Denton a village in South Norfolk, England

Denton in the Domesday Book

This information is based on information found in "Domesday Book - Norfolk" published in two volumes as part of the "History from the Sources" series by Phillimore and Co. and in H C Darby's "The Domesday Geography of Eastern England" published by CUP.

Denton, which is in the Earsham half-hundred, is listed in two entries in DB (which is organised by landowner) in: 1,220 and 29,6.

The material quoted in Domesday Book, in " "s, appears first followed by some explanatory notes.

I The King's Land

Section 220(DB Folio 138b)

"In DENTON 12 Freemen. Stigand had the jurisdiction of 9 of these in Earsham and they had 60 acres; St Edmund had the jurisdiction of 4 and they had 40 acres, so that they could neither grant nor sell their land outside the church. But Roger Bigot added them to Earsham on account of the customary dues, because the jurisdiction was in the Hundred. Always 5 men's ploughs among them all."

  • The King - William I, the Conqueror.
  • Stigand - Bishop of Winchester from 1047 and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1052. Deposed 1070, died 1072.
  • St Edmund - The Benedictine Abbey of Bury St Edmund's Suffolk.
  • Roger Bigot - Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk. From Bigot, Calvados. Came over with William. Builder of Bungay Castle, ancestor of the Bigot/d Earls of Norfolk.

XXIX Eudo Son of Spirwic's Land

Section 6 (DB Folio 246a)

"In DENTON Thormoth, 1 free man of King Edward's, held 2 c. of land.

Then 10 villagers. 6 smallholders then, 8 now. Always 3 slaves.

Then 2 ploughs in lordship, now 1/2. Then 6 men's ploughs, now 4. Now woodland, 30 pigs; meadow 5 acres; 1/2 mill. 4 (freemen?) at 20 acres of land.

Value then 60s; now £4.

In the same Aelfric, 1 free man of Stigand's, held 2 c. of land before 1066.

Then 10 villagers, now 8. Then 8 smallholders, now 6. Always 3 slaves.

Then 2 ploughs in lordship, now 1/2. Then 6 men's ploughs, now 4. Now woodland 30 pigs; meadow 6 acres; 1/2 mill.

Also 4 Freemen, at 20 acres of land.

Value then 60s, now £4.

It has 1 league in length and 4 furlongs in width. tax of 18d, whoever holds there. The jurisdiction (is) in Earsham."

  • Eudo son of Spirwic - Landholder in Lincs and Suffolk as well as Norfolk. Spirwic is possibly a Breton name.
  • Thormoth - Saxon name.
  • Aelfric - Saxon name.


These are fairly typical DB entries. Compiled in 1086, the DB describes the ownership/lordship of land then and as it had been prior to the Norman Conquest. It covers the whole of England but the entries for Norfolk are amongst the most detailed. Nonetheless, there is still considerable debate about the interpretation of the information.

Part of Denton was owned directly by the King, had previously been held by the Archbishop and the Abbey, with a restricted form of tenure in ecclesiastical hands, but was now controlled by Roger Bigot. The tenant-in-chief of the rest was Eudo, another Norman landholder. Under the Saxon/Norman system of land tenure all property not directly under the King was held for the monarch by a tenant-in-chief. In return the landholder did feudal service for the king in time of war and paid taxes in time of peace. Sub-tenants had similar responsibilities according to their station.

The King's entry seems to contain one of the not infrequent errors in DB since 9 and 4 do not add up to 12.

"Then" refers to the pre 1066 situation, "now" to 1086.

"Men's" ploughs means owned by the Freemen tenants not their landlord. Ploughs and thus the oxen that pulled them were a critical measure of agricultural wealth and activity.

The village holdings clearly shared one (water-) mill.

"Values" were used for calculating the feudal dues paid by the tenant to his lord.

Tax of 18d - The principal royal tax, the village's share based on the Hundred paying 20s.

Jurisdiction refers to the court of the Hundred which provided the first level of justice and dealt with land disputes etc.


Carucata = Hide = 120 acres

Virgata = a quarter of a hide = 30 acres

League = a mile and a half

There is considerable uncertainty about these areas and dimensions. The total area mentioned seems to be 580 acres compared with the actual parish area of c. 2,500 acres. Note that the parish boundaries remained exactly the same from that time until the changes made in 2019! It is possible that the specified areas were largely nominal for taxation purposes. There was certainly a considerable area of woodland, to support the 60 pigs quoted. The 11 acres of meadow would have been alongside the Waveney as today.

The parish's real dimensions are 2.5 miles by 2 miles so again those quoted in DB are nominal. One league by 4 furlongs gives an area of 480 acres which might indicate the taxable ploughed area.


The social structure was based on a system of ranking. In rural areas below the aristocracy came the Freemen (called Sokemen in some areas) followed by Villagers (Villeins) and Smallholders or Cottagers (Bordars) below them in terms of land holding and feudal duties. Lowest of all were "Slaves" (more commonly called Serfs), with no land rights.

In Denton there were listed:

  • Freemen 22
  • Villagers 18
  • Smallholders 14
  • Slaves 6

Total 60

All these figures apply to heads of households only. Allowing for wives and families we get a total population of possibly between 200 and 300. Today's figure is around 350.

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