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  • Glossary

    Below are some of the terms that appear regularly throughout the Domesday Book, their 11th century translations and their meanings.

    A  |  B  |  C  |  D  |  E  |  F  |  G  |  H  |  I  |  J  |  L  |  M  |  O  |  P  |  R  |  S  |  T  |  U  |  V  |  W  |  Y

    The Domesday Book, 1086


    Acre acra, ager A value of land assessment used often in Domesday for pasture, meadow and woodland. Measurement of an acre as a multiple of hides varies in Domesday from region to region.

    Arpent arpent Having French origin, the arpent is an area of land commonly used in reference to vineyards in Domesday; it has no set value.

    Assart Land cleared from a forest to make space for buildings or farmland.

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    B An abbreviation of berewic in Domesday (see below).

    Before 1066 Refers to information used in Domesday from records originating from the reign of King Edward the Confessor. Domesday records list property and land values before the Conquest, after it and contemporary values. See alsoTRE.

    Berewic berewica Derived from the Old English word for corn farm, berewic in Domesday refers to an outlying holding within a manor, separate but taxed as a part of that manor. See also B, above.

    Bodyguard hevewarda Local customary obligation for a bodyguard for the king on his passing through.

    Boor borus A lower class of peasant, but above slave; term only recorded in counties outside the Danelaw.

    Bovate bovata Derived from the Latin word bo, meaning ox, a bovate was a measure of land which could be ploughed by one eighth of a plough, in other words equivalent to one eighth of a carucate. Also used for customary assessment. Used in Domesday records for places under Danelaw.

    Burgess burgus Townspeople. The Domesday Book lists numbers of burgesses in some settlements but not others. What constituted a burgess is unclear, as it is thought some of those 'townspeople' may have been rural labourers resident close to towns.

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    Cartage avera Obligation to provide horses or mules for use by the king.

    Carucate carucata Derived from the Latin word caruca, meaning plough, this is a measure of land used in Danelaw (North and Eastern) counties in Domesday. Equivalent to a hide and represented the amount of land which could be ploughed by one plough team. Also used in Domesday for customary assessment. See also bovate.

    Commote An area of Wales in Norman hands but subject to Welsh law.

    Cottager cotarius Lowest and smallest class of peasant.

    Customary due consuetudo Payment owed to the king or lord of a manor for rent, services, tax and duties.

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    Danegeld An Anglo-Saxon tax that could be levied across England, so called because the money raised would be used to buy off or fight Danish invaders.

    Defence obligation wara Obligations coupled with land ownership to pay tax or provide military service.

    d Denarius The English penny, the only silver coin used at the time of Domesday. Remained in English currency until 1971.

    Dreng Free men especially used in Lancashire; required to pay customs and provide services to the king in return for holding land.

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    Escort inward Similar to bodyguard. The obligation to provide mounted protection for the service of the king or sheriffs.

    Exon (Liber Exoniensis, or Exeter Domesday) The only surviving circuit return from the places in Great Domesday. This circuit covered Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset, and Exon provides the original recordings of the commissioners responsible for this area, which were then abbreviated into Domesday.

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    Fief See holding.

    Forest foras Not always a physical forest but an area under forest law, outside common law. With the exception of the New Forest Domesday does not give names of forests.

    Freedman colibertus, quolibertus A lower class of peasant above slaves, similar in Domesday to boors.

    Freeman francus homo, socmannus Class of peasant, substantial in number in Domesday, particularly in areas of Danelaw, and possessing relatively strong economic position. Francus homo refers to a French, particularly Norman settler, equivalent in status to a freeman.

    Furlong ferlinus, ferdinus, quarentina Area or length of land for tax assessment; area was one sixteenth of a hide or one quarter of a virgate; length about 220 yards.

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    Geld See tax.

    Go where he will One of many synonyms used in Domesday for the Anglo-Saxon landholder who had freedom of jurisdiction over his land. Disputes over this right arose with the Normans after the Conquest as their system of landholding obliged tenants to hold land under a tenant-in-chief (lord or institution).

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    Hide hida Measurement of land for tax assessment used outside Danelaw counties (where carucates were used). Approximately 120 acres, depending on local variations in the acre. See also virgate.

    Holding feudum Otherwise known as a fief; term used for a grouping of all the manors held by a single tenant-in-chief or under-tenant in the same county.

    Honour honor A term used in Domesday interchangeably with fief and holding.

    Housecarl huscarle Guards who formed part of a small standing army for the king, or for a town, funded by taxes used to buy off invading Vikings. Many were thanes.

    Hundred Hundredum Large administrative subdivision of land, each having its own representative body from local villages. Domesday commissioners collected information from these assemblies for the Domesday survey. In Danelaw counties the equivalent was the wapentake.

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    Inland inland Land in a lordship free from paying tax; owned and often farmed by the lord himself.

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    Jurisdiction soca A manor outlier which paid cutomary dues to a lord but which he did not own. The term sokeland is sometimes used to refer to similar in Danelaw counties.

