Domesday Survey: Introduction IV

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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'Domesday Survey: Introduction IV', in 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, (London, 1969) pp. 95-98. British History Online [accessed 24 April 2024]


Middlesex was well endowed with meadowland, a fact which is a reflection of a plentiful water supply. The meadow for the most part followed the line of the three main rivers, the Thames, the Lea, and the Colne. Meadow is recorded on the manors of Edmonton, Enfield, and Tottenham in the Lea valley, at Stepney between the Thames and the Lea, from Ebury to Staines along the banks of the Thames, and from Stanwell to Harefield along the Colne. In fact every estate along the banks of these rivers possessed some meadowland. It is to be found to a lesser extent in places not on the main rivers. 'Ticheham' had meadows which derived their moisture from the Pinn, a tributary of the Colne. Meadows at Hanworth and Feltham were watered by the Crane (fn. 1) and those of Hanwell, Hendon, and Kingsbury by the Brent. It is noticeable that the amount of meadow at Hendon and Kingsbury was almost negligible, as was that on the great manor of Hayes, and it is absent further north on the rising ground towards the boundary between Middlesex and Hertfordshire. In Domesday meadowland is estimated in ploughs, a fact which is not difficult to understand when it is recalled that the importance of meadow lay chiefly in the provision of hay for the ploughing beasts. Hay is mentioned only once, at Ebury (65), where it follows meadowland and is stated to yield 60s. (de feno lx solidi). There are many entries in Middlesex in which the number of ploughs for which there was meadow is equal to the team-lands. Occasionally a manor had more meadow than it required and the surplus which could be sold was estimated in cash and was entered in the following way: pratum a carucis et b solidi de super plus. The manors of Edmonton (72), Enfield (73), and Tottenham (96), after supplying the needs of the ploughing beasts, had a surplus of meadow which it was estimated would bring in respectively the sums of 25s., 25s., and 20s. Tottenham was considerably smaller than either of the other two adjoining manors, and its meadow was therefore proportionately the greater. Even so the assessment of 5 hides seems unduly low for so valuable a manor as Tottenham, which was worth £25 15s. and 3 ounces of gold (iii uncie auri) at Domesday and £26 in the time of King Edward. About half the entries in Middlesex in which meadow is recorded relate to estates in which the teamlands and meadow are equal or in which there is a surplus; the remainder have less meadow than team-lands. In seven or eight entries the amount of meadow is the same as the number of ploughs on the demesne and in two instances, Stepney (9) and Hampton (81), there is a surplus.

The grazing land or pasture, as opposed to meadowland, in Middlesex is entered as pastura ad pecuniam (ville), a formula which covers the rights of peasant as well as lord. Pasture was more extensive than meadowland but occasionally meadow is entered where there was no pasture. (fn. 2) In approximately two-thirds of the entries in Middlesex some pasture is recorded and altogether it was sufficient for the needs of at least five-sixths of the county as estimated by team-lands. In one entry only, Stepney (9), is it stated that there was no pasture (pastura non est). There were a number of other small holdings at Stepney which were without pasture although the bishop's own demesne manor was so well supplied that after meeting its own needs it had sufficient to provide a profit of 15s. Similarly his under-tenant, the wife of Brien, on her small 5-hide holding (8) had a surplus of pasture which brought in 5s. It would seem therefore that the pasture in Stepney was very unevenly distributed. On a few estates in other places there was a surplus of pasture. (fn. 3)

Two other important factors in manorial economy which depended on rivers and streams were the mills and fishponds. Mills, which are usually found in association with meadowland, are not numerous in Middlesex and with the exception of four are to be found on desmesne holdings. Three of these four were at Stepney and were some of the most valuable in the county. The most valuable of all is that which Hugh de Berneres held of the Bishop of London (7) and which was worth 66s. 8d., a very high valuation in any part of the country. The entry carefully notes that in pre-Conquest times a certain Doding held this mill together with one virgate of land and that it had been part of the bishop's own manor (de proprio manerio episcopi). Edmund fitz Algot held the second mill (15), (fn. 4) which was worth 32s. 6d., and the third was held by Alwin the son of Brihtmar (16) and was worth 20s. Both men held of the Bishop of London, but neither appears to have possessed land with the mill. Of Edmund's mill it is stated that non fuit ibi T.R.E. This is the only example in the Middlesex Domesday of a mill built between 1066 and 1086. A fourth mill which was not held by a tenant-in-chief occurs on the manor of Kingsbury (75). It was held by Albold of Ernulf of Hesdin and was worth 3s. The value of mills varied considerably. The four held by the Bishop of London on his own manor of Stepney (6) were, for example, worth £4 15s. 8d., while the value of some, such as one at Hanwell (44) worth 2s. 2d., was very low indeed. Occasionally a mill is stated to have rendered eels in addition to the money at which it was valued; four mills at Stanwell (76) were, for instance, worth 70s. and 375 eels and three mills at Harmondsworth (48) were worth 60s. and 500 eels. Round noted (fn. 5) that eels were reckoned by 'stitches', 25 going to the 'stitch'. It is not uncommon in Domesday to find recorded a fraction of a mill the remainder of which is in an adjoining manor which might form part of a different county. At Colham (55) there is recorded ½ mill worth 5s. the other part of which cannot, however, be traced.

