20s start to Birmingham story

With Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery helping save the Staffordshire Hoard for the nation, Birmingham to hoard Anglo Saxon Gold as Staffordshire Hoard saved for the nation, it is perhaps fitting the BBC have run a season of programmes focusing on the Normans takeover of Anglo-Saxon England, The Normans.

The BBC ran a programme on the Domesday book, our earliest public record and still valid legal document, which provides a fascinating insight into England and gives us an insight into Birmingham at the beginning of the Norman rule.

The Domesday Book, literally the book of the day of judgement from the nickname given to it by the native English, was compiled in 1085-86 following the orders of King William I, William the Conqueror, who commissioned it while holding court at Gloucester. It describes in detail the landholdings and resources of late 11th century England although it should be noted that it excludes London, Winchester, Bristol and the borough of Tamworth together with Northumberland and Durham and much of north-west England.

Twenty years after King William's successful invasion of England, and the mass re-distribution of land amongst his followers, it was time to consolidate and define. This survey and audit would clearly establish who held what, in the wake of the Norman Conquest itself; it would also clarify what rights and dues were owed to the King, and would settle the liability of his great barons to provide military resources, in soldiers or cash, for a monarch whose campaigning season never ended. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/normans/doomsday_01.shtml

For Birmingham it provides an early insight into the history of a series of settlements that would develop into the UK's second city and Workshop of the World.

The image below, reproduced under creative commons Wikimedia Commons licence from Wikpedia, shows the entry for Warwickshire listing Birmingham.


De Williamo tenet Ricoardus iiii hidis in BERMINGEHA. Terra est vi carucis. In dominio est una./ v. villiani / iiii. bordarii cum .ii. carucis Silva dimidia leuga longditudina. / ii quarentine latitudine. Valuit / valet xx. solidos Vluuin libere tenuit Tempore Regis Edwardi.

The Domesday Book, A Complete Translation, eds. Williams, A & Martin, G, 1992, translates this as:

XXVII. The land of William fitzAnsculf
From William, Richard holds 4 hides in Birmingham. There is land for 6 ploughs. In demesne is 1 [plough]; and 5 villans and 4 bordars with 2 ploughs. [There is] woodland half a league long and 2 furlongs broad. It was and is worth 20S. Wulfwine held it freely TRE.

A hide was an approximate measurement based on the area of land a team of oxen could plough in a day; depending on local variations in the acre was approximately 120 acres.

Half a league is three quarters of a mile. Two furlongs are a quarter of a mile.

TRE (tempora regis Eduardis) In the time of King Edward the Confessor; by implication, when all in the realm was legally correct and ownership would have been rightfully secured.

Villan - simply members of the vill who held a fixed share of its resources, including a changing pattern of strips within the fields, and owed labour services to the lord's demesne" (land held directly by the lord of the manor). Below them in the social hierarchy came the bordars who owed more services but held less land.

Birmingham is today a city of villages and communities and these villages were also mentioned in the Domesday Book with William fitzAnsculf, son of Ansculf of Picquiny who acquired 30 manors confiscated from the Earl of mercia owning 10 manors in what is now the City of Birmingham: Barr, Perry, and Handsworth in Offlow Hundred of Staffs., Birmingham, Aston, Witton, Erdington, Edgbaston, in Warks., and Northfield and Selly in Worcs. Norton and Sutton were held by the King while Yardley was held by Pershore Abbey.

More details on Birmingham following the Norman Conquest and the Domesday Book can be found on the Maps of Birmingham site by John Morris Jones, Published by City of Birmingham Education Department, on the The Norman Conquest: Domesday Book page.


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