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    Landholder See tenant-in-chief.

    League Measurement of distance, twelve furlongs, or about 1 miles.

    Lease for three lives Term in a lease, referring to the holder and and two other members of a family, perhaps wife, son or grandson.

    Leet Subdivision of land in Kent, equivalent of a Hundred; see also rape.

    Livery Land ownership or rights received as a gift from the king.

    Lordship dominium In one sense, the land owned by a tenant-in-chief (lord or institution). Also sometimes refers to the land owned by a tenant-in-chief and farmed directly by them, rather than by peasants. In Domesday entries a recurring phrase is 'is and always was in lordship'.

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    M Abbreviation occurring in the margin in Domesday, meaning manor.

    Man homo To be someone's man, owing service or work to them. Could also refer to a woman.

    Man-at-arms miles A soldier holding his land specifically in return for military service.

    Manor manerium, mansio Equivalent to a single holding, with its own court and probably its own hall, but not necessarily a manor house as we think of it. The manor was the basic unit of Domesday.

    Mark marka Money of accounting purposes. A silver mark was worth 13s 4d, a gold mark was worth 6.

    Mill A watermill. There were no windmills in England for another 100 years.

    Moneyer Coiners; a person licensed to strike coins, receiving the dyes from the government, and keeping 6 silver pennies in the pound.

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    Ora ora Money of accounting purposes worth 16d or 20d.

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    Packload summa A dry measure, used mainly for salt, corn, or sometimes for fish.

    Pannage pannequion Mast, or autumn feed for pigs, which were allowed to graze freely on the acorns and beechnuts on the woodland floor. The right to pannage is still part of some forest laws.

    Plough caruca, carruca In Domesday the word implies a plough team with its eight oxen and the plough itself. The measure of a carucate was originally the amount of land which such a team could plough in one day.

    Predecessor antecessor Previous land holder or holder of an office. Using the term implied that the succession has been legally made, and the powers have passed rightfully to the present holder.

    Presentations presentationes A payment for fishing rights.

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    Rape A subdivision of SussexOne of five, later six, subdivisions of Sussex, each with its lord and castle.

    Reeve praepositus, praefectus A royal official. Also a manor official, appointed by the lord, or sometimes elected by the peasants.

    Relief heriot Money or kind paid to a lord by relatives after a man's death in order for them to inherit.

    Revenue firma The provision which a manor owed the king, for example one night's keep for his court. In Domesday this is often translated into a money equivalent as cash replaced the barter economy.

    Rider, Riding-man radman, radcaitt Riding escort for a lord, chiefly recorded in the Welsh Marches.

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    Seat caput The principle manor of a lord. Still used today.

    Sester sextarium Measure of volume, commonly used for honey, when it amounted to 32 ounces.

    Sheriff The royal officer of a shire managing its judicial and financial affairs.

    Shilling solidus Money for accounting purposes (there was no actual coin) worth twelve pennies.

    Slave A man or woman who owed personal service to another, and who was un-free, and unable to move home or work or change allegiance, to buy or to sell, without permission.

    Smallholder bordariums Middle class of peasant, usually with more land than a cottager but less than a villager.

    Soke man See Freeman.

    Steersman Commander of a ship.

    Sulung Measurement of land in Kent, equivalent to 4 yokes, or the amount of land which could be ploughed by 4 ox-pairs (or approximately 2 hides). Used in Domesday for tax purposes. See also plough

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    Tax Geldum Periodic tax, first raised for the Danish wars, at a number of pence per hide, carucate or sulung.

    Tenant-in-Chief Dominus Lord (or institution, such as a church) holding land directly from the king; also called the 'landholder'.

    Thane tainus, teignus Originally a military companion of the king, later one of his administrative officials. In Domesday most thanes were Anglo-Saxons who had retained some of their land.Now known to most people through Macbeth, the thane of Cawdor.

    Third Penny The local earl's share of fines in shire or hundred courts, often allocated afterwards to a particular manor or church as a regular income.

    TRE tempora regis Eduardis In the time of King Edward the Confessor; by implication, when all in the realm was legally correct and ownership would have been rightfully secured.

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    Under-tenant Tenant holding land from a main landholder or tenant-in-chief.

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    Village villa Village; but the same Latin word was sometimes used for a larger village or a town.

    Villager villanus Member of the peasant class with most land.

    Virgate virgata, virga A quarter of a hide. Used in Domesday for tax purposes.

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    Wapentake wapentac Same as a hundred, in the Danish counties of England.

    Warland Land which was liable for tax, in contrast to inland.

    Waste Land which was either unusable or uncultivated, and not taxed. Although sometimes waste was the result of William's wars in the north, it could also simply mean land not fit for agricultural use.

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    Yoke A land measurement in Kent, equal to a quarter of a sulung. A yoke being a pair of ox, this represented the amount of land cultivated by an ox pair. Used in Domesday for tax purposes.

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    The Domesday Book, 1086

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