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1066 to 1154

After the battle of Hastings, when King Harold was defeated by William the Conqueror, Harold’s mother fled to Exeter, which refused to pay allegiance to William other than that due by ancient custom. William besieged the city for 18 days in the winter of 1067-8 after which the city surrendered, but only on condition that it not be plundered or expected to pay more tax (1). William agreed, but ordered the immediate construction of a stone castle at Rougemont, and several other stone castles were built soon afterwards at Okehampton, Barnstaple and Totnes. Around Ilfracombe there were several small timber castles; in Loxhore; in Bratton Flemming and in Parracombe, where the mound of the motte is extremely well preserved (2).


The Norman’s greatest legacy, as far as Hele is concerned, is not their castles, but their review of the tax system which resulted in the Doomsday survey. This remarkable document, of which there are several versions, provides a detailed insight into the use of the countryside a thousand years ago. Unfortunately, as could be expected from a Norman accountant who left no notes, the details are frustratingly ambiguous! (3).


The Saxon’s appear to have passed down a sophisticated tax system where all land was owned by the King and was sublet to a large number of local lords. The basis of this system was the Manor. Typically the lord lived at the Manor house and farmed the surrounding land; in return he owed allegiance and paid tax. Manors  were grouped together into Hundreds, named after the place in each Hundred where the tax was paid. A Hundred was presumably meant to represent 100 hides, a hide being roughly 120 acres.


After the Norman Conquest, the land was divided between relatively few Norman lords; each holding many different Manors. No doubt one purpose of Doomsday was to register these new tenancies, probably another was to review the tax system and raise more revenue. Another may have been simplification, since the tax could now be collected from relatively few Norman lords, rather than by visiting every Hundred.


Doomsday lists the Manors in each Hundred (Hele is in the Braunton Hundred) according to their landlord. The main landlord in Devon was Baldwin, Sheriff of Devon, who held 159 Devon Manors. He lived at Okehampton castle and sublet many of his holdings around Ilfracombe to Richard of Punchardon, including the Manors of Ilfracombe, Lincombe and West Haggington. The other major local landlord was Geoffrey, Bishop of Coutances, who sublet Hele, Killington, Stowford, Bittadon and part of West Hagginton to Drogo. Combe Martin was held by William of Falaise directly for the king (presumably because of the silver deposits there) and Walscin held Berrynarbor and East Hagginton and sublet the latter to Wulfric (4).


Exchequer Domesday entry for Hele (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 1 3,44, used by kind permission of Phillimore & Co Ltd)

There are two versions of the Doomsday survey for Devon; the Exchequer version and another, known as Exon, which is not quite complete but is more detailed. A typed transcript of the Exchequer entry for Hele is shown left, a translation of both entries is shown below:-


"HELA held by Edwy T.R.E.*;  It paid tax for ½ virgate of land. Land for 3

ploughs. In lordship 1 plough and 1 furlong, with 1 slave; 1 villager; 1 smallholder

(who have) 1 furlong and 2 oxen in a plough

Pasture, 30 acres; woodland, 20 acres; 5 cattle; 7 pigs; 20 sheep; 10 goats Formerly 5s, value now 10s"

(Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 1 3,44 -  text in italics is from Exon Doomsday)

* T.R.E is "tempore Regis Edwardi", in the reign of Edward the Confessor


Hele was listed under the lands held by the Bishop of Coutances and sublet to Drogo. These were the tenants in 1086, when Doomsday is thought to have been compiled, but neither of them actually lived at Hele. The previous Saxon tenant, at the death of Edward the Confessor in 1066, was Edwy; perhaps he or his heirs still lived there.


Hele was taxed on ½ virgate or 15 acres (there are four virgates to a hide of 120 acres) but this figure does not seem to relate to either the land available, or the tax actually paid and may have been administrative. It appears to date from the Saxon period and may have been the basis of feudal dues (one warrior had to be provided for each hide, to defend the local fortress) and of the aggregation of Manors into Hundreds (5).


Norman Manors of Hele and Haggington There is land at Hele for three ploughs. The plough represents the arable land available and is often considered to be identical to a hide, although in the south-west it may only have been a little over 40 acres. In Devon there is close correspondence between the number of ploughs and the number of families (as in this case) so that land for 3 ploughs may be thought of as land to support 3 families (6).


One plough and one furlong (a furlong is ¼ virgate, or 7½ acres) were in Lordship (i.e. for the benefit of the Manor) and were probably worked by the slave with part-time duties owed by the villager and smallholder, who worked the rest of the land for their own benefit.


The Manor farm may have been at Comyn or Littletown and was probably occupied by the villager and his family. The furlong in Lordship may have been the group of fields to the south, called Yarde on the first detailed Ordnance Survey map of 1889. The plough in Lordship was probably the rest of the valley sides down to the sea.


The other (nearly two) ploughs were probably on the slopes of Comyn Hill, where the smallholder may have lived with his family, perhaps at Killicleave. There were also 30 acres of pasture, presumably for the 5 cattle and the Manor plough-team. According to Exon Doomsday, the villagers also had a furlong of pasture for two oxen. There were 20 acres of forest, where the 7 pigs would have been kept; 20 sheep and 10 goats. Hele may have grown in the 20 years between the Norman conquest and Doomsday, since its value (the tax actually paid) had doubled (7).


Hele was a very small Manor compared to its neighbours Haggington and Berrynarbor (each with 17 ploughs, about twice the size of Ilfracombe). Their importance was due to Berrynarbor having been a Hundred in the Saxon period, but Berrynarbor became part of Braunton Hundred in the 10th century and Haggington was divided by the Ilfracombe-Berrynarbor parish boundary. Doomsday shows that Hagginton was actually divided into three parts, held by three different lords, even before the Norman Conquest. It would be interesting to know why Haggington was divided - was it to diminish an errant lord? (8).


< Saxons        Middle Ages >

(1) Siege of Exeter

"Gytha, the mother of Harold, had fled after the news of Hastings with her daughter to the royal city of Exeter" William returned from Brittany and sent a message commanding them to swear an oath of fealty but they replied "We will neither pay allegiance to the king nor admit him within our walls, but we will pay him tribute according to ancient custom" This was £18/yr, to which the King replied "it does not suit me to have subjects on such conditions" and marched on the city. The city representatives met him 4 miles from the city and promised to obey his commands and left hostages, but when they returned to the city, they were disowned, and the king marched on the city with 500 men, then his whole army, then he put the hostages eyes out (probably at now demolished south gate) but was answered by rude gestures. He laid siege for 18 days in the midwinter of 1067/8. The city then surrendered, but only on condition that the King not plunder the city or increase the tax. William ordered a castle built on Rougemont which was begun spring 1068. He probably ordered other castles to be built at Okehampton, Totnes and Barnstaple (Hoskins 1959 p 45-47)


(2) Castles

Castle Roborough at Loxhore is a motte about 40yds diameter and 15’ high, with 7’ deep hollow in the top, there is no sign of any bailey. The situation suggests a private castle of no particular importance; Bratton Flemming has a possible motte on the west slope of the hill north east of the church. This is supported by many castle names. It might have been the headquarters of le Fleming who lived in the area for many generations; Holwell, Parracombe is a superb motte-and-bailey, the bailey to the north-west of the motte; Barnstaple, probably built by Judhael of Totnes between 1071-86. It is a motte and bailey, with motte 200’ diameter and 60’ high enclosed by a moat 330’ diameter. Crowned by a stone-built keep, which may have been preceded by one of wood, in 1228 the Sheriff of Devon was ordered to reduce the walls to a height of 10’, by 1281 it was being pillaged for stone, and by the time of Leyland it had been reduced to ‘manifest ruines of a great castelle...a peace of the dungeon yet standeth’ (Grinsell 1970 p 134-135)


