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OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312




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William the Conqueror



Gardens in the Domesday Book

It was at Gloucester, in the middle of the winter in the year 1085, that William the Conqueror "had deep speech with his counselors... and sent men all over England to each shire... to find out... what or how much each landholder held... in land and livestock, and what it was worth." The result was what today we call the Domesday Book.

Other domesday books were gathered by various administrative entities of that time, and are, in the words of W.H.Hale,

...official testimonies of quiet possession of land by inheritance, by grant, or by purchase in times of peace... [William's] Domesday, considered as a whole, is rather the record of ancient relations existing between landlords and their tenants than of the newly acquired rights of the Norman lords, and that the state of society described in it is was not one newly formed by the Conquest, but that which had existed in England under the Anglo-Saxon kings.                              The Domesday of St. Paul, page ix.

Domesday book on chest, from Wiki Commons The information gathered by William's men was compiled into a number of volumes that were first kept at Winchester, and were collectively known as the Book of Winchester. When the English capitol moved to Westminster, probably during the time of Henry II, these volumes went as well. They were relied upon to resolve property disputes, and eventually became known collectively as the Domesday -- “judgement day” -- Book.
Land of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Considering that this record runs to more than 4,000 pages, it is perhaps surprising that very few gardens appear; only 28 in all. But the commissioners were apparently instructed to ask about specific resources:

Fisheries -  Piscari

Mills - Mola (L) or Miln (AS)

Meadows - Pratus

Pastures - Pastura

Woodland - Silva

Saltpans - Salina

Gardens were on not this list. That some gardens are recorded in the Domesday Book suggests they were a significant asset to a manor, and thus a noteworthy source of income for the crown. Vineyards also appear, and the same inference may drawn for them.

Domesday entries for gardens are succinct. Even so, we learn that substantial gardens existed, that some manors had more than one garden, that they had sufficient taxable value to be worth noting, and that contested ownership of a garden was important enough to merit lodging a complaint with the king. Below are the gardens noted in the Domesday records.



Domesday reference



CAM 32,9

In Cloptune ... unu hortu de soca regis...

Tenant in chief Picot had “In Clopton a garden from the holdings of King Edward,” for which he provided one man to escort the king’s sheriff.

CAM 32,41

In Coteha ten picot. Xl acr & i. ortu de dmno eccle de Ely.

In Cottenham this same Picot, again tenant in chief, held "11 acres and 1 garden from the lordship of the church at Ely." Cottenham was a small manor,  located on the edge of the fens about 20 miles from Ely. It was inhabited by 6 villagers and 8 cottagers.

CAM 32,32

In Lolesuurde…  .vii. heos. R. E. .i. hid & dim & iiii hortos tenuer.

In Lolworth before the Conquest in 1066, "...seven of King Edward’s men held 1-1/2 hides and 4 gardens." Two decades later, in King William’s time, this land was held by one Robert, and its tenant in chief was Picot of Cambridge, who held 85 different properties in Cambridge and Essex.

CAM 32,35

In Hochintone... & iii miles ibid ten dim hid. & ix. Acr. & iii ortos.

Twenty-six people lived at Oakington (originally Hoca’s tun, then Hochintone), including miles or soldiers, “and a third soldier held half a hide of land & 9 acres & 3 gardens." Here again, the tenant in chief was Picot.


DEV 3,45

In Barnestaple un ortus reddit .iiii. denar.

Braia was a small settlement of 6 households, occupied by 8 villagers, 3 smallholders, and one slave. Part of the holdings of Drogo, son of Mauger, the manor of Bray included "In Barnstaple a garden that pays 4 pence."

Ottery St. Mary
DEV 10,1

Eccle S Marie de Rotomago ten de rege ...XX acr silve. & un horto...

"The Church of St. Mary of Rouen held from the king... 20 acres of woods & one garden...” Ottery was a sizeable community of 101 households, inhabited by 55 villagers, 24 smallholders, 17 slaves, and 5 others. It belonged to the Church of St. Mary and the canons of St. Amand in Rouen, France.


Borough of Shaftesbury 

...  .i. horti...

Before 1066, the Abbess of Shaftesbury held 153 houses in the town, but two decades later only 111 houses remained. The abbess also had, in 1086, 151  burgesses in Shaftesbury, along with twenty empty messuages and one  garden.

DOR 34,5

...In Warha .ii. ortos & i. bord.

