INTRODUCTION Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval town planning burh wik law commerce minting crime roads London regulations Domesday borough customs Chester Lincoln doomsmen Torksey Middlewich salt industry Shrewsbury Hereford burgesses burgage tenure Winchester rental ruling class Anglo-Saxon society citizenship administration reeve
Subject: Towns in the eleventh century
Original source: 1-4. The royal laws are found in various manuscripts (see the secondary works listed below); 5. Public Record Office, Great Domesday, ff.179, 252r, 262v-263, 268r, 336-337. 6. Society of Antiquaries of London, MS. 154, ff. 1-5.
Transcription in: 1. F.L. Attenborough, The Laws of the Earliest English Kings, Cambridge: University Press, 1922, 115, 135; 2. Felix Liebermann, Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen, Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1903, vol.1, 490; 3. A.J. Robertson, The Laws of the Kings of England from Edmund to Henry I, Cambridge: University Press, 1925, 71-77; 4. L.J. Downer, Leges Henrici Primi, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972, 249-50; 5. A. Williams and G.H. Martin, Domesday Book: A Complete Translation, London: Penguin Books, 2002, passim; 6. Martin Biddle, Winchester in the Early Middle Ages. An edition and discussion of the Winton Domesday, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976, 33-44.
Original language: 1. Old English (trans. Attenborough). 2, Latin; 3. Latin (trans. Robertson); 4 Latin (trans. Downer); 5. Latin (trans. Williams and Martin); 6. Latin (trans. F. Barlow)
Location: London, Chester, Lincoln, Torksey, Middlewich, Shrewsbury, Hereford, Winchester
Date: 10th to early 12th centuries


[1a. Law of Edward the Elder - early 10th century]

And it is my will that every man shall have a warrantor [to his transactions] and that no-one shall buy [and sell] except in a market town; but he shall have the witness of the port-reeve or of other men of credit, who can be trusted. And if anyone buys outside a market town, he shall forfeit the sum due for insubordination to the king, but the production of warrantors shall nvertheless be continued, until the point is known at which they can no longer be found.

[1b. Law of Athelstan - ca. 925/30]

Thirdly [we declare] that there shall be one coinage throughout the king's realm, and no man shall mint money except in a town.... In Canterbury there shall be seven moneyers: four for the king, two for the archbishop, one for the abbot. In Rochester, two for the king and one for the bishop. In London, eight; in Winchester six; in Lewes two; in Hastings one; another in Chichester; two in Southampton; two in Wareham; [one in Dorchester]; two in Exeter; two at Shaftesbury; and one in [each of] the other boroughs.

[2. Laws attributed to William the Conqueror]

We also prohibit any livestock from being bought or sold except in cities, and then before three reputable witnesses, nor any second-hand item without a surety or warrantor. Should someone do otherwise, he shall repay double [the sale price] and beyond that a fine [to us].

No market or trading may be permitted to take place except in the cities of our kingdom, in boroughs enclosed by a wall, in fortresses, and in the most well-protected places, where our customs, our common law, and royal privileges, instituted by our worthy predecessors, cannot be evaded, defrauded, or contravened, and [where] everything ought to be conducted according to custom, openly, before witnesses, and fairly. And it is for this reason that fortresses, boroughs, and cities exist and were founded and established – that is, for the protection of the races and the peoples of the kingdom, and to defend the realm – and to that end respect should be shown to them, along with all their liberties, privileges, and the purpose they serve.

[3. London regulations attributed to Ethelred (990s)]

The gates called Aldersgate and Cripplegate (i.e. the actual gates) were in the charge of guards.

If a small ship came to Billingsgate, 1 half-penny was paid as toll; if a larger ship with sails, 1 penny was paid.
If a barque or a merchantman arrives and lies there, 4 pence is paid as toll.
From a ship with a cargo of planks, one plank is given as toll.
On three days of the week toll for cloth [is paid] on Sunday and Tuesday and Thursday.
A merchant who came to the bridge with a boat containing fish paid 1 half-penny as toll, and for a larger ship 1 penny.
Men of Rouen, who came with wine or blubber-fish, paid a duty of 6 shillings for a large ship and 5% of the fish.
Men from Flanders and Ponthieu and Normandy and the Isle of France exhibited their goods and paid toll.
Men from Huy and Liege and Nivelles who were passing through (London) paid a sum for exhibition and toll.
And subjects of the Emperor who came in their ships were entitled to the same privileges as ourselves.
Besides wool, which had been unloaded, and melted fat, they were also permitted to buy three live pigs for their ships.
But they were not allowed any right of pre-emption over the burgesses, and [they had] to pay their toll, and at Christmas two lengths of grey cloth and one length of brown and 10 pounds of pepper and five pairs of gloves and two saddle-kegs of vinegar, and the same at Easter.
From hampers with hens, one hen [is given] as toll, and from one hamper of eggs, five eggs as toll, if they come to the market.
Women who deal in dairy produce (i.e. cheese and butter) pay 1 penny a fortnight before Christmas, and another penny a week before Christmas.

If the town-reeve or the village reeve or any other official accuses anyone of having withheld toll, and the man replies that he has kept back no toll which it was his legal duty to pay, he shall swear to this with 6 others and shall be quit of the charge.

If he declares that he has paid toll, he shall produce the man to whom he paid it, and shall be quit of the charge.
If, however, he cannot produce the man to whom he paid it, he shall pay the actual toll and as much again and 5 pounds to the king.
If he vouches the tax-gatherer to warranty [asserting] that he paid toll to him, and the latter denies it, he shall clear himself by the ordeal and by no other means of proof.

And we have decreed that a man who, within the town, makes forcible entry into another man's house without permission and commits a breach of the peace of the worst kind ... and he who assaults an innocent person on the king's highway, if he is slain, shall lie in an unhonoured grave.
If, before demanding justice, he has recourse to violence, but does not lose his life thereby, he shall pay 5 pounds for breach of the king's peace.
If he values the good-will of the town itself, he shall pay us 30 shillings as compensation, if the king will grant us this concession.

[4. Laws in force before the time of Henry I, concerning the road system]

If an assault is made on anyone on the king's highway, this is the offence of forestel, and compensation amounting to one hundred shillings shall be paid to the king, especially if the wrongdoer is accused on the spot with the consequence that he is released on giving security for future appearance or is there held under detention, of if he is for other reasons under the king's jurisdiction.

The highway should be wide enough for two wagons to meet and pass there, and for herdsmen to be able to make contact, with their goads at full length, and for sixteen knights, armed, to ride side by side.

That is called a royal highway which is always open, which no one can close or divert with walls he has erected, which leads into a city or fortress or castle or royal town.

Every town has as many main streets as it has main gates appointed for the collection of tolls and dues.

The offence of forestel occurs if someone attacks his enemy unexpectedly or lies in wait for him on the road and assaults him.

But if he waits until he has passed and calls out to him, so that he returns to meet him, it is not forestel if he [the person waiting] acts in self-defence.

The compensation payable for stretbreche shall be one hundred shillings.

The offence of stretbreche occurs where someone destroys a road by closing it off or diverting it or digging it up.

[5a. Extracts from the Chester entry in Domesday Book]

And these were the laws there:

If the peace given by the hand of the king or by his writ or through his commissioner had been broken by anyone, the king had 100s for it.

But if this peace of the king, given at his command by the earl, had been broken, the earl had the third penny of the l00s which were given for this.

If, however, the same peace given by the king's reeve or by the earl's officer had been broken, a fine of 40s was paid and the third penny belonged to the earl.

If any free man, breaking the king's peace that had been given, killed a man in a house, his land and all his chattels belonged to the king and he himself became an outlaw. The earl had the same only from his own man making this forfeiture. But no one could restore peace to any outlaw except through the king.

He who shed blood from the morning of Monday to noon on Saturday paid a fine of 10s.

But from noon on Saturday to Monday morning a fine of 20s was paid for bloodshed. Similarly, he paid 20s who did this during the 12 days of Christmas. and at Candlemas, and on the first day of Easter, and on the first day of Whitsun, and on Ascension Day, and on [the day of] the Assumption or of the Nativity of St Mary and on the feast of All Saints.

He who killed a man on these holy days paid a fine of £4, but on the other days of 40s. Similarly, he who committed housebreaking or highway robbery on these feast-days and on Sunday paid £4, on other days 40s.

He who incurred the fine for wrongfully hanging a thief in the city gave 10s. but a reeve of the king or of the earl incurring this forfeiture paid a fine of 20s.

He who committed robbery or theft or raped a woman in a house was fined 40s for each of these.

If a widow had unlawful intercourse with any man, she paid a fine of 20s, but an unmarried woman [paid] 10s for the same offence.

He who seized the land of another in the city and could not prove it to be his paid a fine of 40s; similarly, too, he who made claim to it, if he could not prove that it ought to be his.

He who wished to take up his land or that of his kinsman gave 10s.

He who did not pay his rent at the term it was due paid a fine of 10s.

But if he could not or would not, the reeve took his land into the king's hand.

If fire broke out in the city the man from whose house it started paid a fine of 3 orae of pennies and to his nearest neighbour he gave 2s.

Two parts of all these forfeitures belonged to the king and the third [part] to the earl.

If ships were to arrive at or depart from the port of the city without the king's leave, the king and the earl had 40s from each man who was on the ships.

If a ship were to come against the king's peace and in spite of his prohibition, the king and the earl had both [the ship] itself and the men with all that was in it.

But if it were to come in the king's peace and with his leave, those who were on board sold what they had undisturbed. When it left, however, the king and the earl had 4d from each load. If the king's reeve were to order those who had marten pelts not to sell to anyone until [they had] first [been] shown to him [and] he had bought, whoever did not observe this paid a fine of 40s.

A man or woman caught giving false measure in the city paid a fine of 4s. Similarly, the brewer of bad beer was either put in the cucking-stool or gave 4s. to the reeves.

The officers of the king and of the earl took this forfeiture in the city in whosesoever land it arose, whether the bishop's or that of another man. Similarly [they took] toll; if anyone withheld it beyond 3 nights he paid a fine of 40s.

In the time of King Edward there were in the city 7 moneyers who gave £7 to the king and earl over and above the farm when the coinage was changed.

There were then 12 lawmen in the city and these were [chosen] from the men of the king and of the bishop and of the earl. If any of them absented himself without obvious excuse from the hundred [court] on a day on which it sat, he paid a fine of 10s [divided] between the king and the earl.

For the repair of the city wall and bridge the reeve called up 1 man from each hide in the shire. The lord of any man whose man did not come paid a fine of 40s to the king and the earl; this foreiture was over and above the farm.


The Bishop of Chester has these customs in the city itself: if any free man works on a holy day, the bishop has 8s for it, but from a slave or female slave breaking the holy day the bishop has 4s.

If a merchant coming to the city and bearing a bale [of goods] opens it without leave of the bishop's officer from Saturday noon to Monday, or on any other feast-day, the bishop has for it 4s. as forfeiture. If a man of the bishop finds any man loading within the territory of the city, the bishop has for it as forfeiture 4s. or 4 oxen.

[5b. Extract from the Lincoln entry in Domesday Book]

In the city of Lincoln in the time of King Edward there were 970 inhabited messuages. This number is reckoned according to the English method, that is 100 for 120. In the city itself were 12 lawmen, that is men having sake and soke: Harthaknut; Swærting son of Grimbald; Ulf s son, Svartbrandr, who had toll and team; Wælhræfn; Alweald; Beorhtric; Guthrothr: Wulfbert; Godric son of Eadgifu; Siward the priest; Leofwine the priest: Healfdene the priest.

Now there are as many there having sake and soke in like manner; (1) Swærting in the place of his father Harthaknut; (2) Swærting; (3) Svartbrandr in the place of his father Ulf: (4) Aghmund in the place of his father Wælhræfn; (5) Alweald; (6) Godwine son ofBeorhtric; (7) Norman Crassus in the place of Guthrothr; (8) Wulfbert. brother of Ulf, [who] is still living; (9) Peter de Valognes in the place of Godric son of Eadgifu; (10) Wulfnoth the priest in the place of Siward the priest; (11) Burgweald in the place of his father Leofwine who is now a monk; (12) Leodwine son of Rawn in the place of Healfdene the priest.

[5c. Extract from the Torksey entry in Domesday Book]

In Torksey in the time of King Edward there were 213 burgesses. They all had the same customs as the people of Lincoln, and [this] in addition, that whoever of them had a messuage in the same vill gave neither toll nor customary due either coming in or going out. This, however, was their [duty], that if the king's messengers should come thither, the men of the same town should conduct them to York with their ships and other means of navigation, and the sheriff should find the messengers' and sailors' provisions out of his farm. But if any of the burgesses should wish to go elsewhere, and to sell [his] house which was in the same vill, he could do it, if he wished, without the knowledge and licence of the reeve.

[5d. Extracts from the Middlewich entry in Domesday Book]

In the same Middlewich Hundred there was a third Wich which is called Northwich and it was at farm for £8. These laws and customs were there, as there were in the other Wiches, and the king and earl similarly divided the renders.

All the thegns who had salt-pans in this Wich did not give boilings of salt on Fridays throughout the year. Anyone who brought a cart with 2 or more oxen from another shire gave 4d in toll. A man from the same shire gave 2d for a cart within the third night after he returned whence he had come....

If a man living in this hundred carted salt about the same shire to sell, he gave 1d for each cart every time he loaded it. If he carried salt on a horse to sell, he gave 1d at Martinmas. Anyone who did not pay at that date paid a fine of 40s. All the other [customs] in these Wiches are the same.

In the time of King Edward there was in "Warmundestrou" Hundred a Wich [Nantwich] in which there was a brine-pit for making salt, and there were 8 salt-pans between the king and Earl Edwin so that of all the issues and renders of the salt-pans the king had 2 parts and the earl the third....

In the same Wich very many men of the country had salt-pans, from which there was the following custom: from the Ascension of Our Lord to Martinmas anyone having a salt-pan could carry his own salt to his house [without toll], but if he sold any of it either there or in the whole shire of Cheshire, he gave toll to the king and earl. After Martinmas anyone who might carry salt thence, whether his own or purchased gave toll....