"Like most of the smaller Norman castles, Holwell [ss670446] never had any stone structures on its earth motte and ramparts. The latter carried timber palisades, and there was the same type of protection around the top of the motte, inside which there would have been a one or two storey building. There is no documentary history of Holwell castle, but it was probably built either by Martin de Tours, the first Norman lord of Parracombe, or by William de Falaise, who married Martin’s widow, or by Robert Fitzmartin, who inherited the estates of both his father and stepfather." (Whybrow 1970 p 47)


There were Norman castles at Holwell, Parracombe; at Barnstaple, at Roborough, Loxhore; on Lundy and at Bratton Flemming. All from before c1300 (Higham, RA 1999 Castles, fortified houses and fortified towns in the middle ages in Kain & Ravenhill 1999 p 137)


Roborough castle was built in 1136 by Robert or Baldwin (Newland 1999 p 15)


"Little is known about the history of Holwell Castle, which is not documented. At the Norman Conquest, the Manor of Parracombe passed from Beorhtwald to William of Falaise. His lands were part of the baronies of Blagdon and Stogursley. In 1284-1246, William Fitzmartin of Blagdon held the Manor of Parracombe. It seems likely that Holwell castle was built soon after the conquest, probably in the late 11th century, and that its use was short-lived. No formal excavation has taken place on the castle although Prebendary Chanter, a local antiquarian, cleaned out the motte ditches in 1905 and a roofing slate was found on the motte recently (VCH Devon I; Higham 1979). The motte is a circular, largely artificial mound, surrounded by a deep rock-cut ditch." (Riley & Wilson-North 2001)


(3) Background to Domesday

"The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle relates how the Domesday Book came to be written. In 1085 at Gloucester in midwinter ‘the King had very deep speech with his wise men about the land, how it was held and with what men’. King William sent men of proved discretion and ‘caused them to write down ... how much each man settled on the land in England held in land and cattle, and how much it was worth.’ .... Because the book became the final authoritative register of rightful possession of property under the king, it became known as Domesday Book, by analogy with the Day of Judgement." (Dunmore, Richard Appleby Magna website 2000, entitled Danes, Domesday and a Bequest, No. 4 in a series of articles entitled A Planned Village Village.htm)


Maitland on Domesday "One great purpose seems to mould both its form and its substance; it is a geld-book. When Duke William became king of the English, he found (so he might well think) among the most valuable of his newly acquired regalia a right to levy a land-tax under the name of geld or Danegeld. A detailed history of that tax cannot be written. It is under the year 991 that our English chronicle first mentions a tribute paid to the Danes; £10,000 was then paid to them. In 994 the yet larger sum of £16,000 was levied. In 1002 the tribute had risen to £24,000, in 1007 to £30,000..... How often it was levied we cannot tell; but that it was levied more than once by the Confessor is not doubtful. We are told that he abolished it in or about the year 1051........To secure a due and punctual payment of it was worth a gigantic effort, a survey such as had never been made.....the assessment of the geld sadly needed reform. Owing to one cause and another, owing to privileges and immunities that had been capriciously granted, owing also, so we think, to a radically vicious method of compiling the geldable areas of counties and hundreds, the old assessment was full of anomalies and iniquities. Some estates were over-rated, others were scandalously under-rated. That William intended to correct the old assessment, or rather to sweep it away and put a new assessment in its stead, seems highly probable.........Our record is no register of title, it is no feodary, it is no custumal, it is no rent roll; it is a tax book, a geld book" ........"England is divided into counties, hundreds or wapentakes and vills. This is the geographical basis of the survey. That basis, however, is hidden from us by the form of our record. The plan adopted by those who fashioned Domesday Book out of the returns provided for them by the king's commissioners is a curious, compromising plan. We may say that in part it is geographical, while in part it is feudal or proprietary. It takes each county separately and thus far it is geographical; but within the boundaries of each county it arranges the lands under the names of the tenants in chief who hold them.....The hundreds were taken one by one; they were taken in a geographical order, and not until the justices had learned all that was to be known of Staplehow hundred did they call upon the jurors of Cheveley hundred for their verdict..... Within each hundred the survey was made by vills. If we suppose the commissioners charging the jurors we must represent them as saying, not 'Tell us what tenants in chief have lands in your hundred and how much each of them holds,' but 'Tell us about each vill in your hundred, who holds land in it.'.....Now in Domesday Book we must look to several different pages to get this information about the vill of Abington.... And we may easily miss the important fact that this vill of Abington has been rated as a whole at the neat, round figure of 5 hides. And then we see that the whole hundred of Armingford has been rated at the neat, round figure of 100 hides Thus we are brought to look upon the vill as a unit in a system of assessment. All this is concealed from us by the form of Domesday Book."............. "When that book mentions the name of a place, when it says that Roger holds Sutton or that Ralph holds three hides in Norton, we regard that name as the name of a vill; it may or may not be also the name of a manor. Speaking very generally we may say that the place so named will in after times be known as a vill and in our own day will be a civil parish...... we have come to the conclusion that the distribution of England into villas is in the main as old as the Norman conquest. Two causes of difficulty may be noticed, for they are of some interest. Owing to what we have called the 'notional movability' of land, we never can be quite sure that when certain hides or acres are said to be in or lie in a certain place they are really and physically in that place. They are really in one village, but they are spoken of as belonging to another village, because their occupants pay their geld or do their services in the latter"........For all this, however, we come to a very general rule: -- the density of the population decreases as we pass from east to west. With this we may connect another rule: land is much more valuable in the east than it is in the west..... it was far better to have a team-land in Essex than to have an equal area of arable land in Devon"....... "If a vill consists, as in Devonshire often enough it will, of some three villani, some four bordarii and some two servi, the 'township-moot,' if such a moot there be, will be a queer little assembly; the manorial court, if such a court there be, will not have much to do. These men cannot have many communal affairs; there will be no great scope for dooms or for by-laws; they may well take all their disputes into the hundred court, especially in Devonshire where the hundreds are small." ........"What is a manor? The word manerium appears on page after page of Domesday Book, but to define its meaning will task our patience.... the one statement that we can safely make about it.... It is a technical term.....The manor is the place where geld is paid.....The geld is a land-tax, a tax of so much per hide or carucate. In all likelihood it has been assessed according to a method which we might call the method of sub partitioned provincial quotas. The assumption has been made that a shire or other large district contains a certain number of hides; this number has then been apportioned among the hundreds of that shire, and the number allotted to each hundred has been. apportioned among the vills of that hundred. The common result is that some neat number of hides, five, ten or the like is attributed to the vill.(87*) This again has been divided between the holdings in that vill......Ultimately it is settled that for fiscal purposes a given holding contains, or must be deemed to contain, this or that number of hides, virgates, or acres. Thus far the system makes no use of the manerium. But it now has to discover some house against which a demand may be made for every particular penny of geld. Despite the 'realism' of the system, it has to face the fact that, after all, taxes must be paid by men and not by land. Men live in houses. It seeks the tax-payer in his house." (FW Maitland Domesday Book and Beyond, 1897 from website )


