Thetford, chapter 10: Of the division of the Earldom, Lordship, and Manor; and of the state of the city in the conqueror's time

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

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Francis Blomefield, 'Thetford, chapter 10: Of the division of the Earldom, Lordship, and Manor; and of the state of the city in the conqueror's time', An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2, (London, 1805), pp. 44-47. British History Online [accessed 14 June 2024].

Francis Blomefield. "Thetford, chapter 10: Of the division of the Earldom, Lordship, and Manor; and of the state of the city in the conqueror's time", in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2, (London, 1805) 44-47. British History Online, accessed June 14, 2024,

Blomefield, Francis. "Thetford, chapter 10: Of the division of the Earldom, Lordship, and Manor; and of the state of the city in the conqueror's time", An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2, (London, 1805). 44-47. British History Online. Web. 14 June 2024,


Of the division of the earldom, lordship, and manor; and of the state of the city in the conqueror's time.

William the Bastard, commonly called the Conqueror, began his reign in the year of our lord 1066; and because Morker Earl of Northumberland at first resisted him, he seized on his earldom; (fn. 1) and though he afterwards submitted, and sware fealty to him, and had his earldom of Northumberland restored, yet he was never admitted to our earldom after his father Algar's death, (fn. 2) but the King being possessed of it, and of the whole of this city, which belonged to it, kept it some time in his own hands, and afterwards divided it; for in the year 1075 he gave the earldom of Norfolk and Suffolk to Ralf de Waiet, Waher, or Guader, (fn. 3) a Norfolk man born, son of Ralf, an Englishman, by a Welsh woman; this Ralf, while the King was in Normandy, (fn. 4) and against his command, (fn. 5) (though the Saxon Chronicle says the contrary,) married Emma, daughter of William Fitz-Osborne, or Osbert, sister to Roger Earl of Hereford, cousin to King William, and celebrated his nuptials with great pomp, at the city of Norwich, (fn. 6) Waltheof, the great Earl of Northumberland, Roger Earl of Hereford, with many other bishops, abbots, and barons, were present at it, and there conspired against the King; but Waltheof repenting the next day, informed Stigand the Archbishop, who sent for the King immediately; Earl Ralf and Earl Roger continuing in their purpose, endeavoured to raise forces in their own countries, and sent to Denmark for more assistance; but the keepers of the castles, and the inhabitants of their earldoms, refused to join them, upon which he retreated to his castle at Norwich, and having committed it to the keeping of his wife, he there took ship, and went to LittleBritain; upon this, the King besieges the castle, but the lady held it till he granted her his peace, and licensed her to go out of the realm, and so she followed her husband, and by this means the earldom came into the king's hands again, who that year held his Christmas at Westminster, and there all the Englishmen that were at the Earl's marriage at Norwich were grievously punished; (fn. 7) some had their eyes put out, and others their estates forfeited to the King's use; and from this time to the first year of King Stephen, the earldom with all its profits was in the Crown, (fn. 8) but the manor was given by the King, free of all custom or rent, to Roger Bigot, a Norman, who came over with him and assisted him in his conquest, who had possession of it before the general survey, as I find by Domesday-Book, fol. 105.

Terra Rogeri Bigoti. In TETFORT habet Rogerus in Dominio, quietam ab omni Consuetudine, cui adiacebant Tempore Regis Car. Terre, et modo similiter, semper ii. Car. in dominio Bore. ii. Ser. i. Mol. xiii. Acr. prati t xxx. Acr. Terre. Fbi est i. Mol. et v. Acr: prati. semper cxxviii. Oves, tunc val. vii. fib: post et modo viii. de supradictis Bord. habet Rec Scotum de suo Capite tantum.

In BURGO habet Rogerus xxxiii. homines, sibi commendatos, quos tenuit suns Anteressor, in quibus nichil preter Commendationem habuit. Habet etiam i. Mon. quem tenet Turstinus Burgensis, hoc teclamat de Dono Regis, sed Hund. nescit quomodo. Hic Mol. balet xxxii. Sol. i. Ecclesia

That is to say, Roger Bigot holds that part of Thetford in demean, free from all rent, which in the time of the Confessor had two carucates of land, and now hath the same, besides two other carucates held in demean, to which belong 20 bordars, two servants, a mill, 13 acres of meadow, and 30 of land (arable). There is also one mill with five acres of meadow, and a sheeps'-walk for 128 sheep, all which in the Confessor's days was worth 7l. per annum, and now 8l.; the whole belongs to Roger, except the customary contribution or rent, paid by the head bordar, and that belongs to the King.

