Thetford, chapter 9: Of the state of the city in the Confessor's Time

Pages 42-43

An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1805.

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In King Edward's days this flourishing city was become a hundred by itself, called Thetford Hundred, (fn. 3) the bounds of its land, on the Norfolk side, was about two miles in length, and one in breadth, and half was pasture, and half arable. The land, on the Suffolk side, besides what the city stood on, was above a mile long, and as much broad, of which the King and Earl's parts contained about four carucates: there were no less than 943 burgesses, of all which the King had the superiour jurisdiction, with their customs, rents and services, but thirty-six of them were so far the King's tenants, that they could hold nothing of any other lord, without his special license, but all the rest might hold lands, and do homage and fealty to any other lord, on condition they still paid all their old customs, except heriots. The whole of the customs and rents amounted to 30l. yearly, of which the King had 20l. numbered for his two thirds, (fn. 4) and the other third, viz. 10l. numbered belonged to the Earl of the East-Angles, who governed this city and counties, for which reason I have been so large and exact hitherto in their history, as also, because the general history of the county, and its government, is so mixed with it, that by thus reciting it fully together, I need no more repeat it, but as occasion offers, refer my readers hither.

Besides this, the burghers paid the King, yearly, a rent of 40d. 4 measures of honey, 10 goat skins, and 4 oxes hides, and the Abbot of Bury had 21 burgesses, one church, and a free-house, (fn. 5) all which, with their lands and revenues, were in the liberty of St. Edmund, and consequently exempted from all other jurisdiction whatever. The Abbot of Ely had a free-house and 3 churches, there being then 13 parish churches, if not more, for so many are mentioned in this record; but whether any, or how many, are omitted, we cannot say. The King had the head manor, which had two carucates in the tenants hands, and two more in demean, 20 bordars, two servants, a mill, 13 acres of meadow, a walk for 128 sheep, the whole being worth 7l. per annum. At this time, St. Mary's (fn. 6) was the mother church of the city, having 4 other churches appendant to it, all which belonged to the inheritance of Stigand, then Archbishop of Canterbury; but whether he purchased it, or retained it ever since he was Bishop of Elmham, (fn. 7) I cannot say, though if he did, it was but like his other proceedings, for after he had thrust himself into the archbishoprick, he still retained his bishoprick of Winchester with it, till the Conqueror deprived him, and seized on all his estate in 1070, and gave this church, with those appendant to it, together with all their revenues, to Arfast Bishop of Thetford, and his heirs, who placed his see in it; and thus it appears that the Confessor left this lordship and city, with his crown, to his successour,

Harold, son of Godwin Earl of Kent, who had been formerly Earl of the East-Angles, and governour of it: he reigned only nine months and nine days, being killed in the battle at Hastyngs in Sussex, by William Duke of Normandy, who then seized the crown, and became the first monarch of the Norman race that swayed the British sceptre.


  • 3. See fo. 191.
  • 4. Or by tale, in Domesday, payments are said to be made, ad numerum, which I take to be uncoined pieces, that passed by tale. In moneta, or coined money, or ad pensum, when it was paid by weight.
  • 5. I take a free-house to mean here, a house for the Abbot's residence.
  • 6. Not St. Mary's the present parish church; but St. Mary the Great, where Arfast placed his episcopal see.
  • 7. It is likely that it belonged to the bishoprick; when Stigand had it, Elmham was but a small place, if compared with this city, and we cannot but conclude that the Bishop had a house to reside in here, where so many of the most publick affairs of the province were always transacted; and if so, it is most likely the mother church and its appendages, belonged to it, till Stigand retained it, as he did many other revenues of the bishoprick, as Domesday shews us.