The city of Norwich, chapter 4: Of the city the Confessor's time

An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 3, the History of the City and County of Norwich, Part I. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1806.

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Francis Blomefield, 'The city of Norwich, chapter 4: Of the city the Confessor's time', An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 3, the History of the City and County of Norwich, Part I, (London, 1806), pp. 10-14. British History Online [accessed 19 June 2024].

Francis Blomefield. "The city of Norwich, chapter 4: Of the city the Confessor's time", in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 3, the History of the City and County of Norwich, Part I, (London, 1806) 10-14. British History Online, accessed June 19, 2024,

Blomefield, Francis. "The city of Norwich, chapter 4: Of the city the Confessor's time", An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 3, the History of the City and County of Norwich, Part I, (London, 1806). 10-14. British History Online. Web. 19 June 2024,



Edward the Confessor, being now on the throne, this earldom was given to Harold, son of Earl Godwin, who was afterwards King of England, and on his rebellion was seized by the King, and given to Algar, son of Leofrick Earl of Chester, who resigned it again to Harold at his return; and in 1052, on the death of Earl Godwin, Harold, in recompense for his generosity, gave Algar his earldom again; but he being banished in 1055, it came to the King, who pardoned him at Harold's request, and restored him, so that he enjoyed it to his death, and then it came to the King, in whose hands it was when he took the general survey of his land, which was after called Domesday Book, that being the record which gave the [dome] or final judgment, concerning the lands, taxes, and revenues, of the whole kingdom; and from thence we learn the state of the city in his time, which was exceeding grand, if we consider the few years it must be done in, for in Domesday page 13, we have the following account of it.

Rex. H. de Norwic.

Jn Noruic erant. t. r. e. Mcccxx. Burgenses, quocum mus eratita dominicus regis ut non posset recedere, nec homagium facere sine Licencia ipsius, cui erat Nomen Edstan, hic habebat xviii. Acras terra t xii. prati, t ii. Ecclesias in Burgo, t sertam partem tercie, et nni Ecclesie pertinebat una Mansura in Burgo, t vi. Acras prati, hoc tenet Rogerus Bigot de dono Regis. t de Mccxxxviii. habevant Rex et Comes, Soca, et Sacam, t Consuetudinem, et super 1. habebat Stigandus, Socam t Sacam t Commendationem. t super xxxii. habebat Heroldus, Socam t Sacam t Commendationem, quorum unus erat ita ei Dominicus, ut non posset recedere nec Momagium facere sine Licencia ipsius, inter totum habebant omnes lxxx. Acras terre, t xx. Acras t dimidium prati, et de istis erat una Mulier soror Stigandi xxxii. Acr. terre, t inter eos omnes habebant dimidium Mo- lendini, et quartam partem unius molini, et adhuc habent t adhuc xii. Acr. t dimid. prati, quas tulit cis Wihenoc, modo habet Rainaldus Filius I vonis, t adhuc ii. Acr. prati que iacehant ad Ecolesiam omnium Sanctorum, illas etiam tulit Wihenoc, t modo habet Rainaldus. Est etiam in Burgo quedam Ecclesia Sancti Martini quam tenuit Stigandus t. r. e. cum xii. Acris terre, eam habet modo Willius de Noiers ad Feudum Stigandi, tenebat etiam Stigandus unam Eoclesiam Sancti Michaelis, cui adiacent cxii. Acr. terre, t vi. prati t i. Carucata, hoc tenet Willus: Episcopus, sed non de Episcopatu, t Burgenses tenebant xv. Ecclesias, quibus pertinebant in Elemosinam clxxxi. Acr. terre t prati, et Ecclesiam Sancte Trinitatis tenebant t. r. e. xii. Burgenses, modo Episcopus de dono Regis Willi: Rex et Comes habebant clxxx. Acras terre, Abbas habuit Medietatem Ecclesie Sancti Laurentij t i. Domum de Sancto Edmundo. Doc erat Cotum tempore Regis Edwardi.

Et tota hec Willa reddebat t. r. e. xx. Libr. Regi, t Comiti x. Libr. rt preter hoc xxi. Sol. et iiii. den. Prebendarios, t vi. Sertarios mellis, et i. Ursum t vi. Canes ad ursum.

Et Wicman tenuit t. r. e. i. Car. terre t dim: t xvi. Acr. de Pas- tura, t vii. Acr. prati sub. Stigando modo Rainaldus Filius Ivonis, tunc et post i. Car. Modo ii. semper balet xxx. Sol.