In Midlewich Hundred there was another wich [Middlewich] between the king and the earl.... the same laws and customs were in force there as have been mentioned under the above Wich, and the king and the earl tooke their shares in the same way.

Whoever carried away in a cart salt he had bought from these two Wiches gave 4d in toll if he had 4 oxen or more to the cart; if 2 oxen, he gave 2d toll if there were 2 summae of salt. A man from another hundred gave 2d for a horse-load. But a man from the same hundred gave only 1d for a summa of salt.

Anyone who so overloaded his cart that the axle broke within a league of either Wich gave 2s to the officer of the king or of the earl. If he could overtake him within the league.

Similarly he who overloaded a horse so that its back broke gave 2s. [if] overtaken within a league; beyond a league, nothing.


Men on foot from another hundred buying salt there gave 2d for 8 men's loads; men of the same hundred [gave] 1d for 8 loads.

[5e. Extracts from the Shrewsbury entry in Domesday Book]

When the king stayed in this city, 12 of the better citizens mounted watch for his protection, and likewise when he went hunting there the better [among the] burgesses possessing horses guarded him with arms. For heading off [game] the sheriff sent 36 men on foot as long as the king was there....

When the sheriff wished to march into Wales, anyone who after being summoned by him did not go gave a fine of 40s.

A woman taking a husband in any way, gave to the king 20s if she was a widow, 10s if an unmarried woman, in whatever way she took the man.

Should the house of any burgess be burnt by misfortune or accident or by negligence he gave 40s to the king by way of fine and 2s to each of his 2 nearest neighbours.

When a burgess who was in the king's demesne died, the king had 10s by way of relief .

If any burgess broke the due date which the sheriff fixed for him, he paid a 10s fine. Whosoever shed blood paid a 40s fine.


The English burgesses of Shrewsbury say that it is very hard on them that they themselves render as much geld as they rendered in the time of King Edward, although the earl's castle has occupied [the site of] 51 messuages and another 50 messuages are waste, and 43 French burgesses hold messuages paying geld in the time of King Edward, and the earl himself has granted to the abbey which he is building there 39 burgesses formerly paying geld in the same way as the others. all together there are 200 messuages less 7 which do not pay geld.

[5f. Extracts from the Hereford entry in Domesday Book]

In the city of Hereford in the time of King Edward there were 103 men dwelling within and without the wall, and they had the following customs. If any of them wished to withdraw from the city he could with the consent of the reeve sell his house to another man who was willing to do the service from it. and the reeve had the third penny of the sale. But if anyone through his poverty could not perform his service, he surrendered his house, without payment, to the reeve, who saw that the house did not remain empty and that the king did not lack [his] service.

Within the wall of the city each whole messuage rendered 7½d and 4d for the hire of horses, and 3 days reaping in August at Marden, and 1 day gathering the hay where the sheriff pleased. He who had a horse went 3 times a year with the sheriff to the pleas and to the hundred [courts] at Wormelow. When the king was engaged in the hunt, 1 man from each house by custom went to head off [game] in the wood.

Other men not having whole messuages provided guards for the hall when the king was in the city.

When a burgess serving with a horse died, the king had his horse and weapons. From him who had no horse, if he died, the king had either 10s. or his land with the houses [on it]. If anyone, overtaken by death, had not bequeathed his possessions the king had all his goods. Those living in the city, and others likewise dwelling without the wall, had these customs except only that a whole messuage outside the wall only gave 3½d The other customs were common [to both]. Whosesoever wife brewed within or without the city gave 10d according to custom.

There were 6 smiths in the city; each of them paid 1d from his forge, and each of them made 120 shoes of the king's iron, and to each one of them was given 3d on that account according to custom, and those smiths were quit from every other service.

There were 7 moneyers there. One of these was the bishop's moneyer.

When the coinage was renewed each of them gave 18s for receiving the dies, and within 1 month of the day on which they returned, each of them gave the king 20s, and likewise the bishop had from his moneyer 20s.

When the king came into the city the moneyers coined pennies for him, as many as he willed, that is of the king's silver. And these 7 had their sake and soke.


In the city itself Earl Harold had 27 burgesses having the same customs as the other burgesses.

From this city the reeve paid £12 to King Edward and £6 to Earl Harold, and he had in his farm all the aforesaid customs.

The king, however, had in his demesne the 3 forfeitures, namely breaking his peace, housebreaking, and highway robbery.

Whosoever committed one of these, paid l00s fine to the king. no matter whose man he was.

Now the king has the city of Hereford in demesne. and the English burgesses dwelling there have their former customs; but the French burgesses are quit for 12d from all their forfeitures, except the 3 aforesaid.

[6 Extract from the Winton Domesday, Survey I, ca.1110]

A record of the lands of the king which pay landgable and brewgable in Winchester, just as they used to pay in the time of King Edward.

King Henry, wishing to know what King Edward had in every way in his demesne at Winchester, ordered this to be declared by the oath of his burgesses. For he wanted to have from it everything that King Edward had had there in his time. This oath, therefore, was taken by eighty-six of the more important burgesses of Winchester in the presence of Bishop William, Herbert the chamberlain, Ralf Basset, Geoffrey Ridel, and William of Pont de l'Arche. After the burgesses had taken the oath, they began to make their inquiry, going up and down from the East Gate.

[High Street, north side]

[1] Alwin Scid's son held 1 tenement TRE which paid 6d. landgable and every other royal custom; and the king held it in demesne. Now the son of Ralf Rosell holds it, because it was left to him by his father; and he has never paid any custom in respect of it. And it yields 50s.

[2] Edwin Good-soul held 1 tenement TRE which paid 6d. landgable (and the area behind the tenement paid 3d. for custom) and every other custom. Now Richard, chaplain of the count of Meulan, holds it; and he has never paid any custom in respect of it except this year. And it yielded 20s. a year.

[3] Brunman of Fordingbridge held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now Wibert the Wild holds it; and he has not paid any custom in respect of it. And Osbert son of Albereda [holds] it [of Wibert] for 8s.

[4] Leuret de Essewem held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now Osbert son of Albereda holds it; and he has never paid any custom in respect of it. And Herbert the chamberlain holds 1 messuage of that land which yields 15s. And he has not paid any custom.

[5] Climehen held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now the son of Ralf Rossell holds it; and he has never paid any custom in respect of it. And it yields 6s.

[6] Lewin the shoemaker held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now Oin the napier holds it; and he has never paid any custom in respect of it except geld. And it yields 18s. 6d.

[7] Wulfric the priest held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now Robert son of Wimund holds it, and likewise pays every custom. And it yields 15s.

[8] Hunmann held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. The abbess of Winchester holds one part of it, and likewise pays every custom, and it yields 8s. And moreover Hugh Oillard holds one part of it, and performs no custom in respect of it. And it yields 2s.

[9] Guy held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now Anschetil de Jort holds it, and performs no custom in respect of it. And it yields 30s.

[10] And nearby was the hall of the cnihtas, where the cnihtas used to drink their guild; and they held it freely of King Edward. Now Godwin Prison and Godwin Green's son hold it; and they vouch the king to warranty by his writ which they have. And the tenement yields them 25s., the wife of Ascelin 12s., and Henry of Dummer 10s. And on that land is a certain church which Cheping the son of Alveva holds, and he vouches the king to warranty in respect of it; and her/his son has there 5s. of rent.

[11] Alwin Aitard's son was a moneyer TRE and held 1 tenement which pertained to Basingstoke. Now Godfrey of Touques holds it and paid nothing in the way of custom. And it yields 40s.

[12] Pain of the mead-hall held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now Anschetil of Jort holds it, and he holds every custom because he gave nothing in respect of it. And it yields 12s. and [the profit of] its upper storey [?].

[13a] Godrun Litteprot held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now Ralf of Fougeres holds it, and paid no custom in respect of it except geld. And TRE there was 1 house there. Now 4 men live there. And it yields 29s.

[13b] Alestan Dovet's son held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now Herbert the chamberlain holds it, and paid no custom in respect of it except that he acquitted his men of geld. And it yields 61s.

[14] Godwin Elmer's son held 1 tenement TRE which paid custom. Now the monks of St. Swithun hold it, and likewise pay custom. And it yields 23s. And William d'Aubigny holds [one messuage] of that land, and pays no custom in respect of it. And it yields 13s. a year.

[15] Godwin Sock was a master moneyer TRE and he held 1 tenement of the fief of the bishop of Winchester. Now the monks of St. Swithun hold it. They perform the custom. And it yields 37s.

[16] Winstan Shut-gate held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. And Hugh the larderer gave it to the monks of St. Swithun, and now they pay the custom. But then one good citizen lived there, now only poor men. And, it yields 64s.

[17] Brunstan and Alestan Flat-hedge held 2 tenements TRE which paid every custom. Now Hugh Oilard holds it and pays no custom and retains 100s. from the king's toll. Two good burgesses used to live there, now no one but poor men. And it yields 44s.

[18] Fulges held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now Henry the larderer holds it and paid no custom. And one good citizen used to live there, now none. And it yields 26s.

[19] Ailward the cniht held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now the son of Ralf Rosell has it and paid no custom. And he has encroached on the king's road 2 ft. in width and in length as far as the tenement extends. And with that land he has appropriated the king's balchus where thieves used to be put in prison. And on that land live 8 butchers from whom the reeve used to have every Sunday 8d. And it yields £9.

[20/21] Leving and Got had 2 stalls TRE. Now Roger son of Amerland has them and performs the custom. But he has appropriated 2 ft. of the king's road in length just as Ralf Rosell had done; and he did this with the permission of Warin the reeve. And Gesord the reeve ought to have 3os. because Roger holds the stalls from him.
There are now 6 stalls which yield 11s. 8d.

[22] Sideloc held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now the wife of Wimund the moneyer has it, and she pays 6d. landgable and no other custom. And it is unoccupied.

[23] The Godebiete tenement was quit TRE and is quit now. And TRE Adelwold, reeve of Winchester, gave to his parents 3 messuages from the king's road which they occupied. Now these three messuages are appropriated to the Godebiete tenement. And of the three messuages which are included in the tenement of the monks, Roger the Lean holds 2 messuages and Ainolf 1 tenement. And to the church which pertains to the tenement are appropriated 2 market-stalls which were on the king's road and which each week used to pay 2d. custom. And it yields £6. 16s.

[24] Godwin the cniht held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now Herbert the chamberlain has it and pays no custom except that he acquitted his men of geld. And it yields £7. 15s.

[25] Leflet, Ecregel's daughter, held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now the nuns hold it and perform the custom. And it yields £4.

[26] Algar Godesbrand's son held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now the monks of St. Swithun hold it and likewise pay the custom. And it yields £4.

[27] Aluric of Keynsham held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now Geoffrey son of Herbert holds it and likewise pays the custom when requested by the reeves, except landgable. And in front are the shops which belonged to Queen Edith; and he likewise pays the custom. And it yields 19s. 6d.

[28] Burewold held 1 tenement TRE which paid the custom. Now the monks hold it, and Wazo from them. And next to that tenement was a street which has been appropriated to that tenement. And he likewise renders the custom (except carrying-service). And it yields 112s.

[29] Andrebode was a moneyer TRE and held 1 tenement. Now Ruald son of Faderling holds it and performs every custom when requested by the reeves. And it yields 48s.

[30] Algar the herring-monger held 1 tenement TRE which paid 6d. landgable and custom. Now Thomas of St. John and Osbert Thiard hold it and do the same.

[31] Almod the priest held 1 tenement TRE which paid 6d. landgable and every custom. Now Ralf Brito holds it and pays the same.

[32] Wulfward the beadle held 1 tenement TRE which paid the custom. Now Geoffrey son of Herbert holds it and pays landgable and the other customs when requested by the reeves. And it yields £4

[33] Wulfward the herring-monger held 1 tenement TRE which paid the custom. Now William d'Aubigny holds it and Herbert the chamberlain from him. And he pays no custom but Watch except that he acquits his men from geld. And it yields 72s.

[34] The cnihtas held the hall of the cnihtas freely from King Edward. Now Roger son of Gerold holds it, and he performs no custom in respect of it except Watch and gelds. And it yields £6.2s.

[35] By the three minsters a market has been established which was not there TRE. It is on the land of the abbot and Herbert the chamberlain.

[36] Godman Brown-king's son and Godric the soap­maker held 2 tenements TRE which paid the custom. The abbess of Winchester holds part of these 2 tenements and pays the amount of custom which pertains to her share; and it yields 20s. Richard the tailor and Sawal the priest hold the other part, and they perform no custom; and it yields 15s.

[37] Colsvein the priest held 1 tenement TRE which paid every custom. Now John son of Ernuceon holds it and pays no custom. And it yields 23s. 4d.

[38] Adelwold, reeve of Winchester, held 1 cellar of King Edward. Now Escorfanz has it and pays no custom in respect of it. And it yields 15s.

[High Street (south side)]

[39] Alestan Dovet's son held 1 tenement TRE which paid the custom. Now Henry de Port holds it and performs no custom in respect of it. And he has appropriated to that tenement six shillings-worth of royal demesne which lay next to the Gate. And it yields 39s.

[40] Gilbert Bochenel held 1 tenement TRE which paid the custom. Now the wife of Hugh, son of Albuchon, holds it and pays no custom. And here was a street which Hugh son of Albuchon and Henry de Port appropriated to their tenement.

[41] Alwin the priest held 1 tenement TRE and performed the custom. Now Robert son of Wimund holds it and likewise pays the custom. And it yields 20s.

[42] The land of the nuns paid the custom TRE. William son of Odo holds half of it, and William Brown the other half, from which he retained the king's toll. And they perform no custom. And the tenement yields 68s.

[43] The tenement of Aluric of Keynsham paid the custom TRE. Now Roger Patten holds it and does not perform the custom. And it yields 33s. apart from its upper storey.

(44] The tenement of a certain widow paid the custom TRE. Now Herfrid, the king's sergeant, holds it and performs the custom when requested by the reeves.

[45] The tenement of Stanulf the priest was quit TRE except for Watch and gelds. Now Robert Mauduit holds it and likewise is quit. But his father appropriated a lane, and afterwards Richard de Courcy impleaded him; and he made a fine before the king's justiciar. And the men of the tenement pay geld and pay [ ... ].

