Turvey at the time of the Domesday Survey

Turvey entries in the Domesday book.
Jo Spray

The above table shows that Turvey has eight separate entries in the Domesday Book and it shows the most complete revolution of land tenure possible.  Each entry lists the major land owner before 1066 – and his under tenants and the major land owners in 1086 and his under tenants.

At the time of the conquest, the names suggest that those who lived and farmed in Turvey were Anglo-Saxons.   Twenty years later the land had been granted to those who had been loyal to William the Conqueror.  The Tenants in Chief are all notable Normans, with the exception of Alwin the Priest whose holding was pitiably small anyway, and who held his land on condition that he said Mass for the soul of the King.  His is the first name on the list of Rectors of Turvey that hangs at the back of  the Church.

Notable Normans

One of the more notable Normans to whom land was granted was Bishop Odo, of Bayeux.  He was the King’s half-brother and is depicted on the Bayeux tapestry. Odo was also granted holdings in about twenty places other than Turvey. The King did not give anyone too much in one place in a kind of divide and rule philosophy!

What happened to the Saxon Earls who had held land from King Edward (note that Harold does not appear as King at all!) ? Some may just have died naturally, twenty years was a long time in those days, others may have been killed in local fighting, the remainder would just have been displaced.

Geoffrey, Bishop of Coutances, was the principal landowner in Turvey in 1086.  It is the only holding also described at this time as a Manor. That term is slightly confusing as a manor also referred to anyone’s land holding. Geoffrey was granted 4 hides; the next largest holding was that of Robert of Tosny who had 2 hides and one virgate, most had one hide- apart from poor Alwin who only managed ‘a third part of half a hide’!

The size of Turvey in 1086

The Turvey entry in the Domesday book provides additional information as to the amount of land and possessions.  Apart from Alwin’s meagre allotment, the land allocated amounted to 11 hides and 1 ½ virgates,   A hide was thought to be roughly 120 acres and there were four virgates to every Hide, so that is 30 acres.  The land granted in Turvey was the equivalent of 1,365 acres – of this roughly 35% was arable, 25% pasture and meadow, 15% woodland and 25% used for other purposes, buildings, small gardens or growing plots etc.  What is not clear is whether this included the common land.

We are told that Geoffrey of Coutances and Walter of Flanders each had enough woodland for forty pigs, Robert of Tosny could keep 10 pigs – anyone else who kept a pig would need to leave it on the common, or if they were lucky, in the garden!  The other slightly ambiguous entry is the business of the plough!  You will note that Geoffrey had 6 ploughs, but only enough meadow for 2 ploughs.  This does not refer to the machinery we would call a plough, it refers to the team of oxen required to pull a plough, so more properly a plough team.  The next problem is that scholars argue about the size of a plough team!  Some say it was eight oxen, some six and still others four, but it was a lot!! Geoffrey also had the only mill in the village – which would have been a water mill as wind mills were not introduced for another hundred years.

Land Value

What about the value of the land?   Alwin the priest’s land was worth 3s both before and after the conquest. The total value at the time of Domesday appears to be £12.03s; in 1066 it was worth £17.00, quite a big drop in value. Only Bishop Geoffrey appears to have succeeded in raising the value of his holding back to pre-conquest levels; his land was worth £6.00 in 1066 and again in £1086, but it had sunk as low as £2.00 in 1070!  He must have been a good farmer or had efficient tenants!

The real importance of this is that it gives us some clue as to the upset and unrest caused by the conquest and the complete overthrow of the Saxon system of Earls, and Thegns and Median Thegns; a system where land granted could be let to others, where there was a degree of freedom and autonomy, to the strict control of the Feudal System under the Normans.  William had granted lands to the Norman Overlords who had helped him conquer and subdue England.  They in turn had rewarded their Norman followers with grants of land in return for Feudal service.  Turvey was a very different place administratively under the Normans – yet agricultural life would proceed as before, and the Church remained.  In total there appears to have been 44 households in Turvey in 1086 and the total tax assessed was 11.5 geld units.  These statistics alone show that Turvey was a large and important settlement.


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