History of the Domesday
The Domesday Book,
commissioned by William the Conqueror, records the amount of land and resources owned in England in 1086, and the
extent of the taxes he could raise. The information collected was recorded by hand in two huge books, which took
just about a year to complete.
The Domesday Book provides extensive records of landholders, their tenants, the amount of land they owned, how many
people occupied the land (villagers, smallholders, free men, slaves, etc.), the amounts of woodland, meadow,
animals, fish and ploughs on the land (if there were any) and other resources, any buildings present (churches,
castles, mills, salt houses, etc.), and the whole purpose of the survey - the value of the land and its assets,
before the Norman Conquest, after it, and at the time of Domesday. Some entries also chronicle disputes over who
held land, some mention customary dues that had to be paid to the king, and entries for major towns include records
of traders and number of houses.
It provides an invaluable insight into
the economy and society of 11th century Norman England. For historians it can be used, amongst other things, to
discover the wealth of England at the time, information about the feudal system existent in society (the social
hierarchy from the king down to villagers and slaves), and information about the geography and demographic
situation of the country. For local historians it can reveal the history of a local settlement and its population
and surroundings, whilst for genealogists it provides a useful and fascinating resource for tracing family lines.
Through the centuries the Domesday Book has also been used as evidence in disputes over ancient land and property
rights, though the last case of this was in the 1960s.
One observer wrote of the survey that,” there was no single hide nor a yard of land, nor indeed one ox nor one cow
nor one pig which was left out". The grand and comprehensive scale on which the Domesday survey took place and the
irreversible nature of the information collected led people to compare it to the Last Judgment, or 'Doomsday',
described in the Bible, when the deeds of Christians written in the Book of Life were to be placed before God for
judgment. Thus, in the late 12th century the name ‘Domesday’ was adopted for the collective survey. William,
unfortunately, died before it was fully completed.
Extract from the Domesday Book
The village of Hampstead Norreys has a long and illustrious history
and in 1086 its entry in the Domesday Book recorded the amount of land and its ownership.
The same Theodric holds HAMPSTEAD NORREYS. Lang held it of King
Edward. [It was] then [assessed] at 17 hides; now at 6 hides. There is land for 12 ploughs. In demesne are 2
ploughs; and 13 villans and 9 bordars with 8 ploughs. There are 8 slaves, and 4 acres of meadow, [and] woodland for
40 pigs. Of this land a priest of the church holds half a hide in alms and has nothing on it. It was
worth12l; and afterwards 9l; now 10l. The same Theodric holds SULHAM. Edward
held it of King Edward. [It was] then [assessed] at 1 hide; now at half [a hide]. There is land for 2 ploughs. In
demesne is 1 plough, with 5 bordars, and 2 slaves and 2 acres of meadow. It is and was worth 30s. The sameTheodric
holds in PURLEY half a hide. Edward held it; and it was assessed at as much then, as now. There is land for 2
ploughs. In demesne is 1 [plough]; and 1 villan and 3 bordars with 1 plough, and 5 acres of...