The said Roger hath in the burgh 33 men under his protection, which his predecessor had, but they pay him nothing, only acknowledge him as their protector or lord; he hath also one mill, which Turstin (sc. de Tetford) the burgess holds, as he pretends, by the King's gift, but the jury of the hundred know of no such thing. This mill is worth 32s. per annum; he hath also one church. All this was settled on the abbey or priory that he founded here, and continued in that house till its dissolution; the church, as I take it, was St. Nicholas's, which always belonged to the abbey.

This was afterwards called Halwick, or Thetford Manor, but the rents belonging to the King and the earldom, which remained in the Crown till King Richard the First's time, were called, the Dominion, Lordship, and sometimes, Manor of Thetford, which I shall treat of by itself, being obliged to return to speak of the condition of the city in the Conqueror's time, viz. Ao 1085, in which year, the Saxon Chronicle says, Domesday was wrote; though other historians, as Stow, &c. say in 1080, which cannot be, for William Bishop of Thetford, who is mentioned in Domesday, as bishop at that time, was not nominated to the see till 1085, (fn. 9) and so the survey could not be taken till that year. It plainly appears, by comparing historians with this record, that Thetford had always flourished and increased, from the time that the Danes had quiet possession of it, to the Confessor's days. But from his time it decreased much, for the 943 burgesses that were then in the burgh were now declined to 720, there being no less than 224 mansion-houses (fn. 10) empty or down. The earldom (fn. 11) was now in the King's hands, who, after Stigand the Archbishop's disgrace, seized the church of St. Mary, with the churches of St. Peter, St. John, St. Martin, and St. Margaret, which were appendant to it, together with all their revenues, viz. 6 carucates of land, wanting half a bovate, in the Confessor's time, which was afterwards reduced to 2 carucates, and now to one; and 5 burgesses, 2 empty houses, 12 acres of meadow, and pasturage for 35 sheep, all being of 40s. value then, and the same now, because three of the carucates might be restored, and the other two are only turned into pasture, all which the King gave to Arfast Bishop of Thetford, and his heirs, who gave them to his sons, who now hold them. The bounds and extent of this place were the same as at the Confessor's survey, the King having two thirds of the customs and rents, as belonging to his crown, and the other third in right of the earldom: on the Norfolk side, the King had 1 carucate of land, 3 bordars, 1 servant, and 1 horse; and on the Suffolk side, there were 4 carucates, two parts of which belonged to the Crown, and one to the earldom, and 4 acres of land, which belonged solely to the Crown, besides those lands in the liberty of St. Edmund, which the burghers held. (fn. 12) The whole land on the Norfolk side was a league (fn. 13) long and half a league broad, and two thirds of the rents belonged to the King, and one to the earldom, but the King gave one of his thirds to Roger Bigot, who added it to his manor that he had given him. It appears that 21 of the burgesses held of the King 6 carucates and 60 acres of land, all which were in the jurisdiction of St. Edmund, and so consequently was that part from London-Road to Barnham-Bounds; besides this, there was another mill held by two burgesses. The customs and rents of this burgh were risen since the Confessor's time, for now it paid the Crown yearly 50 pounds by weight, and the earldom 20 pounds blauc, (fn. 14) and 6 pounds numbered besides 40l. a year to the King, in coin, and 16s. for two aids. (fn. 15) The Abbot of Bury's revenues were not altered, the Abbot of Ely had his house and 3 churches and 2 mansions void, which paid rent to the King, one of the houses being standing; the Bishop of Thetford had 20 free-houses, one mill, and half the advowson of a church, (fn. 16) and Roger Bigot had, besides his other revenues here, a free-house for his own residence, one monastery and 2 bordars belonging to it. And this was the state of the town at the Conqueror's survey. But least I should have made any mistakes in this account, I shall add an exact transcript of Domesday-Book, out of which it is gathered, that those who are better skilled than myself in the old words that are there used may correct them, if there should fortune to be any errours.

[Domesday, fol. 18.] Sub. Tit. Terre Regis in Manu Regis..

It is observable that this city paid no Danegeld, it being always excused from that tax, by reason of the number of Danes that dwelt in it.