Hundred of Norwic. The King's [Land.] In Norwic in the time of King Edward were 1320 burgesses, of whom one was so much the King's vassal, that he might not depart or do homage (to any other) without his license, this man's name was Edstan, he had 18 acres of land and 12 of meadow, and two churches in the burgh, (fn. 1) and a 6th part of a third, (fn. 2) and to one (of these) churches there belonged one mansion in the borough, and 6 acres of meadow; this Roger Bigot holds by the King's gift. (fn. 3) And of 1238 (fn. 4) (of the said burgesses) the King and the Earl had the soc, sac, and customs, and of 50 Stigand had the soc, sac, and patronage, and of 32 Herold had the soc, sac, and patronage, of whom one was so much his vassal, that he might not depart nor do homage (to any other) without his license; in the whole, they all (fn. 5) had 80 acres of land, and 20 acres and an half of meadow, and of these (fn. 6) one was a woman, sister of Stigand, (who had) 32 acres of land; and among them all they had the half of (one) mill, and the fourth part of (another) mill, and still have. (fn. 7) And besides this, they had 12 acres and an half of meadow, which Wihenoc took away from them, (fn. 8) but now Rainold, the son of Ivo, hath it; (fn. 9) and there are 2 acres of meadow, which did belong to the church of AllSaints; (fn. 10) these, Wihenoc took away also, but now the said Ruinald hath them.

There is also in the borough, a certain church of St. Martin, (fn. 11) which Stigand held in the time of King Edward, with 12 acres of land, (and) now (in the Conqueror's time) William de Noiers hath it, (belonging) to (or with) the fee of Stigand. Stigand held also, one church of St. Michael, (fn. 12) to which there belong 112 acres of land, and 6 of meadow, and (these are, or were accounted for) one carucate, (fn. 13) this William the Bishop holds, but not (in right) of his bishoprick. And the burgesses held 15 churches, (fn. 14) to which there belonged in alms, (fn. 15) 181 acres of land and meadow. And 12 burgesses held the church of the Holy Trinity in the time of King Edward, (fn. 16) (and) now the Bishop (hath it) of the gift of King William. The King and the Earl had 180 acres of land. The Abbot of St. Edmund had one house, and the mediety of the church of St. Laurence, (and) this was the whole in the time of King Edward. And this whole town (fn. 17) in the time of King Edward, paid 20l. to the King, and 10l. to the Earl; (fn. 18) and be sides this, 1l. 1s. 4d. (for) prebendaries, (fn. 19) and 6 sextaries (fn. 20) of honey, and one bear, and 6 bear-dogs.

And Wicman held in the time of King Edward, one carucate and an half of land, and 16 acres of pasture, and 7 acres of meadow, under Stigand; now Rainald the son of Ivo holds the same, then and afterwards (it was reckoned) one carucate, now two, (fn. 21) (and) it was always worth 30 shilling; and further, Ecclesiam Sanctorum Simonis et Jude, tenuit Almarius Episcoupus t. r. e. post Erfastus, modo Willus. huie adiacent tres patres unius motendini et dimidium Acc. prati A. i mansura A non est de Episcopatu, sed de Patrimonia Almari Episcopi in Burgo hab. ii. Arr. prati de Episcopatu; A bal. xx. Sol. That is, Bishop Almar held the church of St. Simon and Jude in the time of King Edward, afterwards (Bishop) Erfast, (and) now (Bishop) William; to this belong three parts of a mill, (fn. 22) and half an acre of meadow, and one mansion, and is not (part) of the bishoprick, but of the patrimony of Bishop Almar. In the burgh he had 2 acres of meadow (fn. 23) belonging to the bishoprick, and (the whole) is worth 20 shillings.

From all which it appears, that at that time this city had 25 parochial churches, if not more; that the number of burgesses exceeded Lincoln, Ipswich, Yarmouth, Cambridge, Canterbury, and the chief places in England, and it is plain that York only could pretend to exceed Norwich at this time, none of the rest coming near it; and it is not certain that that exceeded it, for it is said that there were 1628 mansions inhabited in York, but in Norwich the burgesses only are named: now because there were more houses and householders in a city than burgesses, it is likely Norwich might have as many, if not more, houses than York; for it appears from the account of Lincoln, that there were 1070 houses inhabited, and only 900 burgesses, and the bordarij or bordars, which were in Norwich in the Conqueror's time, (300 of which, it is very probabe, might be here in the Confessor's time,) had their houses here, which are not mentioned in the survey, which is not so minute and exact as the Conqueror's.

Such was the magnitude of Norwich near 700 years ago, being then a Hundred by itself, containing 883 acres of land and meadow, with a sheep's walk within its jurisdiction, so that it seems to have extended then about a mile beyond the present walls: but it did not continue long in this state, but daily increased, in the peaceable reign of this King, as well as in the short one of his successour,

King Harold, who was Earl and Governour here.

First, 1238 of them dwelt in the part whereof the King and the Earl had the soc, sac, and custom, that is the entire jurisdiction, for soc is the power that any one hath to hold courts, wherein all that dwelt on his land, or in his jurisdiction, are answerable to do suit and service, and sac is the right of having all the amerciaments and forfeitures of all such suitors; and custom, includes all other profits, as landgable or tax, tolls, heriots, and other customs, which differed according as they were used in divers places, but every where the division between the King and an Earl, was two parts to the King, and a third to the Earl, in right of an earldom.