The values of weirs and fishponds are given either in eels or in shillings and pence. Eels were no doubt the main product of the fisheries. The weirs, referred to variously by the words gurges, gort, guort, or gorz, are presumably distinct from the fishponds which are styled piscine. There are eleven weirs in Middlesex distributed over nine manors. (fn. 6) The number of fishponds is uncertain. They are recorded on three manors: at Harefield (82) four piscine rendered 1,000 eels; an unspecified number at Harmondsworth (48) rendered 1,000 eels; and at Enfield (73) an unspecified number rendered 8s. A weir (gurges) at West Drayton (35) rendered 32d. and at Stanwell (76) three (gorz) rendered 1,000 eels. At Staines (40) there were two weirs (guort) one of which rendered 6s. 8d. and the other nothing (quod nil reddit). There is recorded at Fulham (17) half a weir (gurges) rendering 10s. and at Isleworth (80) 1½ weir (gort) rendering 12s. 8d. Although Fulham and Isleworth were in different hundreds, it is possible that they included lands on opposite banks of the Brent. An interesting reference to fishing other than for eels is found in the entry for Hampton (81) where it is recorded that 'from the seines and drag-nets in the River Thames are rendered 3s. (de sagenis et tractis in aqua Temisie iii solidi), a reference to what was probably a thriving local industry.

The extent of woodland, as noted above, (fn. 7) in the circuit to which Middlesex belonged is expressed by the formula 'silva a porcorum' and this is generally accepted as referring to the number of swine which the woodland could support. (fn. 8) Sometimes a money payment is recorded in addition, as in two entries for Stepney (6,7) where there was woodland for 500 pigs worth also 40 shillings and woodland for 150 pigs worth also 3½ shillings. On the manors of Edmonton (72) and Enfield (73) the money payment is yielded de silva et pastura. Payment of pannage in this county is referred to in a writ of King Edward in which he grants that 'St. Peter and the brethren at Westminster shall have for their sustenance the land at Chalkhill and everything lawfully belonging thereto, with land and with [stock?], with woodland and with open country, with meadow and with pasture, with mast and with pannage . . . and also with this land I likewise grant with full freedom the third tree and the third pig of the pannage of the nearest wood which belongs to Kingsbury, which is held in common as it was constituted in olden times.' (fn. 9)

There are few entries in which no woodland is recorded. Its absence is most marked in Spelthorne Hundred in the south-west corner of the county where it occurs only in the manors of Staines (40) and Stanwell (76). In Ossulstone Hundred small areas of woodland are fairly well distributed, with what were possibly two large tracts consisting of Fulham (17-19) supporting a total of 1,450 swine and yielding 17d. and Stepney (6-8, 85) supporting 770 swine and yielding 47s. 6d. In the north and north-west of the county a densely wooded area is indicated, stretching almost continuously from the northern part of Elthorne Hundred across, and including the whole of Gore and Edmonton hundreds. Most of the manors in this area have woodland supporting more than 1,000 swine. At Hillingdon (56) it can support 1,000, at Ruislip (74) 1,500 and yields 20d., and at Harrow (4) 2,000. In each of the two manors at Stanmore (64, 90) the wood supports 800 pigs, Enfield (73) and Edmonton (72) each have woodland supporting 2,000 pigs, and Tottenham (96) 500. It was no doubt this vast woodland area to which the hunting rights of the citizens of London, confirmed in Henry I's charter, (fn. 10) belonged. Later, in the 12th century, William fitz Stephen writes: 'On the north [of London] are pasture lands and a pleasant space of flat meadow, intersected by running waters, which turn revolving mill-wheels with a merry din. Hard by there stretches a great forest with wooded glades and lairs of wild beasts, deer both red and fallow, wild boars and bulls'. (fn. 11) Earlier its popularity was such that William the Conqueror had found it necessary to issue a writ limiting the rights of hunting in the archbishop's manor of Harrow to those to whom special licence had been given by the archbishop. (fn. 12) Hunting and the provision of mast for swine are not the only things for which this forest was known. The cover afforded by it seems to have been used to tactical advantage by Edmund Ironside in the campaign of 1016 against Cnut and the Danes in London, (fn. 13) and a reminder of its dangers is given in the tradition preserved by Matthew Paris (fn. 14) that Leofstan, Abbot of St. Albans c. 1048-66, caused trees to be cut down for the safety of travellers along Watling Street from the Chilterns as far as London.

