Domesday Book

The Domesday Book was created by King William I, the Conqueror as a way of him documenting the financial worth of his kingdom.

William ordered the survey in December 1085, to determine the taxes that needed to be paid. He wanted to find out who owned what, how much and what it was worth; then he would decide how much tax was to be paid. It would also show him how much military support, both cash and soldiers that the barons were required to give to the king when needed.

Scribes were sent around the country, protected by armed men and led by a Royal Commissioner. Each commissioner was given a list of standard questions to be answered by the landowner.

The volumes listed the name of the head of the household, the size of the manor and the amount, of livestock held.

The volumes are organised into chapters, showing the manor (fief), the name of the Lord, Bishop or tenant-in-chief of that manor. Some owned more than one manor, often in different parts of the country, therefore there may be more than one entry on the manuscript.

Domesday was originally 2 manuscripts written in Latin containing over 13,000 settlements in England and Wales.

Little Domesday covered Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex and Great Domesday covered much of the rest of England and parts of Wales.

Some parts of England were not included, possibly due to their tax-exempt status.

This document was a huge undertaking and took around six months to complete. Nothing of this magnitude was attempted again until the 19th Century.

It is a valuable source today that gives a wonderful insight into Medieval England.

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