Saxon and Danish Thetford

Domesday Book
The fates of Thetford,
Ipswich and Norwich by 1086

Norfolk Landowners in 1086
Thetford is described in the Little Domesday book under the county heading for Norfolk. The earliest town developed on the Suffolk side of the river, but by 1086 most of the important churches were located north of the river, and thus located within Norfolk. The entry shown below indicates that the scribes were well aware of this division within the town.

Thetford is marked out as one of the 112 boroughs of all kinds described in the survey, a number probably not much greater than the number that existed in 1066. In the eastern counties in Little Domesday the boroughs of Colchester, Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Thetford, and Ipswich were each distinctively treated.

G. H. Martin has commented that "Ironically enough, the fullest account of the internal business of a town occurs under Bury St Edmunds, with its brewers, tailors, laundresses, porters, and general dealers, which is not explicitly described as a borough."....... (The) "St Edmund's... monks gave the commissioners a more extended account of their estates than the occasion demanded: the object was to survey the king's rights and other men's resources as they affected the king, not to depict the life of boroughs or of any other institutions."

Compared to Bury St Edmunds, the value of Thetford was much greater at this time. Bury was only worth £20, compared to Thetford's £50 plus £40 from the proceeds of minting coinage. In addition, the Earl Roger Bigot received £20 blanched and £6 at face value. It is unclear what "blanched" means, deriving from the latin for white, but it may mean that it was payable in cash as opposed to goods or services of equivalent value.

Thetford (Tedforda, Tedfort, Tetfort)
NFK 1,69
[Land of King William]

In THETFORD there is 1 church of St Mary which Archbishop Stigand held;
now the sons of Bishop Herfast hold it.
Always attached to this church have been the 4 churches of St Peter, St John, St Martin and St Margaret, 6 carucates of land less 1/2 bovate.
Then 2 ploughs, now 1.
Always 5 burgesses.
2 empty messuages;
meadow, 12 acres.
Also 3 ploughs can be restored;
2 carucates [of land] remain in pasture;
always 35 sheep.
Value 40s.

NFK 1,70
[Land of King William]

Of the King's land in THETFORD beyond the water towards NORFOLK there is 1 league of land in length and 1/2 in width of which the King has 2 parts moreover the third part of these two parts lies in the Earldom.
R[oger] Bigot [has] the third part of the above-mentioned league;
all this land is half arable, the other [half] in pasture.
On this land the King has 1 plough, 3 smallholders, 1 slave and 1 horse.
Also of 2 mills the King has 2 parts and the Earl the third [part].
The King also has 2 parts of a third mill and of these 2 parts the Earl has a third.

Of the other part towards SUFFOLK there is 1/2 a league of land in length and 1/2 in width;
a third part of this land belongs to the Earldom;
meadow, 4 acres.
All this land is arable; 4 ploughs can plough it.
Moreover in the Borough there were 943 burgesses before 1066;
of these the King has all the customary dues.
36 of these same men belonged to King Edward, their lord, to such an extent that they could not be anyone else's men without the King's permission.
All the others could be anyone else's men but always the customary dues remained the King's except for heriot.
Now there are 720 burgesses and 224 empty messuages;
21 of these burgesses have 6 carucates and 60 acres which they hold from the King.
It is in [the Abbey of] St Edmund's jurisdiction.
Besides this 2 burgesses have 1 mill.

Value of all the above-mentioned before 1066 £20 at face value and for the Earl's use £10 at face value;
now it pays £50 by weight to the King and to the Earl £20 blanched and £6 at face value.
Now it also pays to the King £40 from the mint;
always 16s to 2 prebendaries.
Before 1066 it also paid 4 sesters of honey and 40d, 10 goat skins and 4 ox hides.
The Abbot of St Edmund's has 1 church in the city and 1 house [which are] free.
The Abbot of Ely [has] 3 churches and 1 house [which are] free and 2 messuages by custom in one [of which] is his house.
The Bishop also [has] 20 houses [which are] free, 1 mill and 1/2 church;
R[oger] Bigot [has] 1 house [which is] free, 1 monastery and 2 smallholders [belonging] to the monastery.
[King Edward held it]

NFK 1,210
Land of King William held by Archbishop Stigand of which William of Noyers has charge
`GRIMSHOE' Hundred

[* Archbishop *] Stigand held METHWOLD before 1066, 20 carucates of land.
Then 28 villagers, later 24, now 18.
Then 4 smallholders, later 8, now 13.
Always 24 slaves.
Meadow, 30 acres.
Then 6 ploughs in lordship, later and now 5.
Then 23 men's ploughs, later 13, now 7.
Always 2 1/2 mills;
7 fisheries in lordship;
4 cobs;
12 head of cattle; 84 pigs; 800 sheep; 27 beehives.

Here always appertained 1 outlier, WEETING.
Always 3 villagers; 1 smallholder; 3 slaves.
Meadow, 1 acre. Then 2 ploughs in lordship, later and now 1.
Then 1 men's plough; always 2 cobs.

