Domesday, Bishopdale

The Domesday Book, produced in 1086 on the orders of William the Conqueror, was a survey for taxation purposes of all the lands in England. There were three entries in the Domesday Book for Bishopdale: for the villages of Crocsbi, Turoldesbi and Burton, to the last of which was attached the berewick of Ecinton.

Courtesy of the National Archives.

Translation: "In CROCSBI 3 carucates to the geld, and there could be 1 plough. Bernulf had a manor there. Now the same man has it of the Count, and it is waste. The whole 2 leagues long and a half broad. There are moors. In the reign of King Edward [the Confessor] it was worth 5 shillings." Crocsbi is now spelt as Croxby and survives in field names near How Syke Farm and the name of a former barn that has been converted into a house. With a value of only 5 shillings in King Edward's reign (1042-66), the settlement was barely viable and was abandoned sometime in the next 150 years.

Alan of Brittany had fought alongside William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings and had been rewarded with extensive lands in England, including the Honour of Richmond, which included the towns of Richmond and Ripon together with a large tract of the Pennines stretching from Teesdale in the north to the watershed with Wharfedale and Nidderdale in the south and extending eastwards as far as the River Wiske and the confluence between the Rivers Ure and Swale. In 1071, Count Alan began building Richmond Castle as a secure fortress from which to control his lands. Bernulf was an Anglo-Danish lord who had held the manor of Croxby before the Norman Conquest. He still held it in 1086, but owed feudal service to Count Alan.

A carucate was a taxable area of land that could be ploughed by a team of eight oxen in one day and varied in size depending on how difficult the land was to plough, but averaged about 120 acres. The geld was a land tax. A league was a measurement equivalent at that time to approximately 1.5 miles. The reference to "1 plough" means that there was enough arable land to require one plough team to cultivate it, in this case about 360 acres covering an area roughly 3 miles by ¾ mile.

Courtesy of the National Archives.

Translation: "In TUROLDESBI 6 carucates to the geld, and there could be 4 ploughs. Bernulf had a manor there. Now the same man has it and it is waste. The whole 1 league long and 1 broad. In the reign of King Edward it was worth 20 shillings." The name Turoldesbi, meaning Turold's farm, has now become Thoralby. 

Bernulf was the same Anglo-Danish lord who held Croxby. Although it does not state it explicitly with regard to Thoralby, Bernulf will have held the manor in 1086 in return for similar feudal service to Count Alan as he owed for Croxby. Thoralby's six carucates would have amounted to about 720 taxable acres of arable land spread over an area roughly 1.5 square miles. It covered a similar area to Croxby, but had twice as much taxable land, required four ploughs rather than one to cultivate it and was worth four times as much for the purpose of taxation, emphasising how much more fertile the land lower down the valley was in comparison to that in the upper reaches. Nevertheless, this greater fertility was not sufficient for arable farming in Thoralby to have continued into modern times.

Courtesy of the National Archives

Translation: "In BURTON 6 carucates to the geld, and there could be 4 ploughs. Turchil had this land. Now Geoffrey has it, and it is waste. In ECINTON, a berewick of BURTON, 3 carucates to the geld and there could be 2 ploughs. The whole of BURTON 2 leagues long and one broad. In the reign of King Edward it was worth 20 shillings." Burton is now known as West Burton to distinguish it from other Burtons, such as Constable Burton, and Ecinton has became known as Eshington. A berewick was an outlying settlement and this particular one was abandoned in the Middle Ages, but the area it encompassed is still part of West Burton township today, even though it is on the opposite side of Bishopdale Beck from the rest of the township. In Burton and Ecinton, there had been a change of lord following the Norman Conquest: Thorkil, a Dane who held it before 1066, was superseded by Geoffrey, a Norman, who also held a manor at Aysgarth. West Burton had the same amount of taxable arable land and the same number of ploughs as Thoralby, to which could be added 360 acres of arable and two ploughs for Eshington. The combined cultivable area of West Burton and Eshington, at 3 square miles, was equal to that of Thoralby and Croxby combined.

 

It has been argued that the principal reason why these settlements and most others in the area were described as waste was because they had still not recovered from the Harrying of the North, a scorched earth policy that destroyed most of the villages in northern England following an unsuccessful rebellion in 1069-70. William’s men also salted the land so that nothing would grow for years to come. However, there was a second destruction of villages and farms following another rebellion in 1080 and it is more likely that this was responsible for the whole area being too poor to pay any taxes in 1086.

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