[46] The tenement of Aldred the brother of Odo was quit TRE. Now William son of Anschetil holds it and likewise is quit except for Watch and gelds. And it yields 24s. apart from its upper storey.

[47] The tenement of Almod paid the custom TRE. Now Robert son of Ralf holds it and likewise pays the custom. And it yields 45s.

[48] The tenement of Godwin Elmer's son paid the custom TRE. Now Herbert the chamberlain holds it and pays no custom. And it yields 60s.

[49] The tenement of Lewin Chane paid the custom TRE. Now William of Pont de l'Arche holds it from the son of William son of Gilbert, and pays no custom. And it yields £9.

[50] The tenement of Aldred paid the custom TRE. Now Herbert of St. Quentin holds it and performs no custom. And it yields 73s. 6d.

[51] The tenement of Burewold Frethewin paid the custom TRE. Now Henry de Port holds it and performs no custom. And it yields £4.

[52] The tenement of Ulveva paid the custom TRE. Now Robert son of Fulchered holds it and performs no custom. There is appropriated to it 4 ft. in width of the king's road, and in length as far as the tenement extends. And it yields 117s.

[53] The tenement of Siward Leofrun's son paid the custom TRE. Now Robert Mauduit holds it and likewise performs the custom. But his father incorporated one street in that tenement. Richard de Courcy, who was then the king's justiciar, impleaded him, and afterwards Robert made a fine before the king's justiciar in this plea. And this and his other tenements yield £6. 16s.

[54] The tenement of Godwin Porriz paid the custom TRE. Now Robert son of Raif holds it and likewise pays the custom. And it yields 49s.

[55] The tenement of Godwin the Frenchman paid the custom TRE. Now Ranulf, the steward of Herbert the chamberlain, holds it and pays landgable but does not perform any other custom. And the land is unoccupied.

[56] The tenement of Wulfric paid the custom TRE. Now Robert Mauduit holds it and likewise performs the custom.

[57] Lethmer, Alwi Chasi's son, Hizeman, Godwin the Frenchman, Lewin Ballock, Godwin Sarz, Godwin Sorz, Godnod, Lesweda, Sonric the hosier, Alestan White, and Edeva - these held tenements and were burgesses and performed the custom. And part was on royal demesne and part on the abbot's demesne. And all this was incorporated into the king's house.

[58] And in the market were 5 mints which were destroyed by order of the king.

[59] And at the end of the king's kitchen Henry the larderer holds 2 forges; but he extended one by 2 ft. into the king's road. So he approached Warin the reeve in this matter and Warin gave him permission. And they yield 16s.

[60] And here was a street which was blocked up for the king's kitchen.

[61] And also at the end of the kitchen the burgesses used to have their cellars and paid landgable. Now the monks have a forge and likewise pay the custom. And it yields 6s.

[62] And Robert son of Wimund also has a forge there, which was a cellar TRE. And it yields 4s.

[63] And Gilbert Gibart has 4 forges there, which were cellars TRE. And they yield 12s.

[64] And below Thomas Gate there is encroachment, and forges have been made there; but we do not know by whom. And Walter Chibus holds 4 of these forges of the son of Boselin. And they yield 12s.

[65] And in the same place Robert son of Wimund has 6 forges, and they yield 28s. And from these forges built by encroachment on the road the king has no custom.

[66] And where Merewen's enclosure is there was a tenement which Edwin held TRE. But Geoffrey the clerk threw it down.

[67] And in the same way he threw down another tenement which Alwold held TRE.

Anglo-Saxon ports and burhs  |  The Domesday boroughs and wiks  |  Winchester  |  Conclusion

Until regular and routine record-keeping (in both senses of compilation and archiving) of a bureaucracy became established – at first nationally, though only very gradually, under the Norman-Angevin kings, and then locally once towns had been granted more extensive powers of self-government – the term Dark Ages, in its correct sense of scarcity of documentary evidence, might reasonably be said to apply to English towns of the early medieval period. Fortunately, scientific investigation in areas such as archaeology and topography over the last half-century or so have done much to fill some of the gaps in our understanding, even though much of what they tell us remains subject to uncertain interpretation and debate. But for the period prior to the Norman Conquest historians have relatively little documentary evidence at their disposal. Anglo-Saxon chronicles and Viking sagas make scattered references, though some remain obscure or subject to variant interpretations. Writs and charters of that period are perhaps even less useful because, by their nature, fragmentary sources, even when copies are gathered into registers.

Anglo-Saxon ports and burhs

The law codes of the Anglo-Saxon and Danish kings contain a few regulations pertinent to urban affairs, though for the most part they are preoccupied with enforcing respect for the Church, its teachings and its dues, with crimes of assault or of livestock theft, and with problems that led to social disorder (such as vendetta). Furthermore, the authenticity of some of these Anglo-Saxon sources is questionable, because of a later penchant for forgeries that attempted to attribute rights or privileges to pre-Conquest origins. The London regulations given above, for example, known only through a collection of Anglo-Saxon laws compiled ca.1100, were once thought to be part of a slightly broader set of edicts issued by Ethelred; although the authenticity of the regulations themselves is generally accepted, the connection with Ethelred remains unproven. Internal evidence indicates compatibility with a late tenth century date, but suggests that this set of regulations (if indeed it represents a single code) was the product of consultation between king and Londoners; at least some of the regulations read as though drafted by the latter, but it was clearly the mandate of the former, in regard to maintaining peaceable international relations, to regulate tolls imposed on foreign merchants.

By this time London, although not officially the capital, was already clearly the most important port of the realm, the chief communications link with Flanders, Normandy, and other parts of France – places which would be the focus of England's overseas economic and military relations for most of the Middle Ages. The merchants of Rouen, capital of the duchy of Normandy (with which England had signed a treaty in 991) prior to the time of William the Bastard, had in the eleventh century a London wharf allocated to their use at Dowgate; they are particularly singled out in the London regulations, though not quite so much as the Germans. Merchants subject to the German emperor were accorded similar commercial privileges to those allowed London citizens by custom, with the explicit exception of the right of a London burgess to purchase a share in any cargo arriving in the city's port, before the goods could be offered for sale to outsiders; this right of pre-emption is later found in a number of towns' custumals (e.g. Ipswich, Yarmouth Norwich, Maldon, and Newcastle, and may have been equally ancient in some of those places. With the possible exception of the Danes, Rhinelanders were perhaps the foreigners best documented in English trade in the eleventh century, and Lorrainers in the following. German wines were much favoured up to the late twelfth century, and the luxury goods in which German merchants dealt – notably linen and other fine cloths, furs, spices, and craftwork of precious metals – were also valued. However, commercial links with Flanders may already have been even more significant by the eleventh century. The above regulations mention specifically the merchants of Huy, Liege and Nivelle, Flemish cities in this period had reached about the peak of their importance; Huy, situated on the Meuse, then being one of Flanders' most prosperous cities. The Flemings were buying up English wool, hides, and other raw resources to fuel their rapidly growing urban industries; although as yet there was relatively little importation of Flemish cloth into England, Flemish ships were venturing to Spain and into the Mediterranean, further afield than the English yet dared go, and bringing luxury goods back into English markets.

Another important Anglo-Saxon text which, like the law codes, survives only in later copies is the Burghal Hidage, accepted as authentic, though the limited information it provides, about a series of fortifications begun during Alfred's reign, has raised more questions than it has answered. Although some earlier rulers had actively developed market centres, the Burghal Hidage evidences what might be considered the first systematically planned urbanization project in Britain since Roman colonization. Driven by the need for defence and offence against Viking raiders and invaders, the phased establishment of burhs across southern England, some at key strategic points (with emphasis on the Thames as a incursion risk and on protecting the heartland of Wessex) evidently had the ultimate goal of creating a network each of whose nodes was within forty miles of those closest; these nodes might serve as bases for campaigning armies, as refuges for people of the region, and as obstacles to advancing enemies. The plan required identifying long-standing settlements where older fortifications could be re-used or bolstered, and of erecting new fortifications in other locations; attention must also have been paid to roads linking burhs. There was subsequently enshrined in royal law the recognized obligation of all free men to contribute to the maintenance of defences and bridges; this found mention in the above Domesday entry for Chester, while at Oxford a large number of properties were held conditional to their owners fulfilling an obligation to keep the town walls in repair.

The burh planners appear to have understood that building fortifications by itself would not suffice, that they had to provide for manning of defences from the local populace, as at least a temporary measure until a relieving force could be brought up, and they must also have thought about provisioning of garrisons or encamped armies. While the initial intent may not have been to create new towns, there likely was, or arose, some perception of the advantages of associating with the burh-forts permanent settlements that could supply goods and services to military forces and provide additional resources for manning and maintaining defences; construction or restoration of fortifications, along with provision of employment opportunities, would have encouraged migration from the countryside. This civil defence initiative, which also involved (possibly as a later phase) careful laying out of streets within the burh enclosures – probably on similar fundamental principles to those later applied at New Winchelsea, and with the same intent of facilitating the apportionment of plots of land to residential and other uses – subsequently expanded into regions retaken from the Vikings (e.g. at Maldon and Norwich). The concentration of trade into urban sites (not necessarily just wiks, as some argue), in the law of Alfred's son Edward (above) should be understood in conjunction with the burh programme. This near-monopoly – at least in law, though practice may have been a different matter, for the restriction of trade to 'ports' was unenforceable and the production of warrantors must have proven impracticable in many cases – was further bolstered, in regard to urbanization, by Athelstan's extension of the minting system and intent to concentrate it in such places, and again in the eleventh century by the transfer of seats of episcopal administration into the larger towns. These initiatives gave impetus to the revival of a few existing cities or growth of lesser settlements, while some, though not all, of the new foundations evolved into modest-sized towns, taking their place within an inexorably elaborating network of market centres and within the determined effort of the monarchy to enhance its jurisdictional influence over the populace of the emerging English realm.

Any network, be it military or economic, could only function effectively if imbued with reliable connectivity between its nodes. The above extracts from the Leges Henrici Primi (cap.80), though not exclusively concerned with towns, show not only royal attention to the integrity of the overland transportation infrastructure, but also point to matters that loom large in urban judicial administration from the thirteenth century. Ensuring that the roads could be relied on to perform their function would naturally be a long-standing concern for from the perspectives both of efficient administration of the kingdom and the economic viability of towns. Domesday provides confirmation of this concern in its entries for several towns. From Canterbury we have the statement that the city reeve had to track down and fine anyone who dug up, or installed a post in, any of the main roads within the city or leading up to it. The Dover entry prescribes a fine of 100s. due the king from anyone who encroached on the public highway with a fence or a ditch or who allowed a tree he was cutting down to fall across such a road. At Nottingham there was a much higher fine for digging a ditch or ploughing within two perches of the highway. Fines and forfeitures for highway robbery, along with those for disturbing the peace or housebreaking, were at the core of judicial profits due the king.

The Domesday boroughs and wiks

Despite these various sources of information, our picture of towns prior to the eleventh century remains hazy. The curtains begin to be raised only with the compilation of the Domesday Book. Although its value in the Middle Ages as a reference source for various purposes – such as identifying which towns could be taxed as part of royal demesne, or which villages were on royal demesne so that their inhabitants could claim free status – appears not to have been realized until some considerable time after its production, for historians it has been a mine of information. Domesday's chief preoccupation was not with urban settlements as such but with land-holding and land-related resources in general, and most of that was rural; yet towns were not anomalies in a predominantly rural landscape. Those responsible for compiling the final report which we call Great Domesday were, for the most part, able to differentiate the more prominent towns – mostly the county towns – and adapt the arrangement of information to accommodate this differentiation; thus, for example, the Herefordshire section starts with a description of Hereford, Shropshire with one of Shrewsbury, Cheshire with Chester, and so on. The sister volume, Little Domesday, covering East Anglia, does not follow quite the same arrangement, although its most important towns are still distinguished within the overall scheme. Less consistency is apparent in the integration of smaller towns into the scheme of the survey, though this may be partly a facet of the way in which evidence was given to the commissioners from a variety of sources.

There are a number of cases in which blank spaces have been left where we would have expected information on particular towns. The gaps in coverage include some of the most important, such as London and Winchester, and practically all towns in a couple of counties. The blank spaces suggest that not all omissions were intentional, but it may also be that some places we today would categorize as having been urban in the 1080s were not so considered by the Domesday commissioners or compilers. At the same time, there are instances of burgesses and markets appearing outside the context of towns. We cannot therefore identify from Domesday a list of eleventh-century towns that is hard-and-fast, but attempts have produced figures ranging from 112 to over 130; taken together, the towns may have encompassed around 10% of the population of England. These English towns were diverse in their origins, and included:

  • The more important Roman military and civil settlements, such as Lincoln and Chester, revived under new management;
  • lesser Roman settlements, such as Hereford, which survived into the early Saxon period as a centre of ecclesiastical administration, expanded as a planned royal town of Mercia, was revitalized through adoption into the burh programme, and again refortified as a border defence after being plundered by a combined Welsh-Cheshire force in 1055.
  • Places that first come to notice as burhs of Wessex or Mercia, or their Danelaw equivalents. The site of Shrewsbury, for instance, had probably long been settled when it draws our attention as a flourishing product of Alfred's daughter's programme of fortified urbanization in early tenth century Mercia, an intermediary defence between Hereford and Chester along the Welsh border. The position of such towns in a danger zone helps explain why the customs of both Hereford and Shrewsbury, as recorded in Domesday, included quasi-military services due the king from the burgesses.
  • Minor towns with very modest populations, like Torksey (even Domesday describes it as small), first documented for its stint as a Danish army's winter camp (873), and subsequently becoming associated with Lincoln (it lay about ten miles north-west of that city) so closely as to be sometimes perceived as a suburb.
  • And places that historians think of as proto-urban, such as Middlewich.

