Domesday Survey: Introduction II

Pages 88-90

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1, Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, the Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes To 1870, Private Education From Sixteenth Century. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1969.

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The statement 'there is land for b ploughs' is an attempt to indicate the extent of arable land in a manor, and may be regarded, in this county and a number of others, as an estimate of the number of plough-teams which the estate could support if it were fully exploited. The total estimated team-lands in Middlesex is 676¼. A plough-team, it is generally agreed, was, for the purposes of the Survey, considered to consist of eight oxen or other ploughing beasts. Fractions such as half a plough-team are often recorded in Domesday, and not infrequently these are expressed in terms of oxen. In the Middlesex statement of teams there are many references to half-teams; references to oxen occur only twice, although others are recorded in connexion with the estimate of meadowland. On Geoffrey de Mandeville's ½-hide estate at Greenford (69) there is land for two oxen, and on Alveve's estate in Spelthorne Hundred (98) there is land for four oxen. This last statement and a reference to meadowland for six oxen on the manor of Dawley (57) may possibly be taken as confirmatory evidence that in this county the team was considered to consist of eight oxen.

In Middlesex the total of team-lands is less than the total of geld hides and in this respect the assessment may be regarded as 'high'. It is in fact considerably higher than in many of the neighbouring counties. Of these Berkshire is the only one in which, as in Middlesex, the team-lands are fewer than the hides, but Berkshire is also one of the counties which benefited by a wholesale writing down of the assessment after the Conquest. (fn. 1) An analysis of the individual entries for Middlesex shows that the proportion of team-lands to hides is fairly consistent throughout the county. There are few cases in which the team-lands exceed the hides, whilst instances in which the team-lands and the hides are equal, with one or two notable exceptions, are confined to small estates.

The divisions of plough-teams between the demesne and the men is omitted only on some of the smallest Middlesex estates. With very few exceptions the total teams, existing and potential, agree with the team-lands. Although not infrequently the number of teams actually at work is less than the team-lands, a statement is often made concerning the number of additional teams which could be put to work on the estate. On the Archbishop of Canterbury's manor of Harrow (4) it is recorded that there are 4 teams in demesne and there can be 5 more, and among the francigene et villani there are 45 teams and there can be 16 more. (fn. 2) Similarly at Stanmore (64) there are in demesne 2 teams and there can be one more, and among the villani there is 1½ team and there can be 2½ more. The consistency with which this information brings the total number of teams into agreement with the number of team-lands makes it apparent that in the eyes of the jurors the two were normally expected to agree. There are in this county only eleven entries in which there is a difference between the number of team-lands and the combined total of the teams at work and those which could be added.

Where the plough-teams are fewer than the team-lands an explanation is not readily forthcoming, but the entry for Isleworth at least calls for some comment. Here the teams at work, together with those which the manor could support in addition, fall short of the number of team-lands by ten teams. Although the general accuracy of the record is unquestioned, the possibility of error in this instance should not be disregarded. There is also a coincidence in the fact that Enfield shows a deficiency of four teams compared with team-lands, and Tottenham in the same hundred has a surplus of four. Feltham has a deficiency of three teams in demesne, and if these were added to the teams at work the total would exceed by two teams the number of team-lands. Here the 'over-stocking' of the men's land almost compensates for the teams by which the demesne is deficient. Altogether in Middlesex there are recorded 549¾ teams at work, and there could be 122 more, from which it must be inferred that in this county those who gave the information considered that the land was not being utilized to its full capacity. The total is 4½ teams fewer than the number of team-lands.

A comparison of the teams (in demesne and among the men) with hides, where the information given is complete, (fn. 3) reveals that, whereas the hides are divided almost equally between the demesne and the men, the men held or could hold considerably more teams than could be supported by the demesne. This low proportion of teams in demesne may suggest a small 'home farm', sufficient to provide for the needs of the lord and his household, but the teams of the peasantry were presumably used where necessary to help to cultivate the demesne. In Middlesex, however, the teams seem to indicate very approximately the proportion of arable held. This seems to be the natural explanation of entries such as Stanmore and Harrow, (fn. 4) in which are recorded the number of teams by which the demesne is deficient. The high proportion of the assessment borne by the demesne is probably to be explained by sources of income other than arable land: services and dues exacted from the peasants, and income from mills, fisheries, and other amenities where they existed.

In this county the holders of the men's teams are stated to be villani or francigene et villani. There are eight entries in which the francigene, possibly of superior economic status to the villani, shared with them the plough-teams. (fn. 5) At Greenford (43), Hillingdon (56), and Tottenham (96) the holders of the teams are stated to be villani, but there are on these manors francigene who share part of the assessment and it is reasonable to assume that they too held a proportion, if only a small one, of the teams. (fn. 6) The term villani in the phrase 'b caruce villanorum, normally refers to members of that class but in at least one instance, assuming the entry to be complete, the term must have been extended to cover bordarii, namely in Stepney (9) where the villani are said to hold three teams although the only men recorded are 14 bordars.


  • 1. The Berks. figures, taken from Baring, Dom. Tables, 51, are hides T.R.E. 2,502 (T.R.W., 1,213), team-lands 2,109.
  • 2. Ibi (i.e. in demesne) sunt iiii caruce et v potest fieri. Inter franc' et villanos xlv caruce et xvi plus possent esse.
  • 3. See App. I. In the tables no attempt has been made to apportion the hides and teams between demesne and men where it is not clearly indicated in the text. There are obviously many instances where reasonable assumptions could be made.
  • 4. See above p. 89.
  • 5. Hayes (3), Harrow (4), Fulham (17), Harmondsworth (48), Ruislip (74), Stanwell (76), Bedfont (77), and Isleworth (80).
  • 6. At Hillingdon (56) 2 francigene held 1½h out of 2h 10a.