Domesday Book – Part 3 of 4

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A quarter of all land was used as pasture for grazing livestock. Riverside meadows also produced hay. Sheep were plentiful, as were cows, oxen and horses. Goats and pigs were also kept, and fish was sought after on a Friday (for religious reasons).

Crops of wheat, barley, oats and beans grew in around 35% of England’s soil. People milled grain by hand, or took it to a watermill, where the miller took a cut of the profits. In a bad year, when the crops failed, the people went hungry.

Among goods rendered on rent day was honey, the only sweetener available. Rents were payable to the steward who ran the manor, directing the farm bailiff who hired workmen such as carpenters and smiths. The yearly round of ploughing, harrowing, sowing and harvesting was organised by the reeve, who might be elected as spokesman by the peasants. Business was conducted at the lord’s hall, which served as a courthouse of justice as well as a home.

Only 18 towns in Domesday England had over 2,000 citizens. Oxford had 243 dwellings and York had 800 houses. Close packed towns of wooden houses with straw thatch meant that fire was a constant hazard. Allowing a fire to spread resulted in a fine, plus compensation to neighbours for any damage. A man accused of setting fire to a house had to produce 40 witnesses to prove his innocence.

Town markets were important assets but subject to downturns from unwelcome or unfair competition. They were regulated to try and prevent illegal trading, with appropriate fines imposed on miscreants.

The king also profited from death by natural causes, too, through death duties.

Source: Secrets of the Domesday Book – The Pitkin Guide

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