Another preoccupation of Domesday was with places where the king had rights and dues associated with full or shared lordship, with the result that settlements developing alongside, and under the thumb of, major religious foundations tended to receive little attention (as may have been the case with Battle), perhaps the most notable exception being Bury St. Edmunds (which, despite its name, is not treated as a borough in Domesday). The king had pre-eminent lordship over most of the boroughs covered by Domesday, as indicated by a typical two-thirds share of their revenues. By contrast with those settlements clearly indicated as boroughs, there are places not so named, yet having a somewhat urban appearance from which the king received income. For instance, the neighbouring central Cheshire salt-making centres of Nantwich, Middlewich and Northwich – tied by a network of roads to Chester, from where much of the salt was redistributed, and of saltways into northern England and Wales – are treated in Domesday's arrangement in a way comparable to boroughs, a status they appear to have had by the early fourteenth century, yet they are described only as wiks and there is no mention of burgesses living there (even though elsewhere in the book we hear of burgesses without any mention of a borough). These were clearly considered places apart and their salt extraction industry of some economic importance; however, urbanization was only rarely the result of an intensive industrial specialization.

The entries vary quite a bit from town to town in detail and in the types of information reported: from the terse statement of the overall value of Rochester to the lengthy lists of individual property-holders at Leicester and Colchester, the latter being a rare instance in which quantities of burgesses are identified by name. Despite the acknowledgement in a number of Domesday entries of the danger of fire to the physical fabric of towns, details about that fabric are scarce. A range of residential buildings is seen, from large halls to the numerous small cottages at York, and castles receive frequent but only passing mentions (simply because they consumed real estate that had formerly contributed to royal revenues), but churches were of relatively little interest to the survey and are seriously under-represented, while the encircling fortifications that would later become a graphic symbol of boroughs receive even shorter shrift. The commissioners were limited in what they were instructed to enquire into and the types of questions they asked were geared towards rural estates.

As a result, Domesday tends to paint a picture of towns that hardly seems urban to us today, biased as it is towards resources we think of as agricultural. The presence of markets is mentioned only in a few towns, mostly smaller places like Tewkesbury, Beccles, Wallingford (in all of whose markets the monarchy had a fiscal interest), and Taunton, even though we must think that every town surely had its own market. Such features were not normally worthy of notice under the terms of reference of the Domesday commissioners; York's famous Shambles is only mentioned because the York holdings of one of the king's tenants-in-chief included a couple of its stalls. Similarly, we know relatively little of the extent and ways to which marketing activities may have been regulated; much of that was governed mostly by local custom. Yet it seems probable enough that the interdependence (so fundamental to the later medieval economy) between the raw resource-producing countryside and towns where specialized artisans converted some of these resources into a range of products and where merchants redistributed both resources and products further afield, was already starting to emerge and prompting regulatory mechanisms, such as tolls and standardization of weights and measures; an episcopal document from York, roughly contemporary with Domesday, points to established rights of collecting tolls on exports and imports, some of them due the bishop and some the king, while in the next century we even know the identity of one of York's toll-collectors. Not surprising then that the monarchy, from at least the time of the Conquest, began to insist that any would-be new market had to acquire a royal licence, and that some annual royal revenues stemmed from marketing activities; this insistence does not seem to have acquired general acceptance before the late twelfth century, however. The Middlewich entry in Domesday shows that industrial activity could also be closely regulated and taxed. There can be no doubt that lively commerce was a characteristic of eleventh century towns, far more than is evident from Domesday, even if it was not as ubiquitous and systematized as in later centuries.

Despite the commissioners' limited remit, the local witnesses they called on sometimes had their own ideas about the survey, and we are fortunate first that those men giving evidence on behalf of a few towns thought it advisable to make statements as to certain of those customary laws they possessed which entailed fines or forfeitures (temporary or permanent loss of property) to the king, and second that such statements survived the editing that the commissioners' submissions underwent to produce a more manageable final report. As a result of the variations in reporting, we are able to see distinctive characteristics of some towns, such as the prominent role of ecclesiastical institutions at Canterbury, the large number of baronial landlords at Leicester and Northampton, the particular importance of farming pursuits to many of the residents of Colchester and Maldon, the role of Dover as a key port linking England to the continent, and the salt extraction industry that was the raison d'être of Droitwich. The picture of urban communities, individually and collectively, presented in Domesday is far from comprehensive, but what we have – albeit in the form of a puzzle of scattered jigsaw pieces – is still significantly better than any documentation available from earlier date.

We may infer from Domesday that by mid-eleventh century a somewhat different urban network, still in a state of flux, from that of the burhs is in existence. Those burhs which were to survive as towns by now exhibited characteristics we would consider urban, in terms of their residential density and layout, occupational diversity, and evidence of long-distance commerce. Similarly, and at an even earlier period, the importance of wiks as trading centres and attractors of settlement was diminished (though not extinguished) as they either acquired burghal characteristics or were out-developed by towns emerging elsewhere in their regions, or by the appearance of fairs, drawing foreign traders more inland. Most shires were served by at least one town with market and administrative facilities; some encompassed a handful of towns. The Lincolnshire section of the text, for example, begins with its county town, Lincoln, and continues with Stamford and Torksey. Towns were fairly well distributed across southern and Midland England, but York and Durham were isolated examples in the north. The location of the leading mints also shows a good distribution in the south and Midlands and suggests a growing use of coins in trade and other transactions. Mints and their moneyers are well evidenced in Domesday, being important to the king both as a source of revenues and as the mechanism (in conjunction with legislation) enabling a high degree of royal control over the coinage.

The commercial role of towns arguably overshadowed their military importance by this time, despite the importance of maintaining and upgrading fortifications under the continued threat of Danish invasion. This transition was a gradual one. Edward the Elder's law restricting trade to towns had doubtless been prompted primarily by concerns over sale of stolen goods, and only secondarily to ensure the collection of tolls on commerce. Towns offered better assurance of the legitimacy of a transaction by providing a more public setting in which transactions could occur (i.e. what would later be known as a marketplace, although it is not clear that there were yet spaces formally allocated for that exclusive use) and better access to credible witnesses. This law found continuance in the reign of his successor, Athelstan, who issued a similar requirement, but exempted petty trading (of goods worth less than 20 pence). Continued persistence is suggested by its appearance in the collection of laws attributed to William I, but known only through an early thirteenth century copy apparently representing a mix of Anglo-Saxon laws redrafted in time of William I, new laws formulated during his own reign, and later interpolations of doubtful authenticity. The Anglo-Saxon efforts to concentrate economic and defensive functions in towns made such places natural choices for the Normans to use as centres for administering their newly-conquered territory, which was one of the reasons for constructing urban castles.

Domesday documents the disruption resulting from the need to bring the country under the control of its new overlords. The violent subjection of many parts of England, drawn out due not only to initial resistance but also to subsequent local uprisings and rebellions by the Conqueror's own barons (e.g. at York and Norwich), took its toll either directly or indirectly, and this is vividly portrayed in the Domesday entries for many towns. The large number of destroyed, abandoned or unmaintained properties suggests either a reduction in population (through deaths or flights) and/or hard times that prevented or discouraged rebuilding; frequent Domesday references to burgesses too impoverished to pay their customary dues (e.g. Ipswich and York) contributes to the sense of devastation. Dover's Domesday entry reports extensive damage from the Normans' assault during the early days of their invasion. By contrast, in the decades following the Conquest, settlement at Bury St Edmunds expanded around and under the protection of the abbey there, with many new houses built; and twenty-two Norwich burgesses had fled that city to live in Beccles, a much more modest town (but with an advantageous location on the River Waveney) under the sway of the same abbey. Sandwich too appears to have prospered under the ecclesiastical lordship of Canterbury, and perhaps also through its utility to the king (second only to Dover) as a port facing the continent and as a supplier of ships, it grew in size during the period of time documented by Domesday, and may indeed be considered to have attained an urban character in that period. Furthermore, lay Norman overlords introduced new colonies, mostly of Frenchmen, into several established towns (e.g. Norwich) as a prelude to a more widespread trend of new town-founding in the twelfth century. This new blood with ties to the continent, taken in conjunction with the construction of castles and sometimes cathedrals, created employment opportunities and introduced new consumers of goods and services which may have helped the fractured urban communities recover; in addition, the slightly superior privileges accorded to the French colonies may have raised the bar as regards aspirations of English burgess to improve their conditions.

Despite the many changes wrought by the Conquest, we can also find in Domesday Book evidence of continuity within urban society. Domesday's statements of long-standing borough customs show them a mix of privileges and obligations, the latter including not only ground-rents, tolls, customary fees, judicial fines and forfeitures from convicted criminals, but also such things as: provision (beyond normal requirements of national defence) of men, horses, carts, or ships for royal escort, guard, or military service; labour in the king's fields; and renders of raw materials needed by the royal household, such as imported furs from Chester, iron from Gloucester, and honey or herring from several towns. A major thrust in the future development of local administration would be for townsmen to maintain and expand their jurisdictional privileges and to escape, or commute to some more appropriate form, their obligations. Though the widespread grant of privileges by charter was a later development, clearly some towns were in possession of special privileges before the Conquest; for example the royal concessions made to some south coast ports, in return for ship-service, existed well before formalized through the Cinque Ports confederation, and the statement of customs of Newcastle-upon-Tyne has the air of something concocted from Anglo-Saxon laws and borough customs and from post-Conquest innovations, even though the castle, whose construction was the catalyst for adjacent settlement that subsequently acquired borough status, was indeed new at the time of the Domesday survey.

Elements of continuity can also be seen in local administration. Although the personnel at the national and regional levels of authority had changed, institutions and personnel at local level retained a strong Anglo-Saxon flavour. Kings had exercised authority over towns through local officials since at least the seventh century. In the Late Anglo-Saxon period the title most commonly applied to such an official was 'reeve'; borough reeves appointed by the king (or other lord of a town), along with some of their duties, are mentioned in a number royal laws and Domesday entries for towns; those duties, though they may have varied a little from town to town, included such things as: publicizing and administering laws, regulations, and royal orders; policing; executing judicial punishments; overseeing the collection of revenues due the king (though in most cases on behalf of the sheriff, who delivered and accounted for those monies); ensuring that properties from which landgable rents were due were suitably tenanted; organizing repairs to defences and bridges; and witnessing certain real estate and marketplace transactions (for which the reeve might be due a user fee).

The townsmen, sometimes referred to collectively as the burhware, had some common liabilities and property, and must have had some kind of communal mechanism to address related issues; this was presumably the periodic public assembly, the folkmoot, heard of in some Anglo-Saxon laws, seemingly presided over by the reeve, and prohibited from meeting on Sundays, as was the holding of markets. More focused institutions were the district's hundred court and the borough court, or burghmoot, in many cases the latter effectively having hundredal jurisdiction; again the reeve looks to have been the presiding officer. By a law of King Edgar (958-975), the burhgemot was to convene a minimum of three times a year to deal with judicial matters – this did not preclude judicial sessions being held more regularly if needed. The three full meetings were supposed to be attended by all those subject to its jurisdiction (essentially, all freemen who were tenants of borough land, referred to as suitors), this being in case any suitor was to be accused of any offence; Edgar specified that any accused who failed to appear in court over the course of an entire year, and in whose innocence the suitors lacked confidence, could be arrested, if necessary, by a posse selected by the court from those in attendance. The tithing system, also known as frankpledge, was used for reporting offences committed locally, and the full court meetings (known in some places as lawmoots) were to administer the tithings, as regards their memberships. Besides the tithings – which were groupings of individuals, though likely along something of a neighbourhood basis, at least originally – other administrative sub-divisions are seen in several Domesday boroughs (see below).

Town councils, in any formal sense, were a feature of a later time, but the borough court likely considered not just judicial but also administrative matters. Interestingly, there appears in a handful of towns, all under the sway or influence of Viking invaders, a somewhat mysterious group with special competence and authority referred to as lagemen (lawmen), rendered in Latin as iudices (judges). Originally twelve in number – a figure commonly used for groups of witnesses and, later, jurors and councillors – they appear to have been drawn from the upper echelons of society, being property-holders whose status was considered comparable to, though not the same as, that of the thegnly class; they perhaps straddled a gap between burgess and thegn. Some were involved in lending money for mortgages and, it has been suggested, others may have been minters at some time in their lives; conceivably, lawmen and moneyers, along with other administrators and professional warriors, were elements of an early urban elite in the centuries prior to local self-government and the rise to prominence of the merchant class.

The authority of lawmen did not, however, derive from landlordship, as the amount of property held by individual lawmen varied quite considerably; not all of it was within boroughs, though the status of borough lawmen is likely to have been bound up only with urban real estate. An introduction from Scandinavia, where lawmen interpreted customary law and used their knowledge of it to give judgements, the institution was, by the time of Domesday, already old in England, and may have diverged in character from one town to another; in some places it seens in decline, for by 1086 their number at Stamford had shrunk to nine, while at York we hear only of four. The list of names from pre-Conquest Lincoln shows a mix of Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon holders of the status, indicative of co-existence and intermarriage of the two cultural groups; comparison with the later list supports the suspicion that the role was hereditary there by that time. By contrast, the Chester evidence suggests that, pre-Conquest, at least vacancies in their number were filled by seigneurial appointment; we cannot be sure whether lawmen there were as elevated, in terms of status and property-owning. Lawmen were still known in Cambridge and Stamford as late as the thirteenth century, the status still hereditary, and associated with ownership of particular properties; once a connection between status and land had been made, it would have been almost inevitable for the role to become hereditary, but there is some evidence that in Scandinavia it may also have been hereditary and it is not inconceivable that the connection could have passed from a personal to a landed privilege. Geoffrey Martin noticed an early fourteenth century instance of an Elias Lagheman of Ipswich – in this case Lawman being a surname rather than an official designation – who held property abutting on the tolhouse, which stood in the parish at the very core of the town, and others member of the family also held property in that parish. Again in the thirteenth century, we can also still see Chester's doomsmen. Even at Lincoln there is some hint that there existed ca. 1300 a successor to the institution of the lawmen, perhaps incorporated as a superior group within the town council; the requirement that they be burgesses might have been prompted by post-Conquest corruption of the original institution.