Roffe Inquest & Domesday - "I propose that the Domesday inquest and the production of Domesday Book were two different and distinct activities. The one, the inquest commissioned by William the Conqueror, was a response to the threat of invasion from Denmark in 1085 and tackled the shortcomings in taxation and defence that the crisis had brought to light. In short, it saw the extension of the geld to formerly exempt demesne and a renegotiation of knight service. The compilation of Domesday Book, by contrast, both Great and Little, was undertaken some four or five years later in the aftermath of the rebellion of 1088 against William Rufus. It followed widespread tenurial chaos throughout the country and, as a record of the status quo ante, it was conceived of as an administrative aid that informed the settlement. ....The statement 'there is land for so many ploughs' has been one of the most difficult of interpretation. Debate has centred on whether it was a real measure of land or a fiscal unit, but to my mind the dichotomy is an artificial one. I have no time to argue the point here in detail - it is somewhat technical and you can skip it at leisure in my book - but it seems clear from Exon that the ploughland is a measure of the extent of fiscal land. We regularly find there the formula 'there are x hides of land which y ploughs can plough' which is translated into GDB as 'land for y ploughs'. In effect the formula holds up a real or notional ploughland - it matters not which - to the hide of land that pays geld. This tells me that the king was interested, in some degree, in the capacity of the tax system; am I getting as much as is possible?. But it emphatically does not betray an intention to introduce a new assessment. If there is one thing that comes out of the vast literature on hidation, it is that it was never a simple matter of land measurement. The strength of the geld was that it was infinitely flexible and what was assessed and paid was always the subject of negotiation. The record of ploughlands is a measure of how much tax went in the tenant-in-chief's back pocket. That was fact, but what it presaged depended on a subsequent settlement...... Exon.... must be radically revised in the light of Caroline and Frank Thorn's detailed examination of the source. They have shown from the changes of scribe, corrections, and differences in format, that Exon was a series of working documents, in effect an office file. If the slightly earlier Bath A, an account of the lands of Bath Abbey, is taken as a seigniorial presentment, we can see that Exon was the first writing down by officials of the evidence that tenants-in-chief presented, a process I have called inbreviation. This explains a lot. What comes from the horse's mouth is neighs and oats. When prompted about land lords talk about their estates. The form of Exon is a function of data collection. It is irrelevant to the nature of the so-called returns and what has been made of the purpose of the Domesday inquest from them". (Roffe, David 2000 Domesday: the Inquest and the Book the text of a lecture delivered at the Public Record Office, Kew, on 26 February, 2000 (from website also a book published by Oxford University Press)


