

He argues that 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 historically recorded good works of Richard Quartermain, is a tangible link between the Norman Conquest, the importation of Norman knights to govern Oxfordshire, and several of the most prominent local landmarks.

Dr Blair supposes that William Quartermain held his land, in North Weston, Thame and Great Milton, from the Bishop of Lincoln in return for the role he performed in securing the transfer of money along the Dorchester, Great Milton, Thame route to Aylesbury, and possibly beyond.

The Doomsday book records  four people holding land in Thame from the Bishop of Lincoln. One is William Quartermain at North Weston, according to Dr Blair.

According to William Fowler Carter, all descendants of the Quartermains alive today descend from this branch, see here. They appear occasionally in public records, such as the title deeds and manorial court records preserved in Magdalen College, Oxford. There are also many wills of family members, proved at Canterbury and Oxford and there are dozens of entries for the family in the Chalgrove parish registers.

Quartermain is still a very common name in Oxford and the surrounding area. And internet searches do suggest that the forbearers of Harriet Quartermain, our great grandmother on our mother’s side, may well have been directly associated with the influx of Normans into the Chalrgrove / Great Milton region in the 12th century.