and the Domesday
a historical note.
the Conqueror commissioned the
Domesday survey in December 1085 and it was substantially complete by the
following year. It contains records for 13,418 settlements in the English counties south of the
River Ribble and the River Tees, then the border with Scotland.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle rather
exaggerates Domesday's thoroughness by claiming that “there was not
a single hide, not one virgate of land, ... not even one ox, nor one cow, nor one pig
… escaped notice in his survey.”
survey is of great
historical importance, comprising a detailed statement of land held by the King and
his tenants and of the resources that went with them at a time when reliable records are
comparatively rare. Domesday records which manors rightfully belonged to which
estates and identifies the tenants-in-chief (landholders) who held their land directly from the Crown,
their tenants and under
tenants. It records their monetary values and any customary dues owed to the Crown at the time of the
survey; values recorded before Domesday; and values from before 1066.
compilation of Domesday in a mere matter of months says much for the
effectiveness of the system of government acquired by the Normans. The process was as follows:
existing information about manors, people and assets was collected, including documents dating from the Anglo-Saxon period and post-1066 which listed lands and taxes in
existence. These were held in the principal royal city of Winchester and in the shires.
tenant-in-chief and local official was also required to send in a list of manors and men. Then....
....to verify or correct this information, commissioners were assigned sections of England called circuits. They then visited each town, village and hamlet within their circuit asking the same questions
of everyone with an interest in land, from the barons to the villagers.
The evidence they amassed was recorded in Latin, as was the survey as a whole,
and then sorted into counties, landholders, hundreds
The precise justification for
Domesday is unclear; it has no title page, no preface, and no indication of
author although there are indications of a single editor. Among the probable reasons
it was compiled is one familiar in the present age, the need to
assess liabilities for taxes due to the Crown (the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives William's
reign a generally favourable review, but contains the caveat that "his
anxiety for money is the only thing on which he can deservedly be blamed; . .
.he would say and do some things and indeed almost anything . . .where the hope
of money allured him").
called "the King's Book" and the "Great Book of
Winchester", the Domesday Book got its name from a
12th Century Treasurer, Richard Fitznigell, who wrote: "this book is called the English Domesday not
because it passes judgement on any doubtful points raised, but because
it is not permissible to contradict its decisions, any more than it will
be those of the last judgement".
Another likely explanation is that William
needed more information about the country he had conquered 20 years earlier to help bring
order from the chaos that followed; indeed, because of its great respect Domesday has been invoked in the settlement of land disputes until well into the
William died in September 1087 and perhaps for this reason Domesday was never completed. What we have is two volumes, Great Domesday and
Little Domesday. Little Domesday, which comprises detailed, undigested material
destined for Great Domesday, covers the counties of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk. Great Domesday comprises summarised data for much of the rest of England as it existed in 1086,
including a small part of what is now
Wales. For some reason Great Domesday excludes present day Northumbria and some important cities, such as Durham, Winchester and London.
Domesday entries for Tring
Literacy being rare, Norman
French-speaking monks were often pressed into service as scribes to the Domesday
commissioners and they wrote down the Anglo-Saxon place names as
they heard them. This might explain why Tring appears in Domesday variously as
Tredunga, Tredunge and Treunge.
summarisation, Domesday records were sorted into county order, then into the
order of landholders, and finally into the order of manors within hundreds.
Several landowners held
land within the Tring Hundred. Domesday tells us that "Count Eustace holds
Tring" [itself], which at the time amounted to 5 hides and 1 virgate
comprising land for 20 ploughs. The commissioners recorded the existence of 2
mills, pasture for the livestock of the village and woodland for 1,000 pigs. The
workforce comprised 21 villans, 6 bordars, 16 cottars, 3 sokesmen and 8 slaves.
The record goes on to assess the dues for Tring at £20 per annum.
William's half brother,
the Count of Mortain, also held property in Tring Hundred. This included the
adjacent villages of Aldbury and Pendley (in the 1440's, Sir Robert Whittingham
ran the Pendley villagers off the land, which he then cleared to build his manor house
- it is
now occupied by a hotel and a conference centre), Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead. The Count's tenants also held land in the
area at Miswell, Dunsley, Little Gaddesden and Boarscroft.
peasant of lower economic status than a villan, probably with a cottage
and a little land.
see 'bordar'.... the difference between the two is now unclear.
an administrative sub-division of the county with fiscal, military and
judicial functions. It held about 100 households (or 'hides').
the amount of land (approx. 120 acres) that would support a household and the standard unit
for tax assessment. A 'acre' was a day's ploughing for one team; it varied
with the terrain.
an assessment of the dues required from the estate based on its arable
(or 'serfs'): would have worked their lord's land in return for food and housing.
a free man, though often only a peasant.
a villager who had a reasonable amount of land and might also have had
one quarter of a hide.