In FELTWELL 60 acres of land.

In THETFORD 1/2 carucate of land.
5 smallholders before 1066, now 3;
2 messuages are empty.
1 church.
Also 1 church of St Helen [Thetford] with 1 carucate of land.
1 villager.
1 plough could be [there].

In HILGAY 1 free man, 30 acres. 1 plough.

In UPWELL 3 smallholders.

In the whole manor [there] could be 8 ploughs.
Value then £20, now [£]30.
It has 2 leagues in length and 1/2 in width, it pays 2s 1/2d of a 20s tax.
Also 4 free men appertained to this manor before 1066, now W[illiam] of War[enne] has [them].

NFK 9,1
[THETFORD Hundred]
LAND of Roger Bigod.
In Thetford Roger has [land] in demesne quit of all customary dues;
to which used to belong 2 carucates of land TRE, and now the same.
There have always been 2 ploughs in demesne, 20 bordars, 2 slaves, 1 mill, 13 acres of meadow, and 30 acres of land;
there is there 1 mill and 5 acres of meadow.
There have always been 128 sheep.
Then it was worth £7; afterwards and now £8.
Of the abovesaid bordars the king has their personal dues only.
In the borough Roger has 33 men commended to him whom his predecessor held, in whom he had nothing except commendation.
He also has 1 mill, which Turstin, a burgess, holds.
He lays claim to this by the king's gift, but the Hundred does not know how.
This mill is worth 32s.
[There is] 1 church.

A number of houses were demolished to insert a castle at Ipswich in the area now known as Elm Street. However, Domesday is not specific about numbers, so we do not know, of the 328 dwellings laid waste there, how many were attributed to castle building. Mark Bailey states, " It is possible that Ipswich was sacked by a Danish invasion in 1069, although it may also have suffered Norman retribution for its involvement in Earl Ralph's rebellion of 1075."


Half-Hundred of Ipswich.

In the borough of Ipswich Stigand had 2 burgesses TRE with soke and sake and the king had the customary dues. Now they are dead and the king has the customary dues and the soke and sake. Roger Bigod has CUSTODY OF THIS in the king's hand.



and of the borough [Ipswich] Queen Edith had TRE 2 parts and Earl Gyrth had the third part. The queen also had in her demesne a grange to which belonged TRE 4 carucates of land and now the same.
Of this land 12 free men dwelling on other land of their own held then as now 80 acres for the king's service and customary dues.
And there are another 10 men, bordars, who do not have their own land but live on 86 acres of the aforesaid land.
2 burgesses also belong to the demesne of the aforesaid grange, who render to the king 6d. of customary dues.
And then there were 2 ploughs in demesne and afterwards the same, now 1.
Then 3 head of cattle, now 8.
Then 2 horses, now 1.
Then 14 goats, now 7.
Then 40 sheep, now 13.
The villans then as now have 6 ploughs.
This land is 8 furlongs long and the same broad. It pays nothing of the king's geld.
In the borough [Ipswich] there were TRE 538 burgesses rendering customary dues to the king. They had 40 acres of land. But now there are 110 burgesses who render customary dues and 100 poor burgesses who cannot render anything to the king's geld apart from one penny a head. And amongst them all they likewise have 40 acres of land.
And 328 dwellings have been laid waste in the borough [Ipswich] which TRE used to pay scot to the king's geld.
In the same borough Alwulf the priest has one church, Holy Trinity, to which belong 26 acres in alms.
And Colling, a burgess,


Half-Hundred of Ipswich.

In the town of Ipswich Earl Gyrth held TRE one grange to which belong 2 carucates of land.
Then as now 7 bordars.
Then and afterwards 1 plough, now none.


In Westerfield 6 free men TRE [held] 20 acres.
Then as now 1 plough.
They are in the valuation of Ipswich.
The count holds it in demesne.
The king and the earl have the soke.


Half-Hundred of Ipswich.

In the borough [Ipswich] Robert has 1 burgess whom his predecessor had by commendation TRE.
The king has the customary dues.

HALF HUNDRED of Ipswich.

St Æthelthryth held Stoke with 3 carucates of land as a manor TRE.
Then as now 9 villans and then 5 bordars, now 15.
Then 1 slave.
Then as now 2 ploughs in demesne and 6 ploughs belonging to the men.
1 church with 40 acres of free land.
1 mill.
20 acres of meadow.
12 head of cattle and 20 pigs and 24 sheep and 14 goats.
Also St Æthelthryth has half the soke which is beyond the bridge.
Then it was worth £4, now 100s.
It is 6 furlongs long and 6 broad.
4d. in a geld of 20s.

HALF HUNDRED of Ipswich.

In the borough of Ipswich Wihtgar held 1 church of St Peter, to which belonged, then and now, 6 carucates of land as a manor.
Then and afterwards 6 villans, now 8.
Then and afterwards 5 bordars, now 15.
Then 4 slaves.
Then as now



In the borough [Ipswich] Robert had TRE 41 burgesses together with the soke and sake and commendation.
And the king had the other customary dues.
He [Swein] lost the commendation over 15 of them who died but he has the soke and sake, and the same with the others.
The king has the other customary dues.


