Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Blackmore: Domesday

The Domesday Book was a tax return of the whole of England. It was commissioned by William The Conqueror, and completed hurriedly in 1086.

The usual method of collection was an assessment of each single manor, or what officials considered to be a manor. It should be noted that the system that we know as a parish, traditionally a church building, the people and the office of priest “for the cure of souls”, did not emerge until the twelfth century.

The counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex were the last to be assessed. Whilst great care had been taken to abridge notes of returns for counties previously visited, Domesday Book Volume II, or Little Domesday Book, was copied by several writers and left unedited.

Although the Domesday volume on Essex was excellently organised, the number of entries and sub entries are far fewer than the neighbouring counties of Suffolk and Norfolk. For example, there are 2,481 entries and sub-entries for Suffolk, but for Essex there are only 1,264.

The work seems to have been rushed: manors may well have been combined and certainly the number in Essex would have exceeded six hundred.

Blackmore does not appear at all in the Domesday Book whereas Fingrith (as in Fingrith Hall) does. Blackmore is later mentioned in relation to the Priory Church of Laurence as being in the parish of Fingrith: “priore ecclesie sancti Laurencii de Blakemore in parochia de Fyngreth”.

The Domesday Book states that the parish of Fingrith had grown in importance between 1066 and 1086. Its entry, translated:

“Hundred of CHAFFORD
The King has FINGRITH (Hall), which Harold held before 1066.
Always 1 plough in lordship;
6 villagers and 8 smallholders have 2 ploughs
In lordship 24 cattle, Woodland, 1000 pigs; meadow, 3 acres.
Value then £4; now [£]14”.

The Survey confirms that this area of Essex was heavily wooded and pigs must have fed on huge quantities of acorns and beechnuts.

Also, it is unusual to note that Fingrith did not lie in the ancient Chelmsford Hundred, of which Blackmore was eventually to be a part, but Chafford Hundred, located in the south of the county. The Victoria County History says that the King held the estates as well as those in Ockendon. “The order of entries in the Domesday Book makes it unlikely that they are listed under Chafford hundred by mistake” [VCH Vol VII p99].

I do not believe that Blackmore was left out of the Domesday Book because it did not exist, but was part of the “parish” of Fingrith. Churches were often built on ancient religious sites so there is no reason to suggest that a building was not here before the construction of the Priory.

Domesday Links

‘News for Medievalists’ report that the Domesday Book is now available online, for free.
“No English medieval historian can ignore the book because it's such an important source for social and economic medieval history. It's like a giant skyscraper surrounded by mud huts in terms of significance”.

The Domesday Book is available online via Essex University's Arts and Humanities Data Service at

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