0003…Domesday at Stoke Gifford


owlA History of STOKE GIFFORD & Nearby Parishes
Edited by Adrian Kerton


Domesday Terms

Place: Stoke [Gifford] Hundred: Letberge County: Gloucestershire
Total population: 16 households (medium).
Total tax assessed: 5 geld units (quite large).
Taxed on 5.0. Value: Value to lord in 1066 £6. Value to lord in 1086 £8.
Households: 8 villagers. 3 smallholders. 4 slaves. 1 priest.
Ploughland: 4 lord’s plough teams. 8 men’s plough teams.
Lord in 1066: Dunn of Brimpsfield.
Lord in 1086: Osbern Giffard.
Tenant-in-chief in 1086: Osbern Giffard. Phillimore reference: 50,2

Harry Stoke Swinehead Hundred
Alfred held from Earl Harold
Land of the Bishop of Coutances
Theobald holds from him
2 Hides 1 which pay tax the other not
In Lordship 1 plough
6 slaves
Meadow 5 acres
2 Villages and 1 small holder with 1 plough
Value was 40s now 20s

An area attached to a dwelling (Small Court)

Yardland, as much land as would keep busy through the year a pair of oxen, about 30 acres.

Fourth part of an acre or hide.

A service which some tenants had to perform to their lord at his request to reap his corn at harvest time.

Gule of August
Lammas Day, 1st of August

House with its land and outbuildings.

Form of taxation abolished in the 14th Century, paid to the king or superior.

Casual profit coming to the lord of the manor above regular revenue.

Right of privilege of using something not one’s own

Provision rent
1lb Pepper 1 per year 1 lbs of pepper
9 eggs x 16 once per year 1 gross of eggs
1 Hen x 12 once per year 12 Hens
1 Cock x 12 once per year 12 cocks

Of higher standing than villagers.  However, they were apparently not allowed to leave the manor. Originally they were men who rode as messengers or as escorts for the king or their lord  but they also worked their own holdings and those of their lords. They did not owe full military service and were equivalent to the later tenants in sergeantry.

Latin, vavassorius. Vassalls

Domesday Book records the earliest references to vavassors in England. The term is normally used by historians with the meaning of a feudal vassal; but the two references in Great Domesday suggest tenants distinctly lower in the social scale. One records two vavassors paying a modest rent (BUK 12,30), the other a vavassor ‘who has 2 cows’ (HAM IoW7,15). Little Domesday Book is even more explicit. It records several dozen vavassors, all holding a few acres apiece from the Crown, all evidently free peasants of the kind found in very large numbers throughout eastern England. There is no sign here of the twelfth-century concept that feudal society was ‘composed of earls, barons and vavassors’. By the early twelfth century, however, the term vavassor, like that of miles, had acquired something of the noble status it connoted during the later middle ages.

For further information, see Peter Coss, ‘Literature and terminology: the vavassor in England’, Social relations and ideas, edited by T.H. Aston, P.R. Coss, Christopher C. Dyer, and Joan Thirsk (1983), pages 109-50; Susan Reynolds, Fiefs and vassals: the medieval evidence reinterpreted (1994); and Frank Barlow, William Rufus (new edition, 2000).

Latin, servus.

Servus, translated as slave in the Phillimore edition, is sometimes rendered as serf.

Slaves formed the fourth largest group among the peasantry, over 10% of the recorded population and significantly higher than this if allowance is made for their almost complete omission from the counties of circuit 6. This omission was certainly a quirk of the return from the northern circuit since slaves appear in considerable numbers in all other counties, and the one satellite text for the circuit reveals that there were slaves on the estates recorded there but not in Domesday Book.

Slaves were at the bottom of the economic and social scale, normally without resources of their own and there to perform their lord’s bidding. The significant correlation between numbers of slaves and plough teams on the lord’s demesne, or home farm, has been taken to prove that they were often utilised by the lord as his ploughmen.

There has been some discussion as to whether slaves were recorded as individuals or as heads of families. If the recorded slaves were all individuals, they constituted little more than 2% of the population, since the totals for other groups are normally multiplied by a factor of 4-5 on the assumption that the numbers represent heads of families rather than individual peasants. These divergent estimates are of real consequence. The lower figure would certainly help to explain the rapid disappearance of slavery after the Conquest. However, the most recent investigations have concluded that slaves were probably counted on the same basis as other social groups, in which case they formed 10% of the population. In this case, their virtual disappearance within a generation of 1086 was a remarkable social transformation aided, perhaps, by a tendency by lords to endow slaves to perform their ploughing functions as ‘free ploughmen’.

For further information, see M.M. Postan, The famulus: the estate labourer in the XIIth and XIIIth centuries (1954); David Pelteret, Slavery in early medieval England from the reign of Alfred until the twelfth century (1995); and J.S. Moore, ‘Quot homines?: the population of Domesday England’, Anglo-Norman Studies, vol. 19 (1997), pages 307-34.

Latin, bordarius

Bordarius, translated as smallholder in the Phillimore edition, is sometimes rendered as bordar.

Smallholders formed the second largest group among the peasantry, constituting almost a third of the recorded population. They were recorded in every county.

On average, they possessed 5 acres of land and might have a share in the villagers’ plough teams, though their holdings could be more meagre. In some counties, they are difficult to distinguish from Cottagers or cottagers, who normally possessed no more than a garden. It has been suggested that high concentrations of bordars among the population might indicate areas of economic opportunity and expansion either in land clearance or urban development.

For more detail, see F.W. Maitland, Domesday Book and beyond (1897); Reginald Lennard, Rural England, 1086-1135: a study of social and agrarian conditions (1959); H.C. Darby, Domesday England (1977); Sally P.J. Harvey, ”Evidence for settlement study: Domesday Book’, in English medieval settlement, edited by Peter H. Sawyer (1979); and Christopher C. Dyer, ‘Towns and cottages in eleventh-century England’, Studies in medieval history presented to R.H.C. Davis (1985), pages 91-106.

Latin, villanus.

Villanus, translated as villager in the Phillimore edition, is sometimes rendered as villein.

Villagers formed the largest group among the peasantry, over 40% of the recorded population. They were found in every county and never form less than 30% of the population in the counties of Great Domesday, even in those counties with substantial numbers of free peasants. In many counties, they constitute a half, two-thirds, or an even higher proportion of the total.

In economic terms, the villagers were indistinguishable from Freemen. They were the most substantial group among the unfree peasantry, possessing on average 30 acres of land and two plough oxen.
For more detail, see F.W. Maitland, Domesday Book and beyond (1897); Reginald Lennard, Rural England, 1086-1135: a study of social and agrarian conditions (1959); and H.C. Darby, Domesday England (1977).

Copyright Adrian Kerton 2005 and copyright of the individuals who have donated information