Although Domesday tends to define 'lawmen' in terms of a status entailing relationships, privileges, and obligations – characterized particularly by sake and soke, thus differentiating them from run-of-the-mill burgesses – this was because of the intent behind the survey; that the title more properly applies to an office is supported by the Chester entry's mention of their mandatory duty to attend sessions of the borough court. It seems probable that these were men (prominent local land-owners whose personal interests naturally involved them in court business) expected to have acquired, and to pass along to their sons, a superior knowledge of local customs and national law, and to be able either to pass sound judgements or advise the court on the same. Such men would be aware of local tenurial disputes and of the goings-on of local officials, and would be in demand as witnesses to the ceremonies involved in land transactions or as pledges for the security of a transaction; they would therefore have been a logical choice to give evidence to the Domesday commissioners, which might explain the lists of Lincoln names that otherwise appear gratuitous, and perhaps also some of the statements of borough customs that found their way into Domesday. To what extent they may at that date have, collectively or individually, retained a formal role as doomsmen remains a question-mark.

Domesday also reveals that some towns had administrative sub-divisions: ten wards at Cambridge, six at Stamford, four quarters at Huntingdon, six shires or shares at York (with a seventh under the archbishop's jurisdiction). At later date sub-divisions were a basis for judicial administration and policing, but at the time of Domesday, although useful for organizing borough entries, it is not clear what their administrative implications were; certainly there is no reason to associate such sub-divisions with the lawmen, whose formal authority appears more collective than individual. Besides sheriff, portreeve, seigneurial court, local legal customs, and wards, however, we can elicit from Domesday no more information about the mechanics of urban government, at least with any certainty; an isolated reference to the burgesses' guildhall at Dover is too vague to draw any sound conclusions.

Likewise, what it shows us of urban society can only be part of the picture. The bulk of the Domesday survey comprises records of which properties were held, where, by whom, what resources were associated with them, how much their value, and above all what revenues or services the king could expect therefrom. Most of the land, other than that held by the Church, was in the hands of the king and his tenants-in-chief (or their sub-feoffees), and this holds true of urban property. The nobility, greater and lesser, had strong landed interests in towns, both after and before the Conquest, and the lesser nobility – the thegns of the earlier period and the retainers of important lay and ecclesiastical lords in the later – look to have been a much more prominent element of urban society than they were in later times.

Quite apart from the role of the military class in defending the tenth-century burhs, which may well have entailed assigning each of them a propertied base within the burh to which they owed service, in more peaceful times manorial lords would still have benefited from access to markets (for both buying and selling), to the shire or hundred courts where they asserted or protected their interests, to churches through whose ceremonies they could better satisfy their spiritual needs, and to the prospective income in rents obtainable from the more densely settled places in the country. For the burh planners it would have bolstered the commercial dimension of such places to connect more intimately with the local community a group of relatively affluent and influential consumers. It should not surprise us, then, that Saxon thegns and Norman barons owned town houses, regardless of whether they used them personally or let them to their own men. Much of the Domesday text relating to towns deals with that class, rather than with burgess society, even though by this time certain of the burgesses proper were beginning to rival, in terms of influence over local affairs, the rural warriors who had likely dominated towns in the burh period, and would end up supplanting them – a trend that occurred elsewhere in medieval Europe, often in a more revolutionary fashion.

Further down in the socio-economic hierarchy were the burgesses, a free status that meant more than simply residents of a borough, having, before 1086 and perhaps much earlier, acquired a certain measure of technical precision from the preferential terms under which they had tenure of those urban properties liable for contributions towards customary payments to the borough overlord(s). This did not preclude a small minority from having thegnly status, or even in very exceptional circumstances from being unfree; nor was it an invariably male status. In addition there were various groups of impoverished or unfree residents from which the burgesses were usually differentiated (e.g. Norwich). This summary oversimplifies the complexity of urban social structure.

The consequence of Domesday's focus on land-holding is that, apart from minters, whose fees to licence their work it was important to record, secular occupations of burgesses are not often mentioned. Merchants are well-evidenced at Nottingham and implicit in a number of other places, as are the smiths and wire-drawers of Gloucester, while at Bury St. Edmunds we explicitly hear of bakers, brewers, cooks, porters, washerwomen, tailors, and makers of robes, shoes, and purses, all employed by the abbey. The Chester entry's reference to brewing is indicative of how ubiquitous that activity was, but the reference to Hereford ale-wives is made only because their husbands had to pay an annual licence fee of 10d. The six smiths of Hereford, also paying a licence fee, and those at Wallingford (at least five) point to a metal-working industry furnishing more than purely local needs. By contrast no potters are documented in Domesday towns; archaeological evidence suggests their industry was tending to relocate to rural sites. Lyme Regis is portrayed as a fishing community that was also home to salt-workers, but the three fishermen identified at Huntingdon must have plied their trade in the River Ouse and/or local ponds that were a feature of the fenland. The 24 fishermen described as residents of Great Yarmouth only scratches the surface of that fishing community, for they were attached to the adjacent manor of Gorleston; many of Yarmouth's 70 burgesses proper must also have been involved with the fishing industry.


Very fortunately for historians, one conspicuous gap in Domesday – the missing entry for Winchester – is compensated for by a survey there of property held of the king. It was undertaken in the early twelfth century, though surviving as a mid-twelfth century copy in a volume now known as the Winton Domesday, which also contains a second survey of 1148, contemporary with creation of the volume; however, it appears to call on a similar record from the time of the Confessor (TRE), and so is considered as one of the 'satellites' of Domesday Book. If indeed its postulated predecessor existed, this would suggest that record-keeping within towns may not have been as unknown as it now seems. Although Winchester, as the royal capital of Wessex, is an exceptional case, one cannot help but wonder if Domesday's detailed lists of property-holders at Colchester and Leicester might have derived, directly or indirectly, from written records something along the lines of the Winchester survey.

The two surveys of Winchester, along with a number of other documents from the eleventh century or earlier, combined with findings from a well-planned programme of archaeological investigation, allowed Martin Biddle, working with Derek Keene and various specialists, to reconstruct a picture of eleventh-century Winchester far more detailed than any portrayal of a town we can get from Domesday. Even though no individual town, and particularly one as special as Winchester, can be considered 'typical', what we now know of Winchester provides a prism through which we can, cautiously, review the more fragmentary evidence from at least those other towns of comparable size and complexity.

In acreage Winchester was one of the largest burhs listed in the Burghal Hidage, but not one of the new creations, for it had been a settlement from pre-Roman times, and the defensive wall erected by the Romans established a framework for much of the medieval development of the city; however, little of their internal street layout was reused when the burh planning took place, with one notable exception: Roman approach roads had channelled traffic onto a central east-west route through the city which was later known as ceap stræt (shopping street), and later still as the High Street. Yet Saxon Winchester was not much of a commercial centre; after being deserted by the Romans, it languished before reviving as a base for ecclesiastical and royal administration in the ninth century, as the coastal port of Hamwic (Southampton) declined partly due to its vulnerability to Viking raiders, making Winchester a safer location for establishing a mint. Most of the residents likely made their livelihoods off the functions, or needs, of the Old Minster and royal palace, both in place by mid-seventh century. There were large uninhabited areas within the walls.

It is debatable whether Winchester, though a large and complex site, can be considered truly urban before its refounding as a burh. As part of that conversion, new streets were laid out in a rectilinear pattern covering the entire site (suggesting an expectation for population growth) and linking up to a street running adjacent to the walls (to facilitate defence); the streets – old and new – were surfaced with cobbles. Large plots appear to have been parcelled out to prominent Wessex men who would help defend the burh. Perhaps from the outset the it was anticipated that at least some would in the long run subdivide the plots and find sub-tenants for homes built either by the landlords or their tenants; or maybe subdivision was partly just a natural outcome of country-dwellers in the region seeking refuge, in times of threat, on the burh plots owned by their manorial lords. At the same time, or a little later, a network of watercourses was created, presumably to supply domestic and industrial requirements, although there cold also have been a military rationale in terms of fire-fighting. Repair of the walls and the addition of an outer defensive ditch also occurred around the same period (the 880s).

Early in the next century two new monasteries were established within the walled circuit, indicative of the growing importance of Winchester and of an expanding population. In the 960s the three minsters and the bishop's palace were consolidated into a single precinct consuming most of the south-eastern quadrant of the city, with several stretches of streets in that area cleared of houses. This contributed to overcrowding in the High Street and elsewhere, and encouraged the development of suburbs on all sides of the city, probably beginning with that just beyond the West Gate; the same pressure may well be the explanation for some of the encroachments on public land. A large percentage of the land within the walls and the suburbs was held by the king or the bishop; of what remained most had come into in the hands, probably by royal gifts over time, of the monasteries in the city and religious houses elsewhere in the county, and of lay members of the landed nobility; subsequently these areas had also become subdivided. This trend of diversified landlordship is characteristic of Domesday boroughs and historians have applied to it the descriptor 'tenurial heterogeneity'. By the Conquest the frontages of the principal streets (those leading to the city gates) were fully lined with buildings and lesser streets were in process of becoming similarly built up, while most of the parish churches (57 by the late thirteenth century) were already in place. There is no sign of the communal pastureland or fields of which most other non-coastal towns incorporated something – and which a few (such as Colchester) had in abundance – and only a handful of references to 'curtilages', a term indicating land without major residential buildings, often serving as gardens, orchards, or livestock enclosures, among other uses.

The two surveys were conducted in a very systematic fashion, proceeding street by street, property by property, with the intent of identifying the present and former tenants and the rents and services they owed from their holdings; in the process incidental information was recorded about the topography of the city, the character many of the properties, and the roles and relationships of some of the tenants. Close to 300 holdings were included in the earlier survey; the later, undertaken at the initiative of the bishop (who was the largest landlord in Winchester), and covering the entire city, encompassed well over a thousand. The extract given above covers part of the High Street, as an illustration of the diversified character of the most important route through the city. Besides residences, it had facing onto it shops, stalls, specialized market areas (Winchester, like London, having had no single central marketplace), cellars (shops, storehouses, or taverns partly below street level), minting forges, a guildhall, and churches – not unlike the high streets of quite a few English towns today if one substitutes banks for mints and allows for the supersession of marketplaces by department stores. Streets already had names assigned them, most derived from the personal name of some one-time property-owner or from a characteristic of the topography; only Tanner Street is a name clearly indicative of a clustering of practitioners of particular trades, and explicable by the watercourse running along it that would have supplied a necessary resource for tanning; other street-names may have referred to shoemakers and, less certainly, goldsmiths. Late tenth century sources refer to the streets of the shield-makers and fleshmongers and an early twelfth century source to a street of the fullers.

More trades than this are revealed by the two surveys, either explicitly or through occupational surnames, although the earlier survey is weakened by its lack of coverage of extra-mural areas, and both inevitably ignore the lower ranks of society who were not holders of property but more like lodgers. Given these gaps and biases, it is hard to draw meaningful conclusions for the pre-Conquest period, but certainly by the early twelfth century there is good evidence of various components of the leather industry (e.g. butchers, tanners, saddlers, and shoemakers of various kinds), of a modest cloth industry (e.g. dyers, parmenters, drapers, fullers – yet none of the last in the earlier survey, despite the street named for them), of metalworkers (mostly blacksmiths and goldsmiths), and of the building trades (e.g. masons, carpenters, painters). Of persons associated with the victualling trades, which tended to focus in and around the High Street, butchers and cooks are most in evidence, while brewers, bakers, or fishmongers seem under-represented; the later survey includes two breweries run by women, one possibly acting as the agent of the owner of the building, while several men owned multiple breweries (or were renting buildings for that use) though we cannot be certain they were the operators.

More surprising than the scarcity of such trades is the low number of men described as merchants, only one of whom held more than a single property. Some may simply lie hidden in the survey (i.e. among the great majority whose occupations were not specified), but perhaps many were relatively small-scale operators who had not yet developed the wealth, or inclination, to invest heavily in property, as they would later do. Furthermore we have to keep in mind that many traders were drawn into commerce as a by-product of craft occupations and that merchants, in terms of middlemen exclusively engaged in redistribution, were fewer than they would later be. The only notable exception to the dearth of well-to-do merchants appears in the later survey: Peter the mercer, whose brother Ernold was one of the wealthiest private landlords at that period; however, we cannot know whether Peter acquired property with profits from commerce (as was the norm in the Late Middle Ages), or whether he came from a wealthy landed family and branched out into trade (as instanced by Ianusius Mercator, a member of the de Beaumes family prominent in Ipsiwich in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries).

It was not yet the hour of the merchant class. Winchester's socio-economic elite was composed rather of other groups; on the whole, if we may judge from personal names, this elite was culturally Anglo-Norman by the close of the eleventh century. The most prominent of these groups may have been the moneyers, engaged in minting and in at least some cases money-changing, and probably also money-lending (suggested by the case of Walter Chibus); by mid-twelfth century a Jewish community was starting to develop in Winchester; Jews would in time supplement and, to a degree, supersede Christian lenders as Winchester declined somewhat as a minting centre and concerns over usury became more problematic. But in the eleventh century the presence of king and his administrators – the principal royal treasury being located in the city – created a higher need for coin than would have been generated solely by commerce, although the importance of the latter is suggested by minting workshops being mostly located off the High Street. A number of current or former moneyers are identified in the surveys, and Biddle et al. tentatively identified quite a few others – up to twenty from the time of the Confessor; there may have been between about four and eight active at any given time, though some minters owned, or rented, more than one workshop and were presumably employing assistants (as indicated in Ethelred's coinage regulations). Goldsmiths were another prominent occupational group in the surveys, wealthy and land-owning. This may well have been an occupation pursued by men who had previously held minters' posts, or by members of their families in their own or other generations.

The goldsmiths and moneyers were of burgess rank, but relatively wealthy and economically on a par with the royal officials who form another component of the urban elite of the eleventh century – men such as Herbert the chamberlain, Hugh Oillard, William fitz Odo, and Robert Mauduit. Some officials may have been more or less full-time residents of the city, while others just maintained bases there for when visiting, but many had property elsewhere and are unlikely to have felt the same commitment to civic interests that could be expected from burgesses. Likewise, various members of the lay nobility and ecclesiastical dignitaries almost necessarily had, in a city with so important a role in national administration, houses in which they could lodge when in town; but these persons can hardly be considered part of urban society, except as consumers for local goods and services and thus a source of prosperity and social advancement of some of the burgesses.