Hugh held Lychett Maltravers from King William. It was a midsized community of 31 households, with 16 villages, 1 smallholder, 3 slaves, and 11 others. Included in the manor of Lychett was “In Warham two gardens & one smallholder.”

DOR 36,4

William of Mohun held Pulham in Dorset, and with it “a garden in Wareham which pays 3 pence.” Pulham, which included 61 households, is located about 12 miles north of Dorchester. 8, 12, 14, 16


Borough of Hertford

...sub Eudone .ii. domos cu uno horto.

Humphrey of Anneville holds in Hertford two houses with one garden from Eudo the Steward. One of these was leased to a reeve of the King's; the other, with its garden, had belonged to a burgess. The burgesses say these properties were wrongfully taken, and they want them back.



De pastura Medredive & de horas douere exeunt .ix. sol & iiii denars.

This is a lost village that was held by the canons of Dover St. Martin; Domesday reports that “From the pasture of Mederclive & the gardens of Dover come 9 shillings & 4 pence."




In the clamor or claim pertaining to the settlement of a property dispute "concerning one garden," commissioners judge that it is part of Casthorpe, a manor held by Robert of Stafford.


William Blunt at Croxby felt that he had legal right to one garden in Ivo Tallboys' land, but was prevented from exercise of this right due to a mill constructed after 1066.

LIN 7,36

In Goseberdecherca… .i. soch de suo orto.

The manor of Goseberdecherca -- Gosbert's Church -- was held by the Bishop of Lincoln.  It included “one freeman with his garden,” as well as 12 other villagers and 9 smallholders.


For another property in question, also in Lincolnshire, the commissioners record that people "say that Northmann son of Merwine had 7 gardens in Grantham and their jurisdiction belongs there, but the gardens themselves belong to Gonerby."


In a third dispute, it is recorded that Kolsveinn of Lincoln claimed "2 bovates of land and 1 garden from King William" in Kirkby-la-Thorpe from the estate of Earl Morcar. The Wapentake, or assembly, determined that the land had indeed been Earl Morcar's, and affirmed that it did not lie in another manor. Kirky-la-Thorpe, a small settlement, was home to 5 villagers, 5 smallholders, and 14 freemen.


MDX  3,12

7 viii. cot de suis hortis.

At Fulham, a sizeable manor, are five villagers who each have a hide of land; 13 with a virgate each; 34 with half a virgate each; 22 cottagers who each have half a hide; and eight cottagers "with their gardens."


MDX  4,1

...xl.i. cot[mani] cui reddunt ann[um] .xl. sol[idis] p[er] ortis suis.

Ossulstone, located on lands held by the St. Peter's Church of Westminster, had 62 households, 25 of which belonged to the abbot’s men. The remainder belonged to, among others, "41 cottagers, who pay 40 shillings a year for their gardens."


NTH 41,55

...& iii hortulos

Seven villagers, 1 smallholder, and 1 slave live in Isham, where Ralph holds 1 hide and 2-1/2 virgates of land from Guy. Of this, the Bishop of Coutances claims 1-1/2 virgates and "3 little gardens."


NTT  9,9

In Gamelestune .i. ortu. & 1 soch...

"In Gamston one garden & one freeman" are recorded, on land held by Roger of Bully.

NTT  1,44

In Sandebi ten un vitt .i. ortu...

In Saundby a villager holds one garden; he pays his tax in salt from Bycarrs Dike, to be used to salt the kings fish.

NTT  12,3

In Wilgebi. e un ort than est id Laxint …

In Willoughby, we are told, "is one garden that belongs to Laxton,” held by Walter, Geoffrey Alselin’s man.


OXF 28,28

...& xxiii. homines hortulos

St. Peters Church of Oxford holds two hides in Holywell from Robert d’Oilly, and among this manor's inhabitants are "23 men who have gardens."


Staple Fitzpaine
SOM  19,26

Huic in than unus ortus in Langeport reddit .L. anguilli

Count Robert of Mortain holds Staple Fitzpaine, a large manor with 26 households, as well as  “one garden in Langeport that pays 50 eels."


WAR 1,6

.C. bord cui hortulis sius reddit .L. solid.

Coten, in Tremlowe Hundred, no longer exists, though in 1086 it had 120 households. The Domesday Book records that "100 smallholders there with their gardens pay 50 shillings."


WIL 66,6

Stefan carpentari ten… In Crichelade un ortu reddit .ii. denars.

In addition to one hide and one virgate of land in Earlscourt, a small manor of 6 households, "Stephen the Carpenter held  ...in Crichlade one garden that pays 2 pence."




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