Category Archives: Bishop of London

Domesday, Piers Shonks and Brent Pelham

The story of Piers Shonks, Brent Pelham and the Devil has just been posted.  This all took place at a time when King William I was changing England – both in status organisation.  One of his first actions after taking the throne was to have a full check and valuation of the land and its people.  This was all recorded in what is known as ‘The Domesday Book’.  Many reading Piers Shonks’ story will be know of this book but there are many in countries outside of Britain that read these posts so I thought it sensible and helpful tell what Piers’ community was like.  What follows is the Domesday Book entry detailing the three communities of Brent Pelham, Furneaux Pelham and Stocking Pelham has been transcribed on a separate posting for those who wish to see the detail.

In Hertfordshire in the Domesday Book 44 individuals held land. The most significant land owner was, of course, King William. At number 2 was the Archbishop of Canterbury; 3 was the Bishop of Winchester and 4 was The Bishop of London.  As you will see – the Bishop of London holds the lot!

In [Brent, Furneaux and Stocking] Pelham Payne holds 1 hide of the bishop. There is land for 3 ploughs. In demesne are 2 [ploughs]: and 1 villan has half a plough, and there can be [another] half [a plough]. There are 3 bordars and 3 cottars, [and] woodland for 6 pigs. It is and was worth 40s: TRE 50s. Alfred, a man of Esger the staller, held this manor and could sell.

In [Brent, Furneaux and Stocking] Pelham Ranulph holds 2½ hides of the bishop. There is land for 8 ploughs. In demesne are 2 [ploughs]; and 7 villans with 5 bordars have 6 ploughs. There are 6 cottars and 6 slaves, meadow for 1 plough, pasture for the livestock, [and] woodland for 30 pigs. It is and was worth £10; TRE £15. 2 thegns held this manor. One of them [was] a man of Eskil of Ware, and the other a man of Godwine of Bentfield. They could sell.

In [Brent, Furneaux and Stocking] Pelham Gilbert and Ranulph hold of the bishop 1 hide and 1 virgate. There is land for 3 ploughs. In demesne is 1 [plough]; and 1 villan with 3 bordars has 1 plough, and there can be another. There are 7 cottars, meadow for half a plough, pasture for the livestock, [and] woodland for 100 pigs. It is and was worth 40s. TRE60S. 2 brothers held and could sell. One [was] a man of Esger the staller; and the other of the Abbot of Ely.

In [Brent, Furneaux and Stocking] Pelham 2 knights hold 3 hides and 1 virgate of the bishop. There is land for 7 ploughs. In demesne are 3 [ploughs]; and a priest with 7 villans have 4 ploughs. There are 7 bordars and 6 cottars and 1 slave, meadow for 2½ ploughs, pasture for the livestock, [and] woodland for 100 pigs. It is and was worth £5: TRE £6. 2 thegns held this manor, one a man of Eskil of Ware, and the other a man of Almær of Benington; and, together with these, 5 sokemen of King Edward’s soke had 2 virgates and could sell.

The following list puts meaning to the words/terms:-
Bordars = a cottager; a peasant of lower economic status than a Villan. Since the Domesday Book distinguishes border from Cottar and both from Cotsets, there must have been some distinction between them not now readily apparent. All three are also commonly associated with towns.
Cottars = As Bordar – a cottager; a peasant of lower economic status than a Villan. Since the Domesday Book distinguishes border from Cottar and both from Cotsets, there must have been some distinction between them not now readily apparent. All three are also commonly associated with towns.
Demesne = Land ‘in Lordship’ whose produce is devoted to the Lord rather than his tenants.   (1) Manors held in the Lord’s personal possession as opposed to those granted to his men; (2) that pert of an individual estate exploited directly for the Lord’s ‘home farm’.
Hide = the standard unit of assessment for tax, especially GELD. Notionally it is the amount of land which would support a household: divided into 4 VIRGATES
Knights = A boy or servant – a military retainer. Also sometimes referred to as ‘Vassal or Vassalage
Ploughs = Plowland – the number of plowlands may: (1) estimate the arable capacity of an estate in terms of the number of eight-ox plough-teams needed to work it; or (2) record an assessment of the dues required from the estate.
Slaves = Just what it says in the word.
Thegnland = Was land belonging to a Thegn and was sometime used as the equivalent of LoanLand {land held on a lease, frequently for three lives/generations}
Thegns = A man of noble status as opposed to a peasant (a Ceorl), having a Wergeld of 1,200 shillings. A king’s thegn was commended to the king; a medium thegn to some other Lord.
Villan = a villager; a peasant of higher economic status than a BORDAR and living in a village. Notionally unfree because he is subject to the Manorial Court
Virgate = one quarter of a HIDE; the equivalent of the English YARDLAND
Wergeld = Money. Origininally the recompense paid to the kin of a slain man by the kin of the slayer to avert the blood-feud. The amount varied according to the rank of the slain man. It was 1,200 shillings for a Thegn and 200 shillings for a Ceorl. By the 10th century the weregeld was used to assess the amount of judicial fines.

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