As suggested above in regard to the burhs, large landowners from the countryside surrounding Winchester probably had some involvement in the city's affairs and society in the tenth century, and may still have done so in the eleventh, for the surveys point to links between rural estates and urban property; one example in the survey of ca.1110 is the royal thegn Chiping, lord of Headbourne Worthy and holder of a number of other Hampshire manors, as well as three houses in Southampton and eight in Winchester (leased from the Old Minster). This continued after the Conquest; the de Port family, for example, had several members included in the survey of ca.1110. The Anglo-Saxon reeves of Winchester appear to have been drawn from this class; not until the late twelfth or thirteenth century did the office come into the hands of burgesses. Among their responsibilities, the reeves collected royal revenues in the city, such as landgable, rents from stalls, and perhaps even geld, although it was the sheriff who accounted for such monies to the royal administration; they licensed property expansions onto public land (although the justiciar mentioned as intervening in unauthorized encroachments was more likely a shire than a local official, and was a Norman innovation), and acted as witnesses to property transactions; they presumably presided in the burghmoot and may have supervised the organization of the watch – there being no sign yet of the aldermanries through which this was later done – and the performance of the gatekeepers (seen in the 1148 survey).

In addition to the elements discussed above, we have the cnihtas, at least some of whom clearly held borough property, but they are too hazy a group to know quite where they fitted into Winchester society. Also the local clergy, few of whom were wealthy property-owners, though other family members may arguably have had a more central role in urban affairs; parish priests could be considered as having a more significant role in local society but, although some appear in the survey (mostly holding single pieces of property), others would have fallen outside the survey's scope. Add to this mix a smattering of wealthier tradesmen – other than goldsmiths this seems to have been some of the cloth-workers and victuallers.

The burgesses as a collective had a mechanism for expression in the burghmoot (although the name is not recorded until 1212); it may have been where the 86 burgesses took the oath to carry out the property survey. We see in the various guilds other signs of association for mutual interest, which became more formalized over time and more influential in protecting the economic interests of citizens; both merchant and craft guilds were present in the city by the early twelfth century. Earlier there were socio-religious guilds; even the residents of the suburb outside the West Gate had their own guild, which communally held income from certain properties and may later have amalgamated with the merchant guild.

After a period of relatively steady growth, in terms of population size and prosperity, from the time it was refounded as a burh up to the twelfth century, and of growing political importance as it became first a key centre for defence in Wessex and then the administrative capital of a united England, Winchester took more of a back seat. It was outpaced commercially and as a minting centre by other towns and its close ties with the monarchy and national administration weakened. As the twelfth century progressed, kings were making less use of Winchester for ceremonial purposes and elements of the royal administration were transferred to Westminster. The destruction of the royal palace during the siege of Winchester in 1141 was mainly a symbolic landmark in a more gradual process, for the castle was by now being used as the royal residence and King Stephen had already transferred the palace to his brother, the Bishop of Winchester. Although Winchester's fortunes revived after the end of the civil war, its society could elicit praise, and it retained importance throughout the medieval period as a regional market centre as well as in the nominal role of capital through the second half of the twelfth century, the real focal point of the realm, combining political with economic energy, had become London-Westminster.


The special role accorded by law to towns in regard to commerce and minting, reinforced by the efforts to ensure these took place in secure locations during the protracted contest between Vikings and Anglo-Saxons for control of England, gave impetus to an initial phase of re-urbanization of the landscape, following the decline of former Roman colonial centres. By the time those advantages had disappeared, conditions of relative peace had permitted the population growth, the expansion of agricultural productivity, the development of a more elaborate network of markets and ports, and the rise of a merchant class, which could support both the continued development and increasing prosperity of many existing towns and also a new phase of urbanization as Norman overlords sought to cash in on economic trends.

Certainly by the close of the eleventh century, and arguably much earlier, we can perceive the groundwork for many of the characteristic features of towns, as they were later in the Middle Ages, either in place or being laid. There was a fairly sizable number of centres of population, possessing what were, in the English context, key urban attributes, such as:

  • defensive fortifications, providing the security that fostered the conduct and growth of commerce and industry;
  • some degree of planned development of layout of streets and facilities on at least part of the site
  • a regulated market serving to redistribute the raw resources surplus of the neighbourhood (and sometimes an extensive agrarian hinterland), often along with goods brought from distant locations;
  • workshops producing the coinage that was conducive to commercial development;
  • a measure of industrial activity that, if mostly small-scale, was usually diversified;
  • residents who were sufficiently socio-economically differentiated that they could be classed into a distinctive group (burgesses) understood to be oriented primarily towards trading and ancillary functions and showing some tendencies towards communal action;
  • types of real estate and tenurial conditions that served the needs of the essentially non-agrarian pursuits of burgesses;
  • the presence of administrative institutions (both secular and ecclesiastical) that tied local communities into larger frameworks of control and coordination

These centres were also hubs in a communications/transportation network of routes that may have originated to serve military needs, but was equally useful for the growth of commerce (tying together the rural areas producing raw materials and the sites where those materials could be, with or without conversion into secondary products, moved on to more remote destinations of consumption or further distribution) as well as for the development of a national system of government in which the towns were an important component. For the king, towns were becoming an increasingly significant source of revenues of various kinds, while for towns the monarchy provided the protection – military, legal, and regulatory – that enabled commerce to flourish. The differences between towns in the eleventh and the fourteenth centuries were more often ones of scale, detail, or sophistication, than of substance.



"men of credit"
We perhaps see here an early expression of the concept of probi homines as a distinct group within urban society. The requirement for credible witnesses to commercial transactions can be traced as far back as a Kentish law of the seventh century. King Edmund had, in the 940s, recognized the chief officer of a town (portireva) as one empowered to witness sales of cattle, but a law of Edgar (ca.963/63), again with cattle particularly in mind, had required each borough and rural hundred to designate a body of standing witnesses – 36 for larger towns and 12 for smaller ones – before two or three of whom every commercial transaction had to be made. Upon appointment to this role (or, in the time of Canute, in the course of individual trials), witnesses were to swear never to lie about any transaction they witnessed nor give any hearsay evidence. Purchasers were instructed to inform their neighbours, upon returning home, of the names of witnesss to their purchases.

"production of warrantors"
This relates to "vouching to warrant", found later usually in regard to real estate transactions when there was a requirement for the testimony of a former owner to support the title of the current feoffee. In similar fashion, the holder of some moveable item (e.g. cattle) whose right to possession came under legal challenge could have recourse to a warrantor, normally the person from whom the item had been acquired; that individual might in turn be required to prove legitimate past possession by calling upon his/her warrantor, and so on down the line. As the obstacles inherent in this are evident, vouching to warrant was later restricted to three removes. In the absence of a warrantor, the final resort of one accused of being in possession of stolen property was a judicial oath, preferably supported by the oath of one or more sureties.

"Aldersgate and Cripplegate", "Billingsgate"
This is the oldest known reference to these place-names. Cripplegate was on the site of the northern gateway in the Roman walled circuit, while Billingsgate protected the oldest of the city wharves. Why Cripplegate and nearby Aldersgate were singled out from other gateways as requiring guarding is unclear, unless the other gates were already well guarded or there were contemporary concerns about a Danish assault from the north.

"barque or a merchantman"
The terms used by the Latin translator of an Old English original (as indicated by the Latinization of a few Old English words) are ceol (whence "keel") and hulcus, the latter being the earliest known use of the term hulk in reference to a cargo ship; the translator may have chosen this term because in his time merchants from Lorraine, very active in trade through London, were using that type of vessel.

"exhibited their goods"
A distinction is being made here, and was more explicit in London regulations governing trade by Lorrainers (subjects of the Emperor), put into writing in the early twelfth century, between tolls due from merchants who sold their goods directly from their ships and those who unloaded the cargoes to take them into the city to sell there (or further afield). In the latter case public display of the goods entailed an additional toll.

"wool, which had been unloaded"
This refers to wool unpacked from its container in order to sell it by retail; the intent of the regulation appears to have been to allow German merchants and sailors to purchase, free of toll, small amounts of wool for personal use and meat to feed the crews on the return voyage.

Lidded baskets small enough to be carried on the back.

"city or fortress or castle or royal town"
in civitatem, vel burgum, vel castrum, vel portum regium is intended to cover much the same range of nodes in the network of protection and judicial administration as is found in some of the laws attributed to William the Conqueror. Although portum regium is elsewhere found apparently as a synonym for civitas, evidently there persisted some awareness of the variations of urban origins: administrative centres, appendages to fortifications, and commercial foci.

It is less clear here whether civitas is being used as a catch-all term or just in reference to the major urban settlements. Such terms could be used loosely, as they are today.

Forestalling. The term is also found in Domesday Book (translated in the above extracts as "highway robbery").

A measure of weight, usually corresponding to 20 pennies (so that three orae of pennies would represent 5 shillings in value).

"970 inhabited messuages"
Of this pre-Conquest number, by 1086 166 messuages had been removed to make room for the Norman castle, and 74 others had been destroyed or were tenantless and/or in disrepair, though the record is at pains to absolve oppressive Norman officials of responsibility, blaming instead fires, unspecified misfortunes, and impoverishment of former tenants. That it was felt necessary explicitly to clear the king's local and shire representatives only serves to emphasize that the depredations of such officers elsewhere contributed to post-Conquest hardships, a subject about which many witnesses were not reticent in using the Domesday commission to complain; the future impetus towards local self-government was aimed partly at circumventing the authority of the sheriff.

"sake and soke"
Powers of jurisdiction over some landed estate and its residents; in other words, a form of lordship. Soke was a broad term connoting, at the least, the receipt of dues customarily stemming from a jurisdiction. When coupled with sake, derived from a term meaning causes (in the sense of litigation), it conveyed particularly the exclusive rights to fines and forfeitures stemming from judicial cases involving said tenure and tenants (in addition to the rents and services that would normally be consequent to landlordship) and might even include the authority to convene a judicial court to try such causes, though it is hard to imagine that all the Lincoln lawmen had their own courts, unless they were some kind of precursor of the ward-aldermen model. Domesday was concerned to identify sake and soke where it existed because it indicated that the king (grantor of sake and soke) no longer had claim to such customary dues from that place.

The northernmost of the several salt wiches in Cheshire. The brine springs had been exploited since the time of the Romans, who had built a fort on a strategic location beside the River Weaver; a civilian settlement grew up next the fort. The settlement survived but likely declined after the Romans departed. But, as Domesday shows, by the close of the Anglo-Saxon period the salt industry was thriving again, with one or more pits on the bank of the River Dane, though Northwich (first heard of at that time) was probably only an industrial centre, with workers living in the adjacent village of Witton (wic-tun), though the salt-houses were mostly attached to a manor of the Earl of Chester. Northwich was not described as a borough until the late thirteenth century.

The salt industry is evidenced from at least Roman times, with brine pits along the west bank of the River Weaver, and settlement on the opposite side. It was the most productive of the wiches throughout the medieval period, although most of the salt-houses were in the hands of the king, earl, and outsiders. In the twelfth century salt-houses spread to both riverbanks, with brine carried by pipes across the river. The Malbank family, which held Nantwich as feoffees of the Earl of Chester from Domesday up to the late twelfth century, built a castle and church and helped the settlement along its early steps towards borough status. That status has no documentary reference until1319, though in a survey of 1276 we hear of a grain shop, a chandler's, and several butcher shops, and in 1283 the Bishop of Bath and Wells, who had become lord of part of the town, obtained royal licence for a fair there.

Again, archaeology has shown a significant salt industry from Roman times, the pits spread across an area connected with a fort and adjacent settlement. Little by way of medieval archaeology has yet been reported and it is not known whether the saltworks continued in uninterrupted use through the early Middle Ages, although evidently they were doing well enough by the time of Domesday, despite a setback when the salt wiches suffered during the Norman 'harrying of the north' in 1069-70. There were more pits than at Nantwich and Northwich, though they were not as productive as Nantwich's. The king issued a market licence to Middlewich in 1260, and it was referred to as a borough in 1288, but was a few years earlier being farmed from the earl by its probi homines which suggests communal organization. The court for Middlewich hundred was held there until around 1217, when transferred to Northwich.

A measurement usually applied to the load that a packhorse was capable of carrying; the Latin term survives in English as seam, a volume equivalent to about eight bushels later in the Middle Ages.

A feudal fine payable by the heir of a newly-deceased tenant of property held of the king, in order that the heir could take possession of that property. One of the privileges that later became a distinguishing mark of burgess status was the right to inherit freely.

An occasional tax on real estate introduced to buy off Danish invaders but continued in use to raise money to support war efforts or other royal needs; it was perhaps the most important fiscal resource (from the king's perspective) recorded by Domesday, and William I applied it regularly and burdensomely. One of the obligations that towns sought to escape when they obtained their first charters of liberties in exchange for an annual farm, it was simply superseded by new forms of royal taxation.

"in the presence of"
The witnesses were (respectively): the Bishop of Winchester, a royal chamberlain, two royal justiciars, and a treasury chamberlain who had served as sheriff of Hampshire in 1106.

"every other royal custom"
Besides landgable, the customary payments and services due from burgesses were brewgable (where applicable), geld, and watch-duty; a few other customs receive rare mentions, but do not look to have been general. Brewgable was evidently a rent (more like a tax) on brew-houses; brewing ale – even when mainly for household consumption – required a fair amount of space: for malting, for boiling and cooling, and for short-term storage; for this reason, and probably also because of the risk of fire, it was usually conducted elsewhere than a residence, though this might be no more than an out-building.

This property had forges associated with it and Wimund was a minter under the first Norman kings.