Kapelle - The first serious explanation of Domesday was the work of a late Victorian scholar, John Horace Round. In 1895 Round argued that Domesday was the direct result of a geld inquest. The geld was the great land tax that the Anglo-Saxons had invented to raise protection money for the Danes. Round's case was based on a theory on how Domesday was made. He posited that the Norman's had used the old hundredal framework to collect the required information from the villages. His evidence for this procedure was an early draft of Domesday for Cambridgeshire, a "satellite" in the parlance of Domesday studies. This text described the villages in Cambridgeshire hundred by hundred so that manors located in the same village appeared together even if they had different lords. The original returns of Domesday were, then, a great series of a hundred rolls. Round further assumed that the royal clerks later rearranged this geographically structured information on an honorial format to produce the Domesday text we know..... Hundreds were responsible for the collection of the geld from the villages within their bounds. If the clerks used the hundredal framework to conduct the inquest, the object must have been fiscal. Scholars were particularly ready to believe this conclusion because they were at this time uncovering the elegant assessment system based on artificially arranged groups of hides that lay upon the countryside......Maitland wanted to use the information in the text to reconstruct the outlines of Anglo-Saxon society, and to do this he needed to understand why so many different types of information were present. His answer was radical: everything in Domesday was connected with the geld. The manor was the unit of description because in Domesday a "manor" was a house against which the geld was charged rather than a certain type of agrarian unit. Hides, of course, gave the tax assessment. Domesday enumerated peasants by status because free peasants were responsible for paying their own geld and the manorial lord paid for the less free. The clerks collected the different types of economic data because it was the basis for deciding a manor's tax liability. Even the boroughs fit into the scheme. They were fortresses rather than true towns in this period, and the manors within a shire subsidised the existence of the local borough according to their hides.6 This formulation was elegant. It unified the seemingly heterogeneous types of information in Domesday and, in so doing, explained why the commissioners asked the questions they did..... His definitions of the manor and the borough flew in the face of the common sense meaning of both terms and soon fell before criticism. The theory Domesday was a geld book, however, lasted for decades. It seemed to explain the survey; and, shorn of Maitland's textually based definitions, which had threatened scholars' understanding of two basic eleventh-century institutions, it raised no barriers to interpreting the data in a straightforward fashion. Indeed, the geld hypothesis survived down to the rise of administrative history. Starting in the 1940's, V.H. Galbraith destroyed the old theory with two main points. First, no one could have used Domesday as a guide for collecting the geld because it listed manors according to their lord rather than location. The force of this objection came from the few surviving geld rolls which surveyed the villages within hundreds.... Using Domesday as a guide, a collector might have had to retrace his steps two or three times in the case of divided villages...... Simply put, Round's hundredal stage of the inquest was a myth. Domesday was not the product of inquests In each hundred; it owed little to the old order. Rather, the commissioners used the new feudal framework to gather data from the beginning. Galbraith's evidence for this new theory was a satellite survey (Exon Domesday) in which the information was arranged on an honorial basis (manors were grouped together by lord). He posited that the commissioners gathered much of their information directly from the barons in each shire, checked it in the shire court, and then combined these shire accounts in an ascending hierarchy of drafts that culminated in Domesday. The purpose of the inquest was implicit in its feudal structure: William wanted an account of each honor so that he could exercise his rights as feudal overlord. Detailed information about the honors would allow the king to collect the various charges and profits that were his due. Domesday was a feudal register. Its utility lay in feudal administration. .....A real alternative did not appear until Sally Harvey's attempt to revive the geld hypothesis in the 1970's. Like Maitland, her theory depends on an interpretation of the contents of Domesday. What prompted the inquest in her view was a fall in the receipts of the geld (the barons had been lowering their assessments). The principal purpose of the inquest was to provide the basis of a reassessment. This conclusion is reminiscent of the Victorians, but a startling novelty follows. William proposed to raise the geld by introducing a new cadastral unit-the fiscal plowland rather than by multiplying hides. Harvey believes that the plowland was a new fiscal unit analogous to the late Roman yoke (a Late Antique fiscal unit that measured the fiscal capacity of all types of productive land in units of equal value). Needless to say, no explicit evidence supports this theory. Rather, its strength lies in its ability to explain why earlier scholars came to different conclusions about the nature of the plowland. The nature of this unit in fact varied by area. In some regions it was based on the number of teams; in others, on the number of hides; and in others, on non arable sources of wealth. This explanation is highly ingenious. Unfortunately, believing it entails a number of difficulties. The most important is the fact that the hide remained the basis for the assessment of the geld. Indeed, the principal immediate result of Harvey's theory has been to provoke a rebuttal from J. C. Holt who modernized Galbraith by giving the inquest a political context. According to Holt, William wanted the information in the survey for Galbraith's reasons-in the long run. More immediately, he wanted the baron's homage. They provided both because they wanted tide to their lands, which Domesday could provide. This deal was consummated at Salisbury in 1086 when William received the written returns of the inquest, and the barons swore homage. This proposed political context would represent real progress. Unfortunately, William's motivation depends on the implausible assumption that the barons had not done homage before 1087.....These are the major theories that seek to account for Domesday. Their weaknesses show how difficult the task is. Domesday is so out of step with our picture of Norman government that we probably would not believe in it if it had not survived. ..... The Victorians looked to the geld. Their successors emphasized the administrative utility of the data in a feudal context. Contemporaries embroider these two basic alternatives..... Paradoxically, these explanations have one important similarity: they make little difference. If Domesday turned out to be a forgery produced by a demented census taker with an antiquarian bent and historians had to delete its evidence from the textbooks, our picture of the English countryside would vanish. Accounts of the reign of William the Conqueror would loose only a paragraph or two, and these would mostly consist of description. To put the point slightly differently, in most accounts William makes Domesday and nothing commensurate with the effort happens as a result. Scholarship on Domesday is virtually a self-contained world with few lessons that reach beyond its borders. We see this effect because the explanations are deductive; and, not surprisingly, they cannot serve as the foundation for the expansion of our knowledge of the Conqueror's reign or his government....In 1971 Harvey published an excellent article on how Domesday was made. In this piece she demonstrated that some of the information in Domesday must have been derived from existing survey information. The names of the manors, their tax assessments, and the names of their holders in 1066 must all have been available to the Domesday commissioners before they began their work. The evidence for this theory consisted of several pre-Domesday surveys which scholars had confounded with Domesday satellites (surveys that were a by-product of the inquest). Harvey was able to uncover the true nature of a number of such surveys, and she concluded on their evidence that Domesday stood at the end of a series of surveys that identified place, holder, and hides and stretched back into Anglo-Saxon times. Although some of her evidence has been questioned, her conclusion is certainly correct, and it has significant implications. If the Anglo-Saxons were regularly making surveys of the countryside, their administrative sophistication was considerably greater than has been thought. Furthermore, if the commissioners got the core of the information in Domesday-the framework of place and holder-from an older survey, then the job they were faced with shrank considerably. They had only to bring the name of the holder up-to-date and to add the economic data..... The government of the late Anglo-Saxon kings made territorial surveys of hides. Land transfers routinely depended on documents. The shire courts must also have kept records of the writs that appeared....... The Anglo-Saxons bequeathed to the Norman's a sophisticated tradition of making and using surveys. The central core of information in Domesday was undoubtedly gathered from existing records, and this theory greatly reduces the amount of work that the Norman's faced in making the survey. The clerks had only to rearrange the manors into groups based on holder-probably through interlineation on an old survey-and then to add the new information..... In Harvey's opinion Domesday differed from its predecessors because it juxtaposed a list of manors with the economic information. If this theory is correct, the question that must be answered is why the commissioners combined these two sorts of information. Given the conventional picture of the early Norman polity, historians can only resort to the geld or feudal administration in Galbraith's sense for an explanation. Neither of these solutions is entirely satisfactory in the current state of our knowledge although the geld theory is the better of the two. The idea Domesday was connected with the geld is not preposterous and never has been. Galbraith's dictum that Domesday could never have served as a guide for collecting the geld ignored a fundamental uncertainty. All the surviving eleventh-century geld rolls come from before the date of Domesday or are contemporary with it. They show that the territorial hundred was the basis for collecting the tax. Historians assume that this system of collection continued, but the actual evidence bearing on this matter is sparse and contradictory. Conceivably, Domesday might have marked a transition from the hundred to the honor for the collection of the geld within shires. The geld was not as unimportant as Galbraith assumed...... Furthermore, J.J.N. Palmer has brought forth convincing evidence from Domesday that, despite his critics, Maitland's old definition of a manor may have been correct after all. In Cambridgeshire Domesday used the term in a consistent fashion as if it had a technical meaning, and groups of manors formed artificially arranged blocks of hides with decimal assessments that probably constituted units for the collection of the geld. Finally, such a theory would explain why contemporaries called Domesday a description which meant an "assessment">....... The rationale of Domesday might, then, have been connected with the fiscal system. One might theorize that the survey was to be the basis for restructuring it. Perhaps William intended to shift the basis for the collection of the geld from the hundred to the honor within shires. If so, the organization of information in Domesday mirrored the structure of the new fiscal framework, and honors had functions beyond the military and judicial roles normally attributed to them. The theory that early Norman honors were fiscal units is attractive. It might ultimately provide an escape from the conundrum of Domesday, yet several difficulties stand in the way of such a solution. First, pointing out the weakness in the theory that the geld was collected from hundreds after 1086 is easy; establishing how the geld was actually collected in this period is far more difficult. Second, one would still need to explain the presence of the economic information. Obviously, it might have been the basis for deciding how many hides a manor could bear. This possibility goes back to Maitland who posited that a manor worth £ 1 would typically bear an assessment of one hide. If the existence of such an assessment scheme could be established, the economic information in Domesday would lose all its mystery.... No one would ever have had any trouble explaining Domesday if it were part of the process of creating the Norman honors in England. Given the conventional chronology, however, a fifteen year time lag seems to stand between the Norman settlement and the date of the survey. Yet how closely is the Non-nan colonization of England dated? Historians assume that the barons got their lands in the late 1060's and early 1070's. The evidence for this theory is remarkably thin. No royal charter either bears witness to the process or dates it.... If the barons had gotten their lands in the late 1060's and early 1070's, a number should have died before 1086. This is the case because the barons who led their knights during the Conquest were perforce all adults. A number must have been middle-aged, and a proportion of these men plus a group of unlucky younger men should have died before 1086. Of this composite group, several should have left behind heirs who were minors. The land of this subgroup should have been in the king's hands in 1086. However, if one looks for such land in Domesday, one will look in vain for the most part. A few examples appear---enough to prove that Domesday knew how to describe this type of situation...... It makes the barons alive in 1086 the heirs of Anglo-Saxons alive in 1066, and it mentions only a small number of intermediaries. As such long-lived Anglo-Saxons are even less plausible than immortal barons, both phenomena might be the result of the legal fiction that the barons were the heirs of the last generation of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy. A simpler explanation is, however, more likely. The absence of Anglo-Saxon intermediaries between the named holder in 1066 and the Norman in possession in 1086 may only reflect the fact that the last survey that the Norman's had related to Edward the Confessor's last years. ....What can we conclude? Recent research has made enough progress along several lines to suggest that the received picture of Domesday contains serious flaws. The Norman's undoubtedly got the general idea of making the survey from Anglo-Saxon exemplars. The administrative capacity for making the inquest was also probably a legacy from the old regime. Whether the Norman's' intention was traditional or new is a more difficult matter. A fiscal explanation of the survey would assimilate it to its Anglo-Saxon forebears. A feudal explanation would indicate that the Norman's reworked a native administrative tradition to a new purpose. (William E Kapelle The Purpose of the Domesday Book: A Quandry, from website )