In the second part dwelt 50 of these Burgesses, and they belonged to Stigand's court, who had their amerciaments, protection or patronage; that is, (to speak after the old Roman manner,) he was their patron, and they his clients; but it is not said that he had the customs of these burgesses, which makes me think they belonged to the King and the Earl, for the soc was sometimes one person's, and the customs another: this Stigand was Bishop of the diocese, and after Archbishop of Canterbury, in King Edward's time; and this was part of the city, now St. Martin's on the Plain, and Tombland where St. Michael's stood.

The other 32 of the 1320, dwelt in that part which was Herold the Earl's land, who had therefore the jurisdiction of court over them, received their amerciaments, and was their patron; he was son of Earl Godwin of Kent, and after the Confessor's death, King of England.


  • 1. Burgus and civitas were then of the same signification, for burg or burgh in Saxon signifies a city, says Spelman in his Glossary, under the word Folkesmote; and accordingly in the survey London is called burgus.
  • 2. This most likely was St. Vedast or St. Faith's church, for a sixth part of it belonged to Clement son of Jeffry, who gave it to the monks, in the time of John of Oxford Bishop of Norwich.
  • 3. That is, in the time of the Conqueror, of the Conqueror's gift.
  • 4. The survey here distinguishes the 1320 burgesses, according to the several jurisdictions they belonged to, whereby (besides the new-borough) it appears there were in the city three divisions, or manors, the whole city belonging to three lords or owners, and this was according to the several parts or divisions, wherein they dwelt, (as after appears,) where the number of them in the Conqueror's time is specified, so that,
  • 5. All besides Edstan, who is not included.
  • 6. For if we make these refer to the acres, then these 32 acres must be included in the 80 acres, which doth not seem probable.
  • 7. That is, had at the Conqueror's survey.
  • 8. Probably in the beginning of the Conqueror's reign, for this Wihenoc was a powerful man, being mentioned in several places of Domesday, as a great invader of other men's lands.
  • 9. This Rainald, son of Ivo, was one of those great men who held of the Conqueror in capite or in chief, and had much land in Norfolk, some of which Wihenoc invaded, but the Conqueror made him restore it.
  • 10. I take this to mean All-Saints in Fybrigge-street, which stood by meadow ground, and not All-Saints in Berstreet, which could have none near it.
  • 11. This was plainly St. Martin by the Palace, now called St. Martin on the Plain, whence it appears, that this parish, and that of St. Michael next to it, were the soc and lands of Bishop Stigand, in which his 50 burgesses dwelt.
  • 12. This St. Michael stood upon Tombland, and was taken down by Bishop Herbert, when he walled in the cathedral, before which time, this was the principal or largest church in the city, and best endowed, with lands here, and in Taverham.
  • 13. A carucate is as much land as one plough can till in a year, so called from caruca, a plough; it is otherwise called a plough-land or hide: and all ancient taxes were laid by hides or plough-lands.
  • 14. That is, they were patrons of fifteen churches.
  • 15. When the donors reserved no rents or service, but prayers only, as the manner then was, a thing is said to be given in frank-almoigne, free or pure alms.
  • 16. These twelve were patrons of Trinity church, which seems to be St. John in Maddermarket, which had a double dedication, both to St. John and the Trinity, in the Monasticon, vol. iii. fo. 111. Walter Giffard, E. of Bukingham confirmed to the priory of Newinton Longavile, all his father's gifts, and among them, the church of the Holy Trinity and St. John in Norwich, and there being no other church but this of that dedication, (except the cathedral, which was built after this,) no other can possibly be meant.
  • 17. Town (villa) originally signified a country village or farm, but is here used according to the French custom, who frequently call the largest cities villes, as La Ville de Paris, de Florence, &c. and Norwich is often in old records written Villa, since the time that every body acknowledged it to have been a city, as in Henry III. and Edward I. &c.
  • 18. This was paid yearly for all the profits, for so I find in Domesday, that Oxford city paid for toll, gable, and other customs, 20l. yearly to the King, and 6 sextaries of honey, and 10l. yearly to Earl Algar.
  • 19. Prebenda is frequently used for any sort of allowance, as to cattle, &c. and prebendarius, saith the ancient book of Rochester (Spelm. Gloss.) is a measure for distributing the prependam, sc. provender (oats) to horses, and ought to be 13 inches broad within the rim, and 3 inches deep, and it is not improbable but this payment was for the same purpose, viz. towards maintenance of the King's horses. I have rendered this word sometimes by the English word aid.
  • 20. A sextary, among the Romans, was the 6th part of their congius, which pretty near answered our English gallon, and if so, it is about a pint and a quarter of our measure, but with us a sextary usually signified a gallon, and so I take it to do here.
  • 21. This whole parapraph is repeated in another place of the book, fo. 228, under the title of the lands of Rainald the son of Ivo, and next to these words (now two) there is added (c. ov.) [also] an hundred sheep, so that there was a faldcourse within the liberties of Norwich.
  • 22. Probably that of which the burgesses had the fourth part, which was Westwick mill
  • 23. Bishop Herbert, by his charter, granted to the monks, "the mill, land, and meadow, which anciently belonged to the bishoprick:" it stood near Higham Gates, and did formerly belong to the monks of Norwich.