HALF-HUNDRED of Ipswich.

In the town of Ipswich Roger has 1 church, St George's, and 4 burgesses and 6 messuages lying waste.
One of these was claimed for the use of the Abbot of Ely and he was seised thereof, as the Hundred testifies.
But Roger says that he holds it from the king.
To the aforesaid church belongs 1 acre of land.
The whole is worth 10s.
The king has the customary dues.


HALF-Hundred of Ipswich.

In the borough Walter has 5 houses and 3 empty messuages which the queen held TRE.
They pay the customary due.
It is worth 20d.


Half-Hundred of Ipswich.

In the borough [Ipswich] Northmann has 2 burgesses, one in pledge to him, the other for a debt.
But the king has his customary dues.



There were 1,320 burgesses in Norwich TRE of whom one was [subject to the] lordship of the king to the extent that he could not withdraw nor do homage without his licence, and his name was Eadstan [and] he had 18 acres of land and 12 [acres] of meadow and 2 churches in the borough and a sixth part of a third; and to one church belonged a messuage in the borough and 6 acres of meadow. Roger Bigod holds this of the king's gift.
And of 1,238 [burgesses] the king and the earl had sake and soke and customary dues;
and over 50 Stigand had sake and soke and commendation;
and over 32 Harold had soke and sake and commendation, of whom 1 was subject to his lordship to the extent that he could neither withdraw nor do homage without his licence.
Altogether they had 80 acres of land and 20½ acres of pasture. And of these 1 was a woman, Stigand's sister, [with] 32 acres of land.
And between them all they had half a mill and the fourth part of one mill and still have [them].
And in addition [they had] 12½ acres of meadow


Of the burgesses who dwelt in the borough of Norwich 22 left and dwell in Beccles, a vill of the Abbot of St Edmund,
and 6 [dwell] in Humbleyard Hundred and have quitted the borough,
and in Thorpe [St Andrew], the king's [manor] 1,
and on the land of Roger Bigod 1,
and under W[illiam] de Noyers 1,
and [under] Richard de Saint-Clair 1.
Those fleeing and the others remaining have been entirely ruined, partly by reason of Earl R[alph]'s forfeitures, partly by reason of fire, partly by reason of the king's geld, partly by Waleran.

The Frenchmen of NORWICH.

In the New Borough [were] 36 burgesses and 6 Englishmen and of his annual customary due each paid 1d. besides forfeitures.
Of all this the king had 2 parts and the earl the third.
Now [there are] 41 French burgesses in the demesne of the king and the earl,
and Roger Bigod has 50,
Ralph de Beaufour 14,
Hermer 8,
Robert the crossbowman 5,
Fulcher the abbot's man 1,
Isaac 1,
Ralph Visdeloup 1,
and in the earl's bakehouse Robert Blund has 3
and Wymer 1 ruined messuage.

All this land of the burgesses was in the demesne of Earl Ralph and he granted it to the king in common for the founding of the borough between himself and the king, as the sheriff testifies.
And all these lands both of the knights and of the burgesses pay the king his customary dues.
There is also in the new borough a certain church which Earl Ralph built and he gave to his chaplains.
Now a certain priest of the sheriff's, Wala by name, holds it of the king's gift and it is worth 60s.
and as long as Robert Blund held the county he had 1 ounce of gold from it every year.


Ewicmann held TRE 1½ carucates |of land| under Stigand.
And [there are] 16 acres of pasture and 7 acres of meadow.
Now Reginald fitzIvo [holds it].
Then and afterwards [there was] 1 plough; now 2.
And [there are] 100 sheep.
It has always been worth 30s.


In Cambridge twenty-seven houses were destroyed to allow the construction of the castle, thirty-two at Canterbury, and twenty at Huntingdon. Five haga were destroyed for the castle at Stamford, eight at Wallingford, and four at Warwick. Fifty-one houses were covered by the castle at Shrewsbury, ninety-eight at Norwich, and 166 at Lincoln

In 1075, Waltheof joined the abortive rising of the Three Earls; the other two were Roger de Breteuil, Earl of Hereford, and Ralph, Earl of East Anglia. The plot was hatched in Norwich, at the marriage of Earl Ralph to Roger's sister:

"There was that bride-ale that was many men's bale".

There are entries in Domesday which note the number of houses and messuages destroyed in towns and cities to make way for the new castle — 166 at Lincoln, 113 at Norwich

Prepared for the St Edmundsbury History Project
by David Addy, June 2010

Books consulted:
The Domesday Book - Facsimile with Translation, published by Phillimore Suffolk volume
Domesday Book textbase available online as Domesday Explorer
The Domesday Book Alecto version on CD-Rom: Essay by G. H. Martin on Boroughs

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