(4) Domesday Landowners


Baldwin the Sheriff, was known by a number of different names such as Baudoin of Exeter, Baudoin de Meules, Baldwin the Viscount, Baudoin de Meules et du Sap. He was also known as FitzGilbert, since he was the eldest son of Gilbert, the Count of Brionne and Eu, who was the son of Richard I, Duke of Normandy. William (Baldwin the Sheriff) was granted vast domains, 164 manors, 159 of which were in Devonshire, 19 in Exeter. He built Rougemont Castle. He was Governor of the city of Exeter, Sheriff of Devonshire, one the most powerful men in the west country. He also built his castle at Okehampton. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Richard FitzBaldwin, who was also Sheriff of Devonshire. (from Unknown author, 'Devonshire Domesday' website )


"Baldwin of Moeles (now Muelles in the Department of Calvados, France) was the younger son of Count Gilbert of Brionne...Baldwin was delegated with other leading men-at-arms to help build a castle at Exeter after the revolt of 1068 and to remain there as part of the garrison and the custody of the castle remained in his family. He also had his own castle at Okehampton. He was Sheriff of Devon by 1070 and no doubt held the office until his death some time before 1096 when his son William is addressed in a charter together with Bishop Osbern and Warin the Sheriff of Cornwall. His fief is the largest in Devon, but he also held land in Somerset and Dorset." (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 16)


On Bishop of Coutances "Dugdale, apparently quoting Orderic Vital, says that Geoffrey, being of a noble Norman extraction, and more skilful in arms than divinity, knowing better how to train up soldiers than to instruct his clergy, was an eminent commander in that signal battle near Hastings, in Sussex. The words of Orderic are not quite so precise as respects the battle; he says that the Bishop rendered essential service and support at it, but neither by him nor by any other writer is it indicated that he was entrusted with a command in it. Wace describes him as receiving confessions, giving benedictions, and imposing penalties on the night before the battle, but not as taking active part in the battle itself, though, with the prelate's pugnacious propensities, it is almost impossible to believe he could withstand the temptation.... The first time we hear of him after the battle is at the coronation of William in Westminster Abbey, when, "at the instigation of the Devil," says the pious Orderic, an unforeseen occurrence, pregnant with mischief to both nations and an omen of future calamities, suddenly occurred. For when Aldred, the Archbishop, demanded of the English, and Geoffrey, Bishop of Coutances, of the Norman's, whether they consented to have William for their King, and the whole assembly with one voice, though not in one language, shouted assent, the men-at-arms on guard outside the Abbey, hearing the joyful acclamations of the people within in a language they did not understand, suspected some treachery, and rashly set fire to the neighbouring houses. The flames spreading, the congregation, seized with a panic, rushed to the doors in order to make their escape, and a scene of the utmost confusion ensued, during which the ceremony of the coronation was with difficulty completed by the trembling clergy, the mighty Conqueror himself being seriously alarmed, not so much for his life as for the evil effects of this untoward event upon his new subjects. In 1069, when the West Saxons of Dorset and Somerset made an attack on Montacute, Bishop Geoffrey, at the head of the men of London, Winchester, and Salisbury, fell upon them by surprise and routed them, putting many to the sword and miserably mutilating the prisoners. In 1071 he was appointed to represent the King at the trial of Bishop Odo, on the complaint of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as already mentioned; and three years later we find him again in arms beside that same Odo, marching to suppress the rebellion of the Earls of Hereford and Norfolk, and for these and other services he was rewarded by the Conqueror with "two hundred and eighty vills, which are commonly called manors." An assistant at the coronation of the Conqueror, he was in attendant at his funeral, and died on the 2nd of February, 1093-4, leaving his large domains in England to his nephew, Robert, Earl of Northumberland, son of his brother, Roger de Moubrai, who fought at Senlac, but of whom, strange to say, there appears no trace whatever of any benefit accruing to him for his services in that important action. His son, Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, having joined in the conspiracy against William Rufus in 1095, was taken prisoner, and languished, we are told, thirty years in a dungeon at Windsor. As late as 1088 (1st of Rufus), Geoffrey, Bishop of Coutances, witnesses the charter of foundation of St. Mary's at York as Governor of the earldom: "Eo tempore Northymbrorum Consulatum regebat," -- an office which we have seen stated to have been held by Walcher, Bishop of Durham, after the judicial murder of Waltheof, and previous to the gift of the earldom to Alberic. The latter may have either resigned or forfeited the earldom when he left England on his Grecian expedition, and Bishop Geoffrey held the government of the county until his death in 1093, when his nephew Robert, succeeding to all his vast estates, was probably advanced to the dignity of Earl of Northumberland by Rufus. At any rate, I have not been able to arrive at any nearer approach to the fact" (From J.R. Planché 1874 The Conqueror and His Companions Somerset Herald, London: Tinsley Brothers 1874, extract on Patterson's genealogy website )


"Geoffrey of Mowbray was consecrated Bishop of Coutances in 1048 or 1049. Between then and his arrival in England in 1066 he was very active in reorganising the diocese of Coutances, finishing and endowing the new cathedral at Coutances and promoting learning there. He was present as chief chaplain at the battle of Hastings and played an important part in William's consecration at Westminster. He is sometimes called the Bishop of St Lô which is close to Coutances....Geoffrey was rewarded with a great number of lands in England, especially in Devon and Somerset, these lands forming his personal fief, not that of the Church of Coutances. he played a prominent part in suppressing the rebellion in the South-West in 1069, coming to the relief of Montacute Castle and was involved in several other campaigns of suppression. He was also one of King William's chief justiciars, notably in the trial held at Pennenden Heath in Kent in 1072 between Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury and Bishop Odo of Bayeaux, and in the Ely land disputes. He joined in the rebellion against William Rufus in 1088, but was pardoned......On Geoffrey's death in 1093 his fief passed to his nephew, Robert of Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, who forfeited it as the price for his rebellion in 1095. William Rufus then granted the great majority of his Devon lands to Iudhael of Totnes from whom they passed to his son Alfred. A half of Alfred's inheritance, which formed the Honour of Barnstaple, then passed to his sister who married Henry de Tracy; the other half went to another sister Aenor, who married Phillip of Braose, and thence to her son William of Braose, but reverted in 1213 to a later Henry de Tracy, thus recombining the two halves of the inheritance. The lands then passed to Henry's grand-daughter Maud, whose first husband was Nicholas son of Martin and her second was Geoffrey de Camville; her lands passed to William Fitz Martin" (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 3)

FitzPoyntz, Drogo, Son of William of Poyntz. Holdings in Glos., Herefords., Wilts., Worcs. Also 73 holdings in Devon as under-tenant of Bishop of Coutances (


"Drogo is probably Drogo son of Mauger." Mauger may have been Mauger of Carteret. Drogo was the Bishop of Coutances chief subtenant in Devon, holding all but 19 of his manors in chapter 3. (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 3,9)


Robert of Punchardon. "The ancestor of the family in England was one Robert de Pontecardon, a follower of William the Conqueror in the Norman conquest of England in 1066. For his services at that time he was granted many possessions in various English counties, which he divided among his four sons. Sir Robert de Punchardoun, eldest of these sons, who held lands In Devonshire and Hampshire, was the father of Sir William and Hugh, of whom Sir William was the father of Sir Roger, Reginald, and Robert of whom the second was the father of William and Sir Oliver; and Hugh was the father of Reginald, Mary, and William, of whom the first was the father of Roger, father of Roger, father of Sir Richard, who was the father of Walter and John, of whom the first had a son named Richard. Other early records of the family In England mention Ralph de Punchardon, of Hertfordshire, son of the first Robert, who was the father of Geoffrey, father of William, who had Roger, Geoffrey, and Ivo, of whom the first had a son named Geoffrey; Sir William de Punchardon, of Somersetshjre (believed to have been a grandson of the first Robert), in the latter twelfth century, who was the father of Sir Hugh, father of Sir William; Eudo de Punchardon, of Yorkshire, In 1273, who was the son of one Sir Roger of that place; Robert de Punchardon, of Berkshire, in 1277; Nicholas de Punchardon, of Yorkshire, in 1279; Oliver Punchardon, of London, In 1297, who was the father of a son named Robert; and Alexander Punchard or de Punchardon, of Norfolk, County, in 1305, who was the father of Richard and at least one other son whose name is not of record." (From an excerpt from material compiled by the Media Research Bureau, Washington, D.C. for Robert Charles Pinkerton around 1940, kindly provided by Bob Pinkerton, from Pinkerton genealogy website )


(5) Domesday entries



"W(alscin) holds Berrynarbor [Hurtesberie] himself. Edith held it before 1066.

