Castle Bromwich in the Domesday Book

It is not absolutely certain that the Bromwich found in the Domesday Book is Castle Bromwich, as it appears among the Northamptonshire entries. However, this must be a mistake because there is no manor of that name in the county.

Some people think that Bromwich in the Domesday Book is West Bromwich. However, the next entry after Bromwich refers to Water Orton. So the chances are that is is our Castle Bromwich.

 

The entry for Castle Bromwich can be translated as:

 

Ralph holds 3 hides from William. There is land for 3 ploughteams. In the demesne 1 ploughteam, 10 villeins and 3 bordars have 3 ploughteams. Woodland 1 league long and half a league wide. The value was and is 40 shillings. Brictwin held it.

 

 

The Domesday Book – Some Explanation

 

Ralph holds 3 hides from William.

Ralph, the Norman lord in 1086 had probably been given the manor after William’s success at Hastings in 1066. Ralph was the tenant of William Fitzansculf, overlord of Castle Bromwich with his seat at Dudley Castle. Ralph had probably fought with William at the Battle of Hastings - and was rewarded with Castle Bromwich.

A hide was a measure of land usually reckoned as 120 acres. In Anglo-Saxon times it was the area of land sufficient to support a family. In the Norman period a hide was 120 acres.

 

There is land for 3 ploughteams.

An ploughteam comprised 8 oxen and a ploughland was the land that could be cultivated by one ploughteam. The land at Castle Bromwich consisted of a number of large open fields running down from the Chester Road to the River Cole. Each field was divided into strips with villagers having a number of strips in each field to make sure that everyone had an equal share of better and poorer land.

 

In the demesne 1 ploughteam.

The word demesne referred to the land that belonged to the lord of the manor. Each household owed service to the lord and the family had to spend some time working on the lord’s fields.

 

10 villeins and 3 bordars have 3 ploughteams.

A villein was a peasant, tied to the manor. He rented land from the lord and paid the lord a part of his produce and had to work on the lord’s land. Villeins usually farmed enough land to feed themselves.

The word bordar translates as cottager. They were more free than villeins and had a house and land freely rented from the lord. They might not have had enough land to be self-sufficient -  they often worked on other people's land. Or they may have a skilled job such as being a blacksmith or wheelwright.

At Castle Bromwich there was land for 3 ploughteams and there were 3 ploughteams; so all the land was being farmed. The ploughteams were shared by the people of the village. 

 

Woodland 1 league long and half a league wide.

Woods were a valuable resource. Trees were used for timber and for making fences, fallen branches were used for firewood, and there were many edible plants for humans and and for farm animals.

A league was 1½ miles, so the woodland here measured ¾ square mile in area, not necessarily all in one place. Some ancient woodland still survives on the north side of the M6 motorway.

 

The value was and is 40 shillings.

40 shillings is how much the manor was worth for tax purposes. The Domesday Book always gives two values: the first in King Edward's time, the second in King William's time. In many places in England the value of manors went down after the Norman Conquest. In Castle Bromwich it remