The Domesday survey
THE most authentic and most antient record in
this kingdom, being the fountain from which every
local history of it must derive its source, is DOMESDAY
Book, which was begun by William the Conqueror,
in the fifteenth year of his reign, anno 1080, and finished in six years; for the universal establishment of
tenures, in which, and the article of tallage, its authority stands unquestioned.
The antient universal method of trial in our law
courts is by jury, except when the evidence is Domesday; when this happens, the barons of the exchequer,
on proper writs being directed to them from the court
before which the trial is to be, return thither that
part of Domesday which concerns the matter in question, attested by the proper officers, which record
alone determines the suit without any jury being had.
This manuscript contains a general survey of every
part of England, except the three most northern
counties, which were so ravaged by war, that no account could be taken of them. It was begun, in
imitation of king Alfred's policy, who, when he divided his kingdom into counties, hundreds, and tithings, had an inquisition taken and digested into a register, called Domeboc, which was reposited in the
church of Winchester, and thence called Codex Wintoniensis.
This new survey, therefore, was in imitation of
king Alfred's, and was for some time kept in the same
church. It seems to have been called by the same
name, allowing for the corruption of language, which
altered Domeboc into Domesday Book. It was often
termed by Latin Writers, Liber Judicialis, from its
giving final judgment in the tenure of estates. (fn. 1)
This general survey of the kingdom was taken before certain itinerant commissioners, consisting of the
great men and bishops, mostly Normans, sent from
court for this purpose. These inquisitors, upon the
oaths of the shrieves, the lords of each manor, the
presbyters of every church, the reves of every hundred, and six villeins of every village, were to enquire
into the name of the place, who held it in king Edward the Confessor's time, who was the present possessor, how many hides or sulings there were in the
manor, how many carucates in demesne, how many
freemen, how many tenants in socage, how many in
villenage, how much wood, meadow, and pasture,
how many mills and fish-ponds, how much was added or taken away, what was the value, and how
much it was taxed for in king Edward's time, and
what then, and what was yearly received from it at
that time. This inquisition was not finished till the
twentieth of the Conqueror's reign, being registered
in two books, called Greatand Little Domesday;
these are now kept in the old chapter house, in the
cloisters, adjoining to Westminster-abbey, under the
care of the officers of the exchequer. The former is
a large folio, finely written on three hundred and eighty-two double pages of vellum, in a small, but plain
character, and double columns. It contains thirtyone counties. The latter is in quarto, written on
four hundred and fifty such pages, in single columns,
and a fair but large hand, containing Essex, Norfolk,
and Suffolk. That part of the greater volume, which
relates to Kent, contains fourteen leaves, each having
four columns, each column containing fifty lines;
the copy of which, for this work, attested by the proper officer, at the usual fee of four-pence a line,
amounted to forty-six pounds thirteen shillings and
The method of entering this survey in Domesday,
so far as relates to this county, need not be particularized here. It may be seen by the several parts of
the book, inserted in the account of the parishes to
which they relate; in most of which it will be observed how much, in the orthography of names of
places, the Norman scribes were mistaken, which is
not to be wondered at, as they seldom copied the
names from any other writing, but contented themselves with taking it from the mouths of the Saxon
informers, whose pronunciation could not be fit to
dictate to foreigners, who, besides, might purposely
deprave and contract the Saxon words out of pure detestation of that language, which their master had so
great a desire to extirpate; nay, the difference of
many of the names of places in this ancient record,
from those by which they are called at present, is so
great, that several of them cannot now, with any
degree of certainty, be appealed to as the true and
proper names of them without conjecture. (fn. 2)
The part of Domesday, in which this county is
described, is entitled CHENTH, and begins with the
survey of Dovre; then follow the several customs
claimed by the king, the archbishop, and others over
different parts and places in the county; the survey
of the lands of the Canons of St. Martin's in Dovre;
the survey of the city of Canterbury, and the several
customs claimed by the archbishop and others therein; the survey of the city of Rochester, and the remaining part of the lands belonging to St. Martin's,
Dovre. Then follow the names of the several possessors of the land, described in this survey, being in
1. King William.
2. Archbishop of Canterbury.
3. His monks and his tenants.
4. The bishop of Rochester.
5. The bishop of Baieux.
6. The abbot of Battel.
7. The abbot of St. Austin's.
8. The abbot of Ghent.
9. Hugh de Montfort.
10. Earl Eustace.
11. Richard de Tunbridge.
12. Hamo Vicecomes.
13. Albert Capellanus.
These twelve were the king's principal tenants in capite,
who held immediately of him as of his crown. The
king's possessions are next described, under the title
of terra regis, or antient demesne; under which are
comprehended Dartford, Hawley, Aylesford, Milton,
by Sittingborne, and Faversham. Then follow the
lands of the several tenants above-mentioned, in the
order there placed under their several titles, among
these the bishop of Baieux's possessions were exceeding great, more than all the others put together. In
the above survey it is observed, there are many towns
and villages quite unnoticed, the reason of which
might be, that it was chiefly intended to give the king
a true account of his own lands and demesnes, and
what were held by his tenants in capite; and many
names omitted in it, were, no doubt, comprehended
under the title of some larger manors, or were waste
and of no account at the time of the survey.
Having now treated of those matters, which concern the General History of this County, as far as the
compass of this work would allow of, I shall begin
the description of the several Laths, Hundreds, and
Parishes, within it, taking them in geographical order, from the western part of this county at the entrance of it at Deptford, and so proceeding on eastward till I come to the land's end.