It paid tax for 2 hides. Land for 17 ploughs. In lordship 4 ploughs; 6 slaves;½ hide.

20 villagers and 10 smallholders with 7 ploughs and 1½ hides.

Meadow, 1 acre; pasture, 200 acres; woodland, 100 acres.

2 cobs; 11 cattle; 30 pigs; 200 sheep; 83 goats.

Value formerly and now £6" (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 1 23,2)


Berrynarbor and East Haggington are both held by Walter of Douai (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 1 23,3) who was also known as Walscin and Walter of Flanders. He was married to Edeva who was the 1066 tenant of Uffculme. The descent of Walter's manors is not entirely clear. Most seem to have formed the Honour of Bampton and to have passed on his death c. 1107 to his son Robert who rebelled in 1136, thence to Robert's daughter Juliana who was first married to Fulk Paynel. The lands remained in the Paynel family and were held in 1242-43 by Herbert son of Matthew. (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 1 23)


"Berrynarbor, DB Hurtesberie, 'Heort's burh' which simplified to 'Berry' before gaining the name of the 13th century holder Nerebert as a suffix: see EPNS i p.27. It is a parish in Braunton Hundred and can be deduced from the Tax Return for Braunton and Shirwell Hundred. In Fees, p400 Bery, held by Philip de Nerebert, is a fee of William Briwere, while in Fees p. 793 Byri is held of the Honour of Bampton......In the first list of Hundreds bound up with Exon DB Hertesberia constitutes a separate Hundred" (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 23,2)


Combe Martin

"William of Falaise holds Combe Martin [Cumbe] from the King. Brictric and Edwy held it freely (and) jointly before 1066. It paid tax for 2 hides and 1 virgate of land. Land for 20 ploughs. In lordship 3 ploughs; 9 slaves; 3 virgates.

18 villagers and 10 smallholders with 14 ploughs and 1½ hides.

Pasture 1 league long and as wide; woodland, 5 acres. 21 cattle; 9 pigs; 140 sheep; 19 goats

Value formerly and now 100s" (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 1 20,1)


"Combe Martin, a parish in Braunton Hundred. It is held as Comb' Martin by Nicholas son of Martin in RH i pp. 66a, 95a and from the Honour of Blagdon in FA i p.415" (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 20,1)


"For these villagers there was available rather more than 2000 acres of ploughable land, one plough was thought to be able to till 120 acres, and there was land for 20 ploughs. But there were in the village only 17 ploughs with their accompanying oxen, so there was good ploughable land still awaiting cultivation. There was also a great deal of rough pasture for grazing, presumably on Hangman Hill and Holdstone and Girt Downs, as there still is. There was also a small amount of woodland. In fact the land of Combe martin was almost fully used even at that early date." (Stanes 1989 p 4) [A plough in Devon was only thought to be just over 40 acres]


"It is likely that all these people lived up the Combe near the Church. There is no mention of a Church in Domesday book, but that does not mean there was not one there, built probably of cob and thatch. In later years the market with its High Cross, the Borough, the Park, and the long gone Mansion House, were all fairly close to the church, so it is probable that in 1086 that was where everyone lived. Living close to the sea was unwise, houses would have attracted the attention of passing Vikings or Irish raiders." (Stanes 1989 p 5)


"William of Falaise. He was married to the daughter of Serlo of Bercy. William's daughter Emma married William de Curcy. Falaise is in the department of Calvados, France. Williams lands later form the Honour of Dartington, which was joined to the Honour of Blagdon (Somerset) formed around the fief of his father-in-law, Serlo of Burcy" (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 20)


East Haggington

"Of the former Manor of East Haggington little remains but some walls and parts of what was once a beautiful lime ash floor such as is found in late Saxon or early Norman places of this type. There is also a massive oak refractory table of very great age" (Blake 1964 p 4-5)


"Wulfric holds Haggington [Hagetone] from W(alscin). Wulfmer and Godric held it jointly before 1066. It paid tax for 3 virgates of land.

Land for 5 ploughs. In lordship 2 ploughs; 3 slaves; 1 virgate.

10 villagers and 2 smallholders with 1 plough and 2 virgates.

Pasture, 100 acres; woodland, 20 acres. 10 cattle; 9 pigs; 50 sheep; 37 goats.

Formerly 15s; value now 30s." (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 1 23,3)

"East Haggington in Berrynarbor Parish, Braunton Hundred. Haggington had the same late 12th/early 13th century family holding it as Berrynarbor (William Nerbert). He exchanged it and it is subsequently held of the Honour of Dartington; see OJR H8 pp 398,439. In Fees p 782 Hakinton' is held of the Barony of Dartington. It is Yesthagynton (East Haggington) in FA i p 414, Westagynton in FA i p. 360, the latter probably in error, as West Haggington is in Ilfracombe" (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 23,3)


West Haggington

"Robert holds Haggington [Haintone] from Baldwin. Ulf held it before 1066.

It paid tax for 1 hide. Land for 10 ploughs. In lordship 2 ploughs; 2 slaves; 1 virgate.

12 villagers and 4 smallholders with 5 ploughs and 3 virgates.

Pasture, 50 acres. 2 cattle; 4 pigs; 100 sheep.

Value formerly and now 60s." (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 1 16,70)


"In Fees p 784 William de Punchardun (a descendant of Robert) holds in Hyaunton' [Heanton Punchardon], Hakynton' (Haggington) and Blakewille (Blakewell) from the Honour of Okehampton. In FA i p.413 these places appear as Heannton, Blakewill and Westagynton" (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 16,69)


"West Haggington in Ilfracombe parish, Braunton Hundred...East Haggington is in Berrynarbor parish" (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 1 16,70)


"Haggington [Hagintone]. Wulffrith held it before 1066 [now held by Drogo for the Bishop of Coutances]. It paid tax for 1 virgate of land. Land for 2 ploughs.

2 villagers have them there, and 1 smallholder.

Pasture, 20 acres.

Formerly 10s; value now 6s" (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 1 3,27)


"East Haggington is in Berrynarbor parish and West Haggington in Ilfracombe, both in Braunton Hundred. OJR's identification with Kings Heanton (in Marwood, King unknown), although accepted by EPNS i p.51, cannot be correct since other forms of Kings Heanton point to derivation from OE heah and tūn 'high farm' as Henton Punchardon, whereas the DB form points to Haggington (Haecga's farm). In spite of this, no descent of Haggington to the Honour of Barnstaple has been found". Wulfrith is OE Wulffrith PNDB pp 418-419. 2 Villagers have them there refers to the 2 ploughs, as Exon states (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 3,27)



"Hele [Hela]. Edwy held it before 1066. It paid tax for 1/2 virgate of land. Land for 3 ploughs. In lordship 1 plough and 1 furlong, with 1 slave and 1 villager and 1 smallholder ...(who have) 1 furlong and 2 oxen in a plough.

Pasture, 30 acres; woodland, 20 acres. 5 cattle; 7 pigs; 20 sheep; 10 goats.

Formerly 5s, value now 10s"  (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 1 3,44)


The picture shown above of a typed version of the Exchequer Domesday entry for Hele is reproduced by kind permission from the Phillimore edition of DOMESDAY BOOK (General Editor, John Morris) volume 9, Devon, published in 1985 by Phillimore & Co Ltd, Shopwyke Manor Barn, Chichester, West Sussex, PO20 2BG. For an entire range of Domesday Products, visit


Hele is probably in Ilfracombe parish, Braunton Hundred, see OJR H8 p.394 (The Hundreds of Devon (supplementary) VIII The hundreds of Braunton, Shirwell and Fremington 1935).  (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 3,44)


"The Exchequer scribe frequently seems to have deliberately omitted odd oxen given in Exon. For example, he makes no mention of the ox in 3,88, 17,9 and 17.98, nor of the 2 oxen in 3,74, 3,76, 16,8, 17,17, 17,42 and 21,18, nor of the 2 animalia (probably oxen) in a plough in 17,38, nor of the 3 oxen in 35,7 and 42,2 (though he records the 3 oxen in lordship in 36,17 and on several occasions he writes '1/2 plough' for '3 oxen'. Because of the uncertainty as to the number of oxen to a plough team it is impossible to tell sometimes how many oxen are being disregarded, e.g in 5,1 the DB scribe may be discounting either 1 or 3 oxen and in 15,14 he may either have rounded up (at 8 oxen to a plough) or down (at 6 oxen) to the nearest plough." (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 3,44)


Exon manuscript mentions 2 oxen, omitted from exchequer version (Darby & Welldon Finn 1967 p 415)


"Hele is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1085 as Hela - a Saxon name. After the Norman conquest Hele and Higher and Lower Warcombe were given to the Bishop of Coutances. A powerful Bishop of the time who owned 11 Burgesses in and around Barnstaple"  (ICTG 1985-6 p 1)



"Robert holds Ilfracombe [Alfreincome] from Baldwin. Aelmer held it before 1066. It paid tax for 1 hide. Land for 9 ploughs. In lordship 2 ploughs; 1 virgate. 12 villagers and 12 smallholder with 9 ploughs and 3 virgates; 5 slaves.

Meadow, 5 acres; pasture, 100 acres. 1 cob; 5 cattle; 15 pigs; 133 sheep

value formerly and now £4"  (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 1 16,84)


"A Parish in Braunton Hundred. In Fees p. 784 the heirs of Oliver de Campo Ernulfi (Champernoun) hold in Alfrincumbe. It is coupled with Warcombe"  (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 16,84)



"Mullacott [Molecote]. Alchere held it before 1066 [now held by Godbold]. It paid tax for 1/2 hide.

Land for 4 ploughs. 2 ploughs there; 2 slaves.

5 villagers and 2 smallholders.

Meadow, 1 acre; pasture, 10 acres. 4 cattle; 60 sheep.

Formerly 10s; value now 20s.

A thane held 1 furlong of this land before 1066; he could go to whichever lord he would. G(odbold) has 1 smallholder there and the rest of the land is lying waste (and is used) for pasture"  (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 1 47,7)


"Godbold, Nicholas the Bowman, Fulchere & Haimeric. Their holdings appear in Exon under the heading of 'Land of Nicholas the Bowman in Devonshire'. As with the large section French Men-at-Arms and the combined holdings of Walter and Gotshelm this Exon section is arranged by Hundred, not tenant  (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 47)

In the T.O. at 498 b 5;"Godbold has a manor called Mullacott. 1 furlong (ferdinus) has been added to it, which did not belong to the said manor in 1066. A thane held it jointly. It is completely waste (penitus uastata est)".  (Thorne & Thorne 1985 Part 2 47,7)


"There is mention in Domesday that "Robert de Mullacoth holds Mullacoth from the honour of Plympton". One interpretation of the old document says "all the manor apart from one meadow is completely waste". This is quite probable as much of the land would not have been cultivated at altitudes of this height and beyond’ (Thomas 1995 p 20)


(6) Domesday Interpretation


General issues

Exon Domesday contains more detailed Devon information than the Exchequer version but is not quite complete. The Exon Domesday also includes 2 lists of Hundreds, which are not quite identical (Darby & Welldon Finn 1967 p 223)


Hideage & ploughs

A hide was 120 arable acres in Cambridgeshire and elsewhere in the eastern shires (Maitland, Domesday Book & Beyond, pp 476-83) but the hide of central Wessex was far smaller, about 40 acres in Wiltshire and approximately this in Dorset (J Tait, large hides and small hides, EHR xvii, 280-2) (Stenton 1955 p 276)


It also seems as though when the Domesday book says ‘x ploughs can till it’ it means ‘there are x farms on this manor in addition to the demesne farm’ But there are many exceptions for which an explanation is not easy. (Darby & Welldon Finn 1967 p 224,5)


The ploughland is to all intents and purposes the same as a hide, but in the hill country is more likely 40 acres than 120. (Bourne 1968 p 41)


"The old traditional account of an acre as a days work unit and the later formalised picture of the acre as a ploughed strip 200 yards ( a ‘furrow long’ or a furlong) in length, and 22 yards, the length of a cricket pitch, in breadth" (Loyn 1991 p 158)


"There is no need to talk too precisely of a typical villein holding of a virget, of a quarter of a Domesday hide, of 30 Domesday acres. The variation from district to district, and from manor to manor was too pronounced to permit universality to such a generalisation, though it must be added that once the conception of typical is legitimised there is no other figure that gives a more accurate picture than the virgate, or 30 acre unit" (Loyn 1991 p 358)


Finberg 1951 p 31 says that the Devon acre was 5760 sq yds (not the 4840 now) Also p 40 that the medieval system of land tax rested on the assumption that a peasant family could subsist on 15-16 arable acres (plus pasture, wood & meadows) (Green 2000 p 37)


Plough-lands - usually ‘there is land for n plough-teams’ This is often more than the number of ploughs teams actually present. Very occasionally is it less, and that in very fertile soils. To the west of Combe-martin there are an average of 2.9 plough-teams per sq mile, to the east 1.8 (Darby & Welldon Finn 1967 p 239,40,42) probably this was the total land available for ploughing, used or not - there is the possibility that some of the land was left fallow and only part ploughed each year (Darby & Welldon Finn 1967 p 350)


Plough-teams - normally draw a distinction between those under demesne and those held by the peasantry. Some indication that a team was 6 oxen, but some discrepancies, i.e. Exon Hele mentions 2 oxen in addition to the demesne team, Exchequer version just mentions the team. (Darby & Welldon Finn 1967 p 244,5)


