Medieval Sourcebook:
THE DOMESDAY BOOK 1086 - Instructions and Extract

Domesday Society


Inquisitio Eliensis. Domesday Book: Additamenta, p. 495. Latin.

[TR Introduction] The first approach to a modern assessment roll or cataster is the well known Domesday Book. The existing literature on this remarkable memorial is so extensive, that it has not appeared advisable to quote largely from it. Our first quotation contains the instructions issued to the Commissioners who made the record. The second is a specimen return. There is a wide variety in the returns, though certain factors recur constantly in each statement. The survey is the most extensive document, embracing as it does the entire area of England held by the Conqueror, which we possess in regard to medieval times. It is important to note how the feudal power as founded by William is no longer dependent like the Empire of Charles upon the personal estates of the crown, but brings the entire land under its influence through the feudal dues, and thus paves the way for the modern state founded upon the obligations of all its citizens.


Here is subscribed the inquisition of lands as the barons of the king have made inquiry into them; that is to say by the oath of the sheriff of the shire, and of all the barons and their Frenchmen, and the whole hundred, the priests, reeves, and six villagers of each manor; then, what the manor is called, who held it in the time of King Edward, who holds now; how many hides, how many plowlands in demesne, how many belonging to the men, how many villagers, how many cottagers, how many slaves, how many free-men, how many socmen, how much woods, how much meadow, how many pastures, how many mills, how many fish-ponds, how much has been added or taken away, how much it was worth altogether at that time, and how much now, how much each free man or socman had or has. All this threefold, that is to say in the time of King Edward [the Confessor, 1003?-1066], and when King William [the Conqueror--or the Bastard, c.1028-1087] gave it, and as it is now; and whether more can be had than is had.

hundred = an administrative district, originally a hundred families, but by now simply an area of land
reeve = the manager of the manor
hide = about 120 acres of land
plowland = from 80 to 144 acres; the area that could be plowed by a team of oxen (often eight)
demesne = land directly farmed for the lord, as opposed to the land the peasants rented for themselves
bovate = from 10 to 18 acres (one-eighth a plowland)
villager = "villein," a male peasant, with a certain amount of land (usually ten to twenty acres); the number actually indicates families rather than just individuals
cottager ["cottar"] = a peasant with little or no land
bordar = a peasant with little land, from a few acres to as little as a fraction of an acre; also called "smallholders"
socman = free men under specific jurisdiction; one owing "socage," services other than military service. This would also represent a family.


Domesday Book, Vol. 2, pp 153-l54. Latin.

The land of Robert Malet.

Fredrebruge Hundred and half Glorestorp. Godwin, a freeman, held it. Two plowlands of land in the time of King Edward. Then and afterwards 8 villagers; now 3. Then and afterwards 3 cottagers; now 5. At all times 3 slaves, and 30 acres of meadow. At all times 2 plowlands in demesne. Then half a plowland of the men, and now. Woods for 8 swine, and 2 mills. Here are located 13 socmen, of 40 acres of land. When it was received there were 2 riding horses, now 1. At all times 8 swine, then 20 sheep, and it is worth 60 shillings.

There is situated there, in addition, one demesne farm, as the manor of Heuseda. In the time of King Edward, 1 plowland of land; then and afterwards 7 villagers, now 5. At all times 12 cottagers, and 3 slaves, and 40 acres of meadow; 1 mill. Woods for 16 swine and 1 salt pond and a half. Then 1 riding horse, and now 14 swine, 30 sheep, and 50 goats. In this demesne farm are located 3 socmen, of 10 acres of land, and it is worth 30 shillings. The two manors have 2 leagues in length and 4 furlongs in breadth. Whosoever is tenant there, returns 12 pence of the twenty shillings of geld.

geld = tax paid to the crown
league = about a mile and a half
furlong = about one-eighth of a mile; 220 yards, the customary length of a furrow on land held in common

Scerpham Hundred Culverstestun. Edric held it in the time of King Edward. Two plowlands of land. At all times there were 4 villagers, and 1 cottager, and 4 slaves; 5 acres of meadow and two plowlands in the demesne. Then and afterwards 1 plowland, now one-half; At all times 1 mill and one fish-pond. Here is located 1 socman of the king, of 40 acres of land; which his predecessors held only as commended and he claims his land from the gift of the king. Then and afterwards there was one plowland, now 2 bovates, and 2 acres of meadow. At all times two riding horses, and 4 geese; then 300 sheep, now 300 less 12; then 16 swine now 3. Then and afterwards it was worth 60 shillings, now 80; and there could be one plowland. Walter of Caen holds it from Robert.

Heinstede Hundred. In Sasilingaham. Edric, the predecessor of Robert Malet, held 2 jurisdictions and a half, of 66 acres of land, now Walter holds them. Then 9 cottagers, now 13. At all times 3 plowlands and a half among all, and 3 acres of meadow, and the eighth part of a mill; and under these 1 jurisdiction of 6 acres of land. At all times half a plowland. Then it was worth 30 shillings, now it returns 50 shillings.

In Scotessa Ulcetel was tenant, a free man commended to Edric, in the time of King Edward of 30 acres of land. At that time 1 cottager, afterward and now 2. Then half a plowland, none afterward nor now. It was at all times worth 5 shillings and 4 pence; the same.

From University of Pennsylvania. Dept. of History: Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European history, published for the Dept. of History of the University of Pennsylvania., (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press [1897?-1907?])Vol III:2, pp.6-7.

Medieval Sourcebook:
Domesday Book: Hecham, Essex, 1086

Peter de Valence holds in domain Hecham, which Haldane a freeman held in the time of King Edward, as a manor, and as 5 hides. There have always been 2 plowlands in the demesne, 4 plowlands of the men. At that time there were 8 villagers, now 10; then there were 2 cottagers, now 3; at both times, woods for 300 swine, 18 acres of meadow. Then there were 2 fish ponds and a half, now there are none. At that time there was 1 ox, now there are 15 cattle and 1 small horse and 18 swine and 2 hives of bees. At that time it was worth 60s., now 4L. 10s. When he received this manor he found only 1 ox and 1 planted acre. Of those 5 hides spoken of above, one was held in the time of Kind Edward by 2 freemen, and was added to this manor in the time of King William. It was worth in the time of King Edward 10s., now 22s., and William holds this from Peter de Valence.

from J.H. Robinson, trans, University of Pennsylvania. Dept. of History: Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European history, published for the Dept. of History of the University of Pennsylvania., Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press [1897]. Vol III: 5, 3-4

(c)Paul Halsall August 1996