Moreton in the Domesday Book

The first appearance of Moreton in the written historical record is in Domesday Book, compiled in 1086. Roughly translated, the entry for Moreton reads as follows:

Moreton. A royal manor. At the time of King Edward the Confessor's death it paid tax for three hides (units of roughly 80-120 acres). There is land for twenty ploughs. In lordship there are three ploughs and six serfs (unfree labourers) cultivating one hide; and sixteen villeins (villagers) and six bordars (smallholders) with eight ploughs cultivating two hides. There are twenty acres of meadow, sixty acres of pasture; the woodland is one league long and one furlong wide. There are twenty cattle and one hundred and thirty sheep. It pays £12 in tax weighed and assayed, the same as it did when Baldwin acquired it. To the manor of Moreton belongs the third penny of the hundred of Teignbridge.

 

Moreton was not the only Domesday manor which eventually formed part of the parish. A second, smaller manor was that of Wray, just to the south. The entry for Wray reads as follows:

Wray, Held by Godwin. At the time of King Edward the Confessor's death it was held by Alstan, at which time it paid tax for one hide. There are six ploughs there, which is all that there is land for; there are four serfs, eleven villeins and 3 bordars. There are eight acres of meadowand five acres of pasture. Ther are eight cattle, four pigs and thirty sheep. It was formerly worth 60s; now it is worth 30s.

 

From these few facts we can say quite a lot about Moreton and Wray twenty years after the Norman conquest. For a start there is the amount of land under cultivation. Today the parish extends to nearly eight thousand acres; but in 1086 much of this would have been regarded as waste ground between Moreton and its neighbouring manors. No more than 450 acres is accounted for Moreton in Domesday, and no more than about 150 acres for the manor of Wray. Thus of the several thousand acres of land in the parish, less than ten per cent was actually being farned, the remainder being moorland, wilderness, steep hillside or overgrown waste.

From the population figures given, Moreton was clearly not a populous manor. Many other royal manors of similar value had more people. Holsworthy, for example, which also rendered £12 to the king yearly in tax, had fifteen serfs, forty villeins and twenty smallholders: a total of seventy-five men compared to Moreton's twenty-eight. Even Alphington and Topsham, which each paid only £6 to the king, had forty-three and thirty-three men respectively. Thus Moreton's comparative value lay probably as much in its administrative role as its farming one. With regard to actual population, there figures do not include women and children, but they do allow us to see that Wray, far from being a small annex of Moreton, had more than half the working male population of Moreton. With about forty-five male heads of households, one might guess at the total combined population of the two manors at this time being in the region of 250 people.

Next section: 3. 1200-1350

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