"It is well known that the whole scheme of land-measurements which runs through Domesday Book is based upon the theory that land is ploughed by teams of eight oxen. It is perhaps possible that smaller teams were sometimes employed; but when we read that a certain man 'always ploughed with three oxen,' or used 'to plough with two oxen but now ploughs with half a team,' or 'used to plough with a team but now ploughs with two oxen,' we are reading, not of small teams, but of the number of oxen that the man in question contributed towards the team of eight that was made up by him and his neighbours. .... There may have been light ploughs as well as heavy ploughs, but the heavy plough must have been extremely common, since the term 'plough team' (caruca) seems invariably to mean a team of eight." (FW Maitland, Doomsday Book & Beyond 1897 from Website )


The ploughland, the caracute, is a measure of arable land and to all intents and purposes is identical to the hide. The hide is the amount of land that could be ploughed in a season. The ploughland of the hill country, however, is certainly not 120 acres, it is a fair guess that it is somewhat less than half, about 40 acres. (Bourne 1968 p 41)



Population are principally villeins, bordars and serfs. These are probably all household heads, so must be multiplied by 4-5 to get the true population (it is not known whether serfs should instead be treated individually) (Darby & Welldon Finn 1967 p 246)


"In entry after entry and county after county the servi are kept well apart from the villani, bordarii, cotarii....We must render it thus -- 'On the demesne there are a teams and b servi; and there are c villani and d bordarii with e teams.' Still we seem to see a gently graduated scale of social classes, villani, bordarii, cotarii, servi....A division is in this instance made between the people who have oxen and the people who have none; villani have oxen, cotarii and servi have none; sometimes the bordarii stand above this line, sometimes below it......But, to come to the fundamental rule, the villanus, the meanest of free men, is a two-hundred-man, that is to say, if he be slain the very substantial wergild of 200 Saxon shillings or £4 must be paid to his kinsfolk, while a man-bót of 30 shillings is paid to his lord. But if a servus be slain his kinsfolk receive the comparatively trifling sum of 40 pence while the lord gets the man-bót of 20 shillings...... at any rate the life of the villein is worth the life of twenty-four serfs. Then again, it is by no means certain that a lord cannot kill his serf with impunity. We are accustomed perhaps to suppose that while the villani have lands that are in some sense their own, while they support themselves and their families by tilling those lands, the servus has no land that is in any sense his own, but is fed at his lord's board, is housed in his lord's court, and spends all his time in the cultivation of his lord's demesne lands. Such may have been the case in those parts of England where we hear of but few servi; those few may have been inmates of the lord's house and have had no plots of their own. But such can hardly have been the case in the south-western counties; the servi are too many to be menials. Indeed it would seem that these servi sometimes had arable plots, and had oxen, which were to be distinguished from the demesne oxen of their lords" (FW Maitland Domesday Book and Beyond, 1897 from website )



"The most important of these were the oxen, used for ploughing. Their presence is known from the number of "ploughs" or plough-teams given near the beginning of each entry. A plough-team probably consisted of eight oxen. The teams were usually, but not always, divided between those belonging to the lord of the manor for use on his demesne land, and those belonging to "the men". ...The other animals mentioned may be taken to have belonged to the lord, but this was rarely stated specifically. They included pigs, sheep and goats, which are relatively self explanatory, though it should be remembered that animals and their products were all put to a much wider range of uses than is the case today. There were also "rounceys" (small horses), and "beasts" (cattle)" (Withan Domesday website, prepared by Phil Gyford 1995 from a booklet by Janet Gyford )

Livestock on demesne land only is counted (Darby & Welldon Finn 1967 p 285)



Usually 2 values, given for 1086 and 1066. Generally the more teams and people the higher value, but no consistent relationship (Darby & Welldon Finn 1967 p 254)


(7) Hele Geography in Doomsday

The following details are based on the Ordnance Survey map of 1891 (Landmark Trust, 2001 website ) There are two areas to the south of Comyn farm that are marked yarde. The smaller, nearer to Comyn and marked yarde twice, is about 2½ acres and the larger, comprising three fields marked yarde three times, is about 8 acres. The larger field could be the furlong (7½ acres) in Lordship to the Manor of Hele. The remaining plough in Lordship would probably have included the small yarde field and may have comprised the surrounding valley bottom, of about 21 acres (in a crescent around the west side of the small yarde field) and possibly the valley bottom between Cat lane and Chambercombe Lane, down to Hele Village, of about 25 acres. The remaining ploughlands not in Lordship (about 70 acres) were probably on the slopes of Comyn Hill. The 20 acres of woodland were probably Comyn and Chambercombe woods. This would have been occupied by the 7 pigs. The value of Hele had doubled in the 20 years since the Conquest, from 5s to 10s.

Alternatively, the manor of Hela could have been at Littletown, with the Lordship land to the west of the current settlement.


(8) Haggington Geography in Doomsday

The following details are based on the Ordnance Survey map of 1891 (Landmark Trust, 2001 website )

There are three landlords who hold land in Haggington. The largest holding, 10 ploughs of West Haggington, is held by Robert for Baldwin. The middle holding is 5 ploughs of East Haggington, held by Wulfric for Walscin and the smallest holding is 2 ploughs in West Haggington held by Drogo for the Bishop of Coutances.

East and West Haggington are either side of the Widmouth hill ridgeway (Oxenpark Lane). Presumably they were one manor when Berrynarbor was a Hundred and were subsequently divided into two manors taxed at one hide each. East Haggington appears to have lost land associated with 1/4 hide tax to West Haggington in further boundary changes (the parish boundary on the Ordnance Survey map of 1889 is shown running north along Oxenpark Lane, but at Hole farm it turns to the north-east to Watermouth. Perhaps it once continued north to Widmouth farm).

East Haggington had land for 5 ploughs, about 200 acres. Presuming it was bounded by the stream from Berrynarbor to the east and the parish boundary to the west. It probably went south of the coastal ridgeway (which was probably to the south of the current main road): the area so enclosed is about 180-200 acres. However this does not leave much room for the 100 acres of pasture and 20 acres of forest ! It must have held land outside these boundaries, possibly to the east of Northfield Wood, on the other side of the stream. There were 10 villagers, 2 smallholders and 3 slaves. It is not clear where they all lived. The 1891 map shows ruins of a Manor house at E Haggington and Wulfric may have lived here, with one or more of the slaves. E Haggington, like Hele, had doubled in value since the Conquest, from 15s to 30s.

West Haggington had land for 10 ploughs, about 400 acres. Presuming this was bounded to the east by the Widmouth ridgeway (Oxenpark Lane) and to the west by Hele valley: the area so enclosed is about 480 acres, sufficient for the 10 ploughs and 50 acres of pasture. There were 12 villagers, 4 smallholders and 2 slaves. The farmsteads of W Haggington, Beera, Littletown, Higher & Lower Trayne and Keypit may all have been occupied. W Haggington has the same value before and after the conquest, 60s.

There were a further 2 ploughs (about 80 acres) in West Haggington. Presumably this is the land bounded by the parish boundary to the east and an extension of Widmouth ridgeway (Oxenpark Lane) to the west. This is about 100 acres, sufficient for the 2 ploughs and 20 acres of pasture. There were two villagers, possibly at Hole and Watermouth farms (Watermouth farm has since been replaced by Lydford), and a smallholder, possibly at Widmouth farm. This land has lost value since the conquest, from 10s to 6s. Presumably some of the land was no longer used.


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