Hund. de TETFOD in Tetford est i. Ecclesia Sancte Marie quam tenebat Stigandus Archiepiscopus. modo tenent filii Arfasti Epicopi. huic Ecclesie adiacent semper iiii. Ecclesie, Sancti Petri, Sancti Johannis, Sancti Martini, Sancte Margarite, t vi. Car. terre dimid. Bobata minus. tunc. ii. Car modo i. semper v. Burgenses, t due Mansure vacue t xii. Acr. prati et iii. Car. possunt restaurari t ii. Car. remanent in Pastura. semper xxxv. Ones t bal. xl. s.

Terre Regis in, TETFORD ultra Aquam versus. NORFOLC. Est una Leugata terre in longo t dimid. in lat. de qua Rer habet duas partes. de his autem duabus, partibus tertia pars in Consulatu iacet. de superiore Leugata R. Bigot, tertiam partem. Tota hec terra Medietas arabilis est. Altera in Pastura. in hac. terra habet Rec, i. Car. t iii. Bor. t i. Serbum t i. Equum. et de Duobus Molendinis habet Rer duas partes t Consulat. tertiam. habet etiam Rer, de tertio molendin. duas partes. t de his duabus partibus Comes habet tertiam. De alia parte versus Suthfold est dimid. Leugat. terre in Longo t dimid. in Lato. de hac terra tertia pars est ad Comitatus. iiii. Acr. prati. Tota hec terra arabilis est t iiii. Car. possunt arare. In Burgo arutem erant dcccxliii. Burgenes tempori Regis de his habet Rer omnem Cousuetudinem. De istis hominibus erant ita dominice Regis Edwardi, ut non possunt esse homines cuiuslibet sine Licentia Regis. Alii omnes poterant esse homines cuiuslibet. sed semper tamen Consuetudo Regis remandebat, preter Herigete. Modo sunt dccxx. Burgens. t ccxxiii. Mansure vacue, de istis habent vi. Car. t lx. Acr. quod tenent de Rege, et est in Soka Sancti Edmundi. preter hoc habent ii. Burgens i. molendin. hoc totum superius valebat tempore Regis Edwardi xxl. ad numerum. t ad opus Consul. xl. ad num. modo reddit Regi Ll. ad pensum.t Comiti xxl. Blancas t vil. ad numerum. Reddit etiam modo Regi xl. lib. de Moneta. et semp. xvi. Sol. ad ii. Prebendarios. reddebat etiam tempore Regis Edwardi iiii. Sestarios Mellis. et xld. et x. Pelles Caprinas et iiii. Coria Bobina. In Burgo habet Abbas Sancti Edmundi i. Ecclesiam et i. Domum libere. Abbas de Ely iii. Ecclesias t i. Domum libere et ii. Mansuras in Consuetudine, in una est Domus. Et Episcompus xx. Domos lib. et un. Molendin. t dimid. Ecclesiam. R. Bigot i. Dom. lib. et i. Monasterium t ii. Bor. ad Monasterium.


  • 1. Policron. fol. 262.
  • 2. It is supposed he was killed at the battle of Hastings.
  • 3. Speed calls him de Ware.
  • 4. Speed, 429.
  • 5. Stow, fol. 116.
  • 6. Sax. Cron. 182.
  • 7. Sax. Chron. fol. 183.
  • 8. The rents and profits of this town, which belonged to the earldom, remained in the Crown, till King Richard the First's time, they being not assigned to Bygod when he was created earl.
  • 9. Chron. Sax. p. 186.
  • 10. I take it Mansura signifies a mansion-house in decay, or a place where a mansion-house formerly stood; for thus says Domesday in another place: est ibi ii. mansuras, in una est domus.
  • 11. The Atlas, p. 338, says, their chief magistrate was styled a Consul, which name seems to intimate, that it had been of old a Roman town; but I do not meet with him ever called so, the word Consul signifies in our language an earl, and indeed he is called comes in this record.
  • 12. There were also three mills, the King had two parts of two of them, and the Earl the third, but the other was in four parts, the King had two thirds, out of which the Earl had one third, and the other third was in private hands.
  • 13. A league in Domesday is something better than two miles.
  • 14. Whether blanca signifies in silver, by reason of its whiteness, or money washed over with that metal, or pieces prepared to be coined but not struck, I cannot say.
  • 15. Ad duos prebendarios, if it does not signify thus, I own I know not its meaning.
  • 16. I take this to be part of Trinity church, which joined to the south side of the cathedral churchyard.