From the Thorley Archives

Thorley's Domesday Record


In 1086 William the Conqueror dispatched civil servants throughout England to assess who owned what and how much each parish was worth. Details were set out as a register on sheepskin pages. The survey sheets were completed according to a strict questionnaire similar to our present day ten yearly census. William's initial survey took only seven months to complete. Judging by the handwriting, a single monastic clerk was then responsible for copying out all these sheets. As this was information that was to form the basis for a system of taxation, it had to be verified by a jury of four Frenchmen and four Englishmen from each district. The audit was also used by William I to confirm which of his knights and bishops had acquired land, how much it was worth and how many fighting men he could call upon in the event of an invasion from Scandinavia.


Monastic clerk writing on parchment


So sophisticated was its organisation and so all embracing its implications for landowners, with no appeal, that they likened it to the Last Day of Judgement or Domesday.

The actual record for Thorley can be seen in the following photograph.

An annotated translation of this record is as follows.

Geoffrey de Mandeville
- a leading Norman Baron.
Sometimes known as
Geoffrey de Magnaville


Thorley known as
Torlei in 1086

1 hide = approx 120 acres
used for tax assessment

Geoffrey holds Thorley himself.
It answers for 4 hides. Land for 8 ploughs.
In lordship 2 hides; 4 ploughs there.
5 villagers,
a man-at-arms and a priest
and 9 smallholders have 3 ploughs;
a further possible. 11 slaves.
1 mill at 10s; meadow for 2 ploughs;
woodland, 40 pigs;
pasture for the livestock.
Total value 8; when acquired 100s;
before 1066 10.
Godith, Asgar the Constable's man,
held this manor; he could sell.
William, Bishop of London, bought this manor
from King William with Godith's consent;
the Bishop of London now claims it.

1 plough assumed to
mean a team of 8 oxen

lordship of Thorley Manor

villagers were male land owning peasants

a man-at-arms was a peasant
eligible for military service

  a priest confirms the
existence of the church

smallholders were peasants
owning smaller plots of land

a slave was a male or
female landless peasant

Twyford Mill

10s was the annual rent paid
to the Manor

common hay meadows near
the River Stort

woodland was measured
by the number of
it could support

Asgar was a high ranking soldier in
King Edward's Army

Value of Thorley Manor:
at the time of the 1086 Domesday Survey =
when the Norman Lord acquired it =
100s = 5
before the Norman Conquest in 1066 =

Evidence of a disputed claim to Thorley Manor

Other local entries in the Victorian County History provide interesting comparisons. Bishop's Stortford - which takes its name from ownership by the Norman Bishop of London - is recorded as having only 6 hides, 10 ploughs, 6 villagers, a priest, two men at arms and two mills worth 30 shillings. Sawbridgeworth was the major town of importance at this period. It's significant entry details 24 hides, 40 ploughs, 50 villagers, 2 priests, one mill, meadow for 20 plough teams and woodland for 300 pigs. Geoffrey de Mandeville (alternatively recorded as Magnaville) was also the major landowner in Sawbridgeworth, and Thorley kept its close manorial ties with this settlement up to the 1700s.

Bill Hardy
June 2004

From the Archives