"hall of the cnihtas"
This large property appears to be the same building as that called Chapman's Hall in 1130, and later the Cloth Seld; in the 1148 survey it was occupied partly by shops where linen was sold, while in 1157 the property is found in the hands of a linen draper and was later referred to as the linea selda when King John rented it to his tailor. The hall in entry 34 appears to be a separate property. Biddle suspected Godwin Prison and Cheping fitz Alveva to have been moneyers. A guild of English cnihtas is also known from London, associated with one of the city sokes; as at Winchester, they and their drinking traditions were but a memory by the twelfth century. The character of this group is uncertain; it is a fairly safe bet the cnihtas (chenictes in the Latin) were prominent members of the community, but whether burgesses (in the technical sense) or whether military tenants is unclear. Just possibly we can connect them with those accorded thegnly status under Anglo-Saxon law because they undertook overseas voyages (probably to trade). The 1148 survey refers to a former guildhall where Winchester's probi homines used to drink their guild, the name given the building in the original (hantachenesele) might refer to the hanse, a term generally referring to an association of traders, but this was in a different location to the hall of the cnihtas. N.B. that Biddle did not care for the hanta-hanse identification, but could offer no alternative interpretation; one argument that has been put forward is that the hantachenesele was the hall of St. John's Hospital, but the slight evidence is largely philological [Richard Coates, "The hantachenesele in the Winton Domesday", Hampshire Studies, vol.66 (2011), pp.228-29]. There was a merchant guild in Winchester by the 1150s (very dubious tradition had it founded by the father of Alfred the Great), but no evidence to associate it with either Chapman's Hall or the cnihtas. However, an Anglo-Saxon charter from Canterbury, where we know of specialized markets by the names of Rithercheap and Wincheap, supports the trade connection when it shows the cnihtas of the Chapman's Gild engaging corporately in a property transaction [the charter is known only though a transcription in William Somner and Nicolas Battely, The Antiquities of Canterbury, 2nd ed. London, 1703, pt.1, p.179] At York there is passing mention of a Gildgarth, in a text (known only through later and corrupt copies) roughly contemporary with Domesday and describing the pre-Conquest rights of the bishop in the city; although we have nothing that throws further light on whether this gild represented, in any way, interests of the citizenry, a piece of later evidence suggests the existence of a merchant gild. In 1129/30 we hear that Thomas the son of Ulviet, who may have been the lawman, was appointed alderman of a city gild, though it would be risky to assume from this connection that lawmen and gild were formally associated as an institution of borough government.

At this period, a royal manor.

We do not know if this was perhaps another guildhall used for drinkings, or was simply a tavern.

"William d'Aubigny"
The king's butler and father of the future Earl of Arundel.

The editors suspect this means a balk- or beam-house, constructed of strong timbers to act as a cage.

"8 butchers"
This property may have been on the corner of Fleshmonger Street, and used for a shambles, as the 1d per butcher per week suggests.

"Godebiete tenement"
It is uncommon at this period to find an individual property with its own proper name, but it was a large enough property (not all covered under entry 23) to be described later as a manor, meaning a soke. The larger part had been bequeathed by the mother of Edward the Confessor to the cathedral-priory of St Swithun, quit of all service, though she had retained a second part. It was most likely named after a previous owner or builder, Aelfric Godbegot, whose surname has been interpreted as possibly meaning something like "getter of goods" or "good acquisition", though this is doubtful.

"the church"
This was St. Peter in macellis, so-named for the butchery shambles, two of whose stalls had, at some point between 1066 and 1110, evidently lost their sites due to an enlargement of the church or churchyard.

"street which has been appropriated"
Likely a lane that once ran off the High Street; a number of minor routes are recorded in the survey as having been absorbed into adjacent properties; such an encroachment may have served to extend an existing house or to create a service passage between its rooms at the front and those at the rear.

"Thomas of St. John"
He served as one of Henry I's sheriffs of Oxfordshire.

The customary service of policing/guard-duty for which all householders were liable; Biddle infers from this that the city was divided into wards as a means of organizing the watch. We do not know what the burgess attitude to this obligation was at this period, but it had become unpopular in a later, more peaceful time.

"three minsters"
This was the name for some feature in the High Street, perhaps between the churches of St. Paul and St. Peter Whitbread; in the fourteenth century a fishmarket was held nearby.

"Henry de Port"
Sheriff of Hampshire from 1101 to about 1106.

"the Gate"
The city's West Gate; entries 1-38 had covered the side of the High Street in the direction east to west. The West Gate (along with the East and South Gates) is heard of in mid-tenth century, and the North Gate was probably as old. The West and North Gates stood on the site of the Roman gateways, the other pair had been slightly displaced from their Roman counterparts. The main approach roads to the city converged on the East and West gates, hence the orientation of the High Street. We hear of two other gates that may have existed before 1066: Durngate, and King's Gate, the latter giving access to a suburb and to the king's palace.

"William son of Odo"
He was a royal sub-constable ca.1136. His father was possibly the Odo the moneyer who appears in a later entry in the survey; as no surviving coins minted at Winchester are stamped with the name Odo, he may have only been charged with the cutting of dies, and there is some evidence the family held that office hereditarily.

"Robert Mauduit", "Richard de Courcy"
Robert was a royal chamberlain (d. ca.1129), and Richard a tenant-in-chief in Oxfordshire who served as a royal justice in Normandy.

"Aldred the brother of Odo"
Both men had been important royal thegns.

"king's house"
The Norman palace. In 1065 fire destroyed a dozen houses just south of the High Street (see entry 57 above for names of tenants); William I subsequently acquired (by exchange) the site from its owner, the Minster, had five minting workshops on an adjacent site demolished, then built his own palace on much of this land as well as the site of the former Anglo-Saxon palace. Construction of the kitchen, at one end of the new palace blocked what was probably one of the major north-south streets of the Anglo-Saxon city, connecting the High Street with the cathedral and the old palace.

Those mentioned in this entry, and possibly some in those that followed, were probably minting workshops.

"Thomas Gate"
A gateway to the cathedral precinct

"Walter Chibus"
Possibly the Walter Kiburs who foreswore usury (suggesting he was a moneychanger/lender) as part of his payment for a cure for a prolonged illness, effected by contact with relics of the Virgin brought to Winchester ca.1113.

"Merewen's enclosure"
This was right in the middle of the High Street, for the street's drainage channel ran through the enclosure.

"broader set of edicts"
The other components of the postulated set were of national scope and cracked down on infringements by moneyers, their suborners, and those who used counterfeit coin. Punishments were prescribed for producers of adulterated coins or fake dies, for moneyers operating in unlicensed locations, and for traders who passed sub-standard coin. Since minting and trading were largely restricted to towns, there were also penalties for royal reeves in charge of borough administration who colluded in any minting fraud or who failed to ensure that the official weights used in mints were stamped to mark them as genuine. At the same time the number of minters authorized by Athelstan was reduced to three in each of the greater towns and one in the smaller, and it was made clear that they were responsible for their employees adhering to the royal standards.

The Rhinelanders' property here, which by the time of Henry II had come to include a meeting hall, later became a base for all German merchants, and subsequently the Steelyard of the Hanseatic League.

"right of pre-emption"
By the early twelfth century the principle of pre-emption had become fairly elaborate in London. When a Lorrainer ship arrived in the port it could not unload its cargo nor receive English merchants aboard until royal officials had first been given a chance (defined as a period of three tides) to make purchases for the king's household – a similar royal priority being evidenced in the Chester Domesday entry. Then merchants who were citizens of London could board the ship to buy, with merchants of Oxford and next Winchester being given the next opportunities, and finally any other merchants had their shot at purchasing. These deals were of a wholesale nature, only very limited retailing being permitted at that stage. Only after this could the Lorrainers take whatever remained of their cargoes into the city or, after a minimum one-night stay within the walled area (to provide non-mercantile citizens an opportunity to buy), through it to sell in the suburbs or beyond. By contrast, Norse merchants were not permitted to go beyond London, although Danes were allowed to pass through the city to seek out other English markets.

"first systematically planned urbanization project"
Jeremy Haslam ("Market and fortress in England in the reign of Offa" World Archaeology vol. 19 no.1 (1987), 76-93) has argued that there had been undertaken an earlier, if smaller, programme of establishing burhs to defend river routes through Mercia, which also were or became administrative centres and set the scene for market development; but this has left no documentation comparable to the Burghal Hidage.

"large number of properties"
Only a small minority were then held by burgesses, most being appurtenant to rural manors. These mural mansions, as historians have termed them, provided a key piece of evidence for Maitland to argue them a relic of the arrangements for the original garrisoning of the burhs, a theory refuted by Tait but which has been given new life, in a modified form, recently by Haslam, who sees the Oxford situation as occasioned by an extension of the original burh there, necessitating new arrangements to supersede the Burghal Hidage provision.

It is unclear whether this meant the crime of burglary (taking possession of moveables without warrant) or that of seizing possession of real property; the distinction was probably irrelevant to the law and it was simply the act of forcible intrusion without permission of the tenant that committed, as Ethelred's law points out, a most serious breach of the peace.

A ranked list of this strict count from Domesday can be found in Alan Dyer's appendix to The Cambridge Urban History of Britain, volume 1, ed. D.M. Palliser, Cambridge University Press, 2000, 752-53.

After Lincoln's abandonment by the Romans its fate is uncertain, though its fortifications and strategic position must have kept it attractive, and under the Anglian invaders it became part of the kingdom of Lindsey – perhaps a sparsely populated ecclesiastical/administrative centre, though with meagre commercial activity, around the sixth and seventh centuries – Northumbria and Mercia contesting for sway over it; all this remains somewhat speculative. Equally uncertain is whether, or to what extent, at least part of the Roman site of Lincoln may have been refortified either by Offa or, more likely, by the Vikings. Agricultural expansion following Danish settlement, as more land was brought under cultivation or reclaimed from the fens, intertwined with a resurgence of trade (evidenced by archaeological finds of increasing numbers of coins minted there, pottery produced locally and imported, and products of leatherworking and metalworking), suggest Lincoln was re-urbanizing from the late ninth century through the tenth, economic growth drawing, and being furthered by, immigration from rural areas. It was one of what was referred to by the Anglo-Saxons as the Five Boroughs of the Danelaw, which their kings down to Ethelred II allowed, after the nominal reconquest, to keep most of their legal customs.
By the beginning of the eleventh century the Lincoln mint was one of the most productive in England, notwithstanding minters operating in smaller towns in the region, such as Torksey; the city's administrative importance is suggested by the fact that not only the county sheriff but both Earl Morcar and Earl Harold had houses there (suggesting occasional visits), as later did William I's niece, the widow of Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria. The Domesday entry for Lincoln is one of the longer borough descriptions; this reflects the importance the city had once more acquired, though it is also partly due to some complex tenurial situations that needed to be documented. Even though between about 1066 and 1086 the city had lost the contributions of 240 houses – a number greater than the total properties of each of more than half of the Domesday boroughs – to customary communal revenues, most of them demolished to clear a site for the Norman castle, Lincoln remained in the top ranking of towns, in terms of population size; its residential area was already spilling out beyond the city walls in the late eleventh century. This rank can also be seen if one compares the number of surviving Anglo-Saxon coins minted there with those from other towns, and in terms of its relative value to the king through the borough farm and taxations of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. By the close of the eleventh century Lincoln, which had managed to avoid implication in the repeated northern rebellions against the Conqueror, had become the base for an important royal garrison, a diocesan capital (from 1072), and a well-placed market (with little serious competition) in a region of rich agricultural/pastoral lands. Since it owed its climb to prosperity partly to the Viking conquests and the greater trade connections they brought with Scandinavian countries, it is not wholly surprising to find, in the lawmen, persistent examples of the Scandinavian acculturation of northern and central England, though perhaps relics in a time when Norman landlords and Norman approaches to rule were superseding their English predecessors.

Some reoccupation by Anglians seems to have been underway in the sixth century, but this region did not see much re-urbanization during the Early Middle Ages; in Domesday Chester was practically the only place in Cheshire where burgesses are mentioned. Its influence had earlier extended beyond that relatively sparsely-populated county into Lancashire and North Wales, and it may have had some measure of ecclesiastical importance. As with Lincoln, it was contested between Northumbria and Mercia and came for a while under control of the Vikings, but in peacetime it benefited from the network of saltways and, at least by the tenth century, from maritime trade with Dublin and lesser Viking ports around the Irish Sea. By the end of the ninth century it had metal and pottery industries producing for long-distance commerce, and we see signs of new building and the formation of parishes. Refortification of Mercia in the early tenth century included Chester: parts of the Roman defences were re-used and its line was extended to the riverfront; Burghal Hidage standards seem to have been applied to manning the defences. Chester was likely involved in supplying other burhs newly-established in the region, as well as serving as a base for campaigns against the Welsh and/or Vikings. Minting began there probably in the late ninth century and grew, under Athelstan, into one of the largest and most prolific operations in England, though its subsequent fortunes were up and down.
The number of local customs recorded in Domesday relating to visiting merchants is a reflection of the city's lively maritime trade in the eleventh century; goods included imports of much-valued marten furs and exports of slaves. In the longer-term, however, Chester would suffer from being far removed from areas of wool production and centres of the cloth industry. In mid-eleventh century the city was under the shared lordship of the king, earl, and the Bishop of Lichfield (after 1075 styled the Bishop of Chester), the last having a soke just outside the city wall which was in itself described in Domesday as a borough and was not covered by most of the customary 'laws of Chester' given above. Except for a brief period, Chester failed to find its own role as a diocesan seat (though it had a wealthy and locally influential monastery in St. Werburgh's, re-established 1092). But its administrative role as the shire town was enhanced by construction of the castle (1070, consequent to a failed rebellion by the citizens in alliance with the Welsh), increasing its viability as a base for military expeditions into Wales and later Ireland, and in the following year the institution of the new earl's Palatinate, placing the city outside the mainstream of royal jurisdiction; even before this the earls of Chester had enjoyed a good deal of independence, which the Chester Domesday entry reflects in assigning the earl a larger share of certain revenues than was usual in such partnerships and in according the earl's reeve an almost equal importance to the king's. Despite Chester's special status –or perhaps partly because it placed the city at arm's length from the king and more tightly under the thumb of a mesne lord's officials – it never came to rank among the larger and wealthier towns of medieval England, though it continued to prosper beyond the eleventh century.

