Meshaw in The Domesday Book


Meshaw was known as Mauessart in 1086 when the Domesday Book was compiled. Here is its entry -

If your medieval clerical Latin is a little rusty, this is how it translates :


Gilbert holds Meshaw from Baldwin. Alfred held it in TRE, and it paid geld for 3 virgates of land. There is land for 10 ploughs. In demesne is half a plough, and 5 slaves, and 12 villans and 9 bordars with 6 ploughs, and 2 swineherds rendering 15 pigs. There are 40 acres of meadow, and 40 acres of woodland, [and] pasture 1 league long and half a league broad. Formerly 20s; now it is worth 30s.


Some explanation :


Gilbert is a sub-tenant and he holds the manor from "B", who is Baldwin FitzGilbert, originally from Calvados in Normandy, and otherwise known as Baldwin the Sheriff. He owned over 170 manors in Devon, given to him, of course, by William the Conqueror.


Alfred held the manor at TRE, tempore regis Edwardi (the time of King Edward [the Confessor]), i.e. Alfred held it before the Norman invasion.


Geld is land tax, and a virgate is a quarter of a hide. A hide is 120 acres so a virgate is 30 acres. Here the lord of the manor (LoM) must pay tax on 90 acres (3 virgates) though this is a notional figure for the purposes of calculating tax, not the actual amount of land the LoM held. The same as the old rateable value for houses really.


"There is land for 10 ploughs" - a plough was the area that needed an eight-oxen plough team to work it.


Demesne is the land around the local manor house which is reserved by the LoM for his own use. Half a plough is a four-oxen team pulling a (complete!) plough.


Villans are peasants who had to do two or three days work a week for the LoM (presumably on the demesne), but who also owned and worked some land for themselves. A bordar, from the French borde, a wooden hut, was a peasant who exchanged his labour for shelter. A rung below a villan, though bordars might farm small amounts of land for themselves. Slaves owned little or nothing and simply worked for whoever "owned" them.


A league is twelve furlongs, 1.5 miles. "1 league long and half a league broad" is therefore 1.1 square miles or about 700 acres. Here's what one league by half a league looks like.


"Formerly 20s; now it is worth 30s." - a shilling in 1086 is roughly £100 in today's money.