Where wood which was used for fencing, nemus ad sepes, is recorded, there is no silva. With the exception of Cranford (91), all places where such wood is recorded are in Ossulstone Hundred: Stepney (9, 87), Rugmoor (24), St. Pancras (26), and an unnamed estate (66).

Entered after the woodland there is occasionally an area of rough pasture known as herbage (herbagia), usually associated with the feeding of swine (fn. 15) and in this county valued in money. At Tottenham Court (25), where it seems to have been extensive, it was worth 20s.; at Tyburn (50) 40d.; at Stanmore (64) and Isleworth (80) it was worth only 12d. and at Lisson (97) 3d.

Vineyards, which may be considered as adjuncts to rather than essential elements of the manorial economy, generally occur in Middlesex on demesne manors. In Domesday Book the size of vineyards is commonly reckoned by the French measure the 'arpent'. (fn. 16) The largest vineyard in the county was that of 8 arpents held by the Count of Mortain at Kempton (63), William Bainiard held one of 4 arpents of Westminster Abbey (37). Both of these were described as noviter plantata. William the Chamberlain held one of the king for which he paid a rent of 6s. a year. Other vineyards were to be found at Staines (40), Harmondsworth (48), Colham (55), and Kensington (93).


  • 1. The Old Eng. name was Fiscesburna: P.N. Mdx. (E.P.N.S.), 2.
  • 2. It occurs in three small holdings at Stepney (7, 9, 87), at Hanwell (44), Hendon (47), where the meadow itself was only of 2 oxen, an unnamed holding in Spelthorne Hundred (49), Hatton (51), Harlington (54), Hillingdon (56), Ashford (60), and Kingsbury (75).
  • 3. At St. Pancras (26) it was worth 20d., at an unnamed place in Ossulstone Hundred (66) it was worth 13d., and at Stanmore (90) 2s. At Ebury it is only recorded that the pasture yielded 7s. (de pastura vii solidi).
  • 4. Algodesmelle, a fulling-mill on the Lea south of Hackney Wick and once held by the draper Sir John Pulteney (d. 1348-9), figures in an inquisition dated 1355: Cal. Inq. Misc. 1348-77, pp. 70-72.
  • 5. V.C.H. Herts. i. 294.
  • 6. i.e. West Drayton (35), Hillingdon (56), Shepperton (42), Tottenham (96), Stanwell (76), three, Staines, (40), two, Fulham (17), half, and Isleworth (80), 1½ weir.
  • 7. See p. 80.
  • 8. V.C.H. Berks. i. 304; Vinogradoff, Eng. Society, 290; Ballard, Domesday Inq. 167.
  • 9. Anglo-Saxon Writs, ed. Florence Harmer, 344-5, no. 77.
  • 10. Laws of the Kings of Eng., ed. A. J. Robertson, 292.
  • 11. F. M. Stenton, Norman London, 27.
  • 12. Ibid. 6; A. S. Writs, ed. Harmer, p. 179, citing Dugdale, Mon. i. 111.
  • 13. P.N. Mdx. (E.P.N.S.), pp. xv, xvi; Stenton, A.S. Eng. 386.
  • 14. Opera (Lives of the Abbots of St. Albans), ed. W. Wats (1640), 45-46. This appears to be the source of Loftie's statement that Leofric, Abbot of St. Albans, caused the trees to be cut away for a distance of 30 ft. on either side of the road: W. J. Loftie, Hist. of Lond. (1884), ii. 3.
  • 15. In Sussex there is stated the proportion of swine feeding upon the land which the lord claimed.
  • 16. V.C.H. Essex, i. 382.