"associated with Lincoln"
When the king levied geld, Torksey was not individually assessed, but contributed a portion of Lincoln's assessment, a very unusual arrangement. Also unusual is that before the Conquest Torksey's lord was the queen, sharing revenues with the earl, whereas Lincoln and most other towns had the king as their chief lord. It must have had urban status at least as far back as the late tenth century, when minting took place there, yet its origins are probably as a Roman port on the Fossdyke canal connecting the River Trent to Lincoln; the Trent, after passing through the Midlands, connects to the River Ouse, giving access to York. The name Torksey suggests Anglian settlement on an 'island', perhaps silt-formed or maybe simply land in a loop of the canal near its confluence with the Trent; recent evidence may point to Saxon industrial activity (other than the pottery industry for which it was known) and a riverbank market. Under the Vikings Torksey acquired new significance, as a military base and possibly a regional capital, where one Viking king is said to have been crowned; in the twelfth century its court was referred to as a burewarmot (assembly of the men of the burh), which may indicate that its role as military/administrative centre continued as the Danelaw was retaken. In 1086, Lincoln's population was about nine times that of Torksey, although the latter had shrunk severely since the Confessor's time, silting up of the Fossdyke having compromised Torksey's viability as a port. Scouring out the canal in 1121 made it navigable again and kept the town going for a few more centuries.

The application of 'wich' in these place-names may stem from the generic use of the term to refer to a small (pre-urban) settlement. Yet it may be that a more restricted use of the term wik had been extended from bay-side settlements playing a role in sea-borne commerce, at some of which places the extraction of salt from sea-water was a local industry, to inland 'factory' sites such as Middlewich and Droitwich, where brine associated with ancient salt deposits was accessed from pits dug into the ground.

"salt extraction industry"
Salt was a valuable commodity in the Middle Ages; meat, hides, and fish were often salted to preserve them during the period of transportation to destinations where they would be consumed and/or winter storage. Domesday shows that this was already a prosperous industry; there are indications that some manufacturers took their salt to other markets to sell, but clearly the wiches were themselves salt markets, drawing buyers from far and near, most of them apparently small- or large-scale merchants intending to resell. The proceeds from the salt trade benefited not only manufacturers and middlemen but also the king and earl, who received tolls from purchasers of salt to be removed from the wiches, as well as a tax on workings, the latter rendered as a certain number of boilings of salt (in some, but not all, wiches, carried out on certain Fridays of the year); in addition their own salt-houses produced salt for the use of their households. It was held that salt produced from 15 boilings was equivalent to a summa; a fine imposed for non-capital offences committed within the bounded area of the Nantwich workings could be paid in boilings, and shows that a summa was valued at one shilling.
Archaeological evidence and documents from the later Middle Ages indicate the following generalized picture of the industrial process. Communal pits of various sizes, but often several metres deep, were dug to access brine generated by natural springs traversing saliferous beds. At least some of these pits were lined with timber, clay or even wicker, and some boarded up around the top edges with cross-beams installed to provide for mechanisms for raising volumes of brine; brine storage pits and pots (possibly Roman) have been found at Middlewich, and at Nantwich the remains of what may have been a twelfth-century cistern for accumulating brine. It was then conveyed to troughs in individually owned salt-houses, in the vicinity of, yet not in most cases adjacent to, the pits; transportation was either by hand (or in containers carried on the back) or, certainly by the fifteenth century, by ditch, wooden acqueduct, or pipe-type conduits. Some saltworking shacks seem to have been grouped together, others spread across a wider area. Only owners of plots of land on which salt-houses were built were allowed to remove brine from pits. A salt-house contained one or more pans (shallow cauldrons made of lead) in which brine was boiled over a hearth to extract the salt through evaporation; during this part of the process the brine was stirred with wooden paddles; 75 pans are recorded in operation at Middlewich in the mid-thirteenth century. The resultant salt crystals were raked off and dried in wicker baskets, although at Domesday Droitwich we also hear of drying mounds (hocci); remains of salt rakes have been found at Nantwich. It is not certain whether workers lived on the plots on which the salt-houses stood; more likely they lived nearby. Later in the Middle Ages the operational period of salt-houses during a year was limited, for fear of exhausting the brine, so the plots and buildings may have been put to other uses. Many of these salt-houses came into the hands of monasteries and were rented or leased out to lay operators, while many more were held by aristocratic families; burgesses (whether residents of non-residents of the wiches) are not evidenced as owners of salt-houses until the fourteenth century, although they must have been industry workers and traders earlier. We know that fourteenth-century Middlewich had a lead smithy – and such a facility for producing pans must have been needed earlier and elsewhere – as well as shops through which visiting merchants could trade.

"small cottages"
One row of seven such lodgings totalling only 50 feet in length, making them even narrower than late medieval row housing still found at York.

As with the Cheshire salt wiches, salt production at Droitwich in Worcestershire dates back to ancient times and was the probable reason for Roman settlement there, near a fort guarding the river crossing. In the early Anglo-Saxon period the settlement declined and the salt industry was disrupted by flooding, but brought back to life under the sponsorship of the Mercian monarchy (which initially owned most of the salt-houses), possibly as a decentralized wik, with houses clustering around several brine pits; these would eventually consolidate into a town. By 1086 the scale of production exceeded that of the Cheshire wiches, and we hear of burgesses there, some of them evidently salt-workers, belonging to external manors to which the king had granted salt-houses. Droitwich itself is first referred to as a borough in 1155.

A process that had already begun at the time of Domesday, for the burgesses of Oxford had the option of paying the king £20 in lieu of supplying a contingent of 20 soldiers for military expeditions.

"other lord"
Prior to the Conquest, almost no towns of any significance were wholly under the lordship of one of the king's nobles or an ecclesiastical institution.

"overseeing the collection"
We have to assume that, in the larger towns at least, the execution of some of their duties was too demanding for reeves to perform without assistants.

"having hundredal jurisdiction"
The question of whether borough court and hundred court were distinctive or co-ordinate institutions has been one of much debate and disagreement, and remains a matter of uncertainty, as any generalization tends to be countered by exceptions. The Danelaw is a separate case, having a court for its Five Boroughs collective (Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, Nottingham, Stamford), while each individually had its own court; this confederacy may have been formed in response to aggression from the Norwegian kingdom of York. But whereas the Anglo-Saxon burhgemot seems to have continued, though with developments, into the later medieval period, the Court of the Five Boroughs disappeared.

Possible identifications are explored in David Cliff, Lincoln c.850-110: A study in economic and urban growth, PhD thesis, University of Huddersfield, 1994, ppp.343-47. The sole evidence is coincidence of names.

"only of four"
This may, however, have been because a particular subset had been accorded by royal writ special tenurial privileges, but only for life (suggesting possibly a reward for their judicial services). The late eleventh-century list of episcopal rights, already mentioned, was witnessed by twelve named men, "all the inhabitants of the city" [D. Palliser, Domesday York, Borthwick Papers no.78 (1990), 25], the bishop and his household, and various county dignitaries, leading to speculation that the twelve named may have been York's lawmen. A letter from the canons of York declaring the Minster's customary privileges (some pre-Conquest), as determined in 1106 by a 12-man inquest jury selected from the wisest Englishmen of the city (prudentissimos Anglos illius civitatis), refers to one of the jurors as "Ulvet son of Forno, by hereditary right lawman of the city, which in Latin might be expressed as legislator or iudex" [Visitations and Memorials of Southwell Minster, Camden Society, n.s. vol. 48, (1891), 192, my translation], who acted as foreman of the jury; an Ulf was one of the twelve witnesses mentioned above and the same name was held by one of York's minters in the first half of the twelfth century, and slightly later a Thomas son of Ulf was a minter of the earl and a community leader. Interestingly, the king's commissioners taking the inquest included not only men who served as justiciars to Henry I (one being Bishop of Lincoln), but also Peter de Valoniis, probably the Lincoln lawman of 1086. This Peter of Valognes, along with Norman Crassus, show Normans making inroads into the ranks of lawmen, but that was likely a side-effect of lands with which they were rewarded, as loyal followers of the Conqueror. Valognes' extensive property included some in Lincolnshire, though his principal interests were further south than Lincoln, and in 1086 he was sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire and farmer of the town of Hertford; he died ca.1109. A decline in the official duties of lawmen may have caused Normans to perceive the status as primarily connected with land-holding.

"superior knowledge of local customs"
This use of an expert committee may have been the way many early custumals were compiled, as was the case at Ipswich: probably in 1200 when it was first decided to set down in writing local customs {the 12 capital portmen being the likeliest candidates to have declared what these were, since it was their job to maintain them and use them to give judgements in the borough court), and certainly in 1291 when it was necessary to reconstruct the custumal from the memories of two dozen leading citizens. In connection with this we should note a reference in 997 to 12 'senior thegns' of the Five Boroughs, whom a law of Ethelred II required to attend wapentake courts and make presentments of lawbreakers, and another reference in 1018 in regard to four Devon towns, to their witan, groups whose name connotes expertise and was sometimes used to mean judges. Also, references to judgers (iudicatores) performing some unspecified role in Middlewich, and possibly the other salt wiches, from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries. There is no evidence to connect the Devon and Middlewich groups with the lawmen, but they show a wider-spread reliance – particularly in a pre-literate era, before the emergence of a professional caste of clerks, notaries and lawyers – on select members of the community for advice on legal matters. Such men may have been members, or predecessors, of the stratum of probi homines who were highly influential in local administration.

"end up supplanting"
As with most historical processes, the transition was gradual. Rural manorial lords with urban ties and military prowess may have continued to be looked to for a while as leaders of local militia; they, or junior members of their families, may have been among appointees to the post of reeve, or merged into that segment of the urban elite who pursued powers of local self-government.

"complexity of urban social structure"
For example, the impoverished groups included some burgesses and some ex-burgesses, while the status of certain borough sokemen has been the subject of debate, as have the 'horsemen' of Nottingham (whose houses are distinguished from the houses of merchants) and whether they bear any relation to the members of mysterious cnihtengilds at Canterbury, London, and Winchester, or the thegns' gild at Cambridge, all evidenced from sources other than Domesday. Tait's discussion [The Medieval English Borough, ch.4] of burgess status and Domesday's various seeming exceptions to the rule is usually considered definitive.

"exceptional case"
A Gloucester document drawn up in the final years of the eleventh century and known from a late twelfth century copy [R. Cole and W.H. Stevenson, Rental of all the houses in Gloucester A.D. 1455, Gloucester: 1890, xiv-xv], identifying the number of dwellings in the city, their landlords, and their value to the king in rents and other payments, could pass for a Domesday entry; it may just possibly have been the predecessor to a series of records of landgable rents, not dissimilar from the Winton Domesday. Yet it does not appear to have been derived from the final Great Domesday entry for Gloucester, although both might have drawn on a common prior source (if no more than a local draft of a submission to the commissioners). Conceivably, the later called on human recollections, as the earlier had, though by the close of the century reliable memory of the situation during the reign of the Confessor must have been a scarce resource.

"encroachments on public land"
Quite a few encroachments on, or enclosures of, public thoroughfares or land beside the city walls, are identified in the survey; they were rarely done with official licence, but only some of them were being contested, the status of other encroachers making them difficult to challenge unless by their peers. A certain amount of encroachment may have been shrugged off before it started to become a serious nuisance.

"necessary resource"
By mid-twelfth century several dyers, who also needed water for their processes, had moved into Tanner Street (later Lower Brook Street). In the following century legal action was required to protect public access to the water supply, restrict the worst of industrial pollution, and deal with competitive demands from different occupations.

"building trades"
These occupations are not visible in the earlier survey, even though there ought to have been a relatively high demand for such tradesmen, in a city with the character of Winchester; five masons and three carpenters can be identified from the later survey. Again, only one goldsmith and one potter are identifiable from the earlier survey, although the presence of so many monasteries, the king's palace, and officials of the royal administration might be expected to have created greater than normal demand for their finer products; the single potter mentioned is known to have been a royal servant and well-to-do, but potters living off the proceeds from basic products for everyday use would be unlikely to register in the surveys. Similarly, although the bread-and-butter of most blacksmiths was farrier work, iron fittings used by the monumental establishments would have raised the socio-economic status of some. Even the large number of butchers may be explicable by demand from the upper-scale clienteles.

That is, exchanging old coin for new and foreign coin for English. The minter Andrebode of entry 29 is also described as a changer later in the survey. The exchange is unlikely to have taken place in the minting workshops, but rather at a money-changer's stall or bench (likely outside the workshop) in the High Street or possibly at the changer's residence, the latter presumably being the more secure location for storage of bullion. It is not certain how many minters may have lived in the same property that held their workshop, or one adjacent; the risk of fire would have discouraged such a practice.

These structures seem to have been small. Not much space was required beyond that for the metal-working furnace.

"civic interests"
Insofar as such may be said to have crystallized at this period; the degree of consciousness of eleventh century urban residents of their distinctive communal interests, beyond those related to everyday survival, are not easy to gauge, although hinted at in the London regulations above, and in the complaint of the Shrewsbury burgesses to the Domesday commissioners concerning geld. The self-aware and self-assertive civic commune still lay around the corner. On the other hand, nor is there any sign in the eleventh century that economic inequalities were yet so pronounced as to undermine social cohesion, a problem characteristic of urban society in the Late Middle Ages.

"several members"
Besides Henry de Port (see above) there were his sisters Adelaide and Emma (de Percy). Hugh is recorded in Domesday as holder of over fifty manors in Hampshire. Multiple tenement-holders in the later survey include members of the next generations of manorial lords from the family: John, Roger and Ralf de Port, and Ralf's son Hugh. The family had come to England in the person of Hugh de Port (d.1096), who had been an under-tenant of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, in Normandy, and was one of the first Norman sheriffs of Hampshire. The earlier survey also includes Faderling, one of Hugh's Hampshire under-tenants in Domesday.

At Winchester the normal burgage rent seems to have been 6d for a house (or, more strictly, the plot on which the house stood), while stalls were rented for 1d. a week, though this has more the appearance of a licence fee; later, variants of gable were charged particular tradespeople. But not all city properties were held by burgage tenure, and the sub-division or (less commonly) amalgamation of properties, operations of the land market, and changes in tenants resulted in increased or additional rents over time (typically, with the old landgable assigned to just some portion deemed to be representative of the original plot); so the values of many properties in the survey are higher, often considerably.

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Created: December 18, 2011. Last update: April 3, 2017 © Stephen Alsford, 2011-2017