A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 1

east anglia

The Domesday Survey of 1086

Although he had been king for almost twenty years, William realised that he knew little of the people he had conquered in 1066. At Christmas in 1085 he 'had much thought and very deep speech with his Council about the land, how it was peopled and with what sort of man'. He ordered a survey to be made, now known as the Domesday Book, which was completed in 1086. This consisted of hundreds of sheets of parchment which were later bound into two large volumes. In these, the monks working for the king had written details of almost every manor, village or town in the country. It was written in Latin, was very abbreviated and so difficult to read, but it records the situation in King Edward's time (he died in 1065), and then the position in 1086 when the Survey was made. This survey was called the Domesday Book according to Matthew Paris (c,1200-1259) because 'it spared no man, but judged all men indifferently (equally) as the Lord in that great day will do'.

This tells us that Halesworth consisted of three manors which were in the Hundred of Blything, and the reports tell us all about them in this translation :-

Aelfric held Halesworth in the time of Edward as a manor with 2 caracutes of land, then 4 villagers, now 5; then 7 bordars (smallholders) now 10, There are also 2 serfs (slaves). Then as now 2 ploughs belonged to Aelfric, and in the time of Edward 3 ploughs belonged to the men, but now only 2. There was woodland for 300 swine (pigs) but now for only 100. 4 acres of meadow, a mill, a horse for riding, then and six beasts (oxen) also 10 swine (pigs) and 18 sheep. It was worth 30 shillings (1.50), now 40 shillings (2). In the same village Ulf the Priest held 40 acres of land as a manor, 2 bordars (smallholders), Ulf owned 1 plough and woodland for 6 swine (pigs) there was 40 acres of meadow and he had 14 sheep and 2 goats. It was worth 5 shillings (25p). 4 freemen (villagers) and 2 bordars (smallholders) live here and have 60 acres and two ploughs, it is worth 10 shillings (50p). In Halesworth, Gunner holds 15 acres as a manor, there are 5 freemen (villagers) and 2 bordars (smallholders) then 1/2 plough. Then 1/2 acre meadow, it is worth 3 shillings (15p).

Over the years the situation changed, so that the original 2 carucates held by Aelfric in 1066 were transferred into the holdings of Hugh, Earl of Chester, a nephew of William the Conqueror, and these lands became known as the Halesworth Manor. The manor of 40 acres belonging to Ulf the Priest in 1066 were also made over to Hugh, Earl of Chester, and eventually became the Rectory Manor, while the manor of 15 acres formerly belonging to Gunner, the free man by 1086 belonged to Roger Bigod and was held by Robert of Vaux. This manor is most probably the one that later became known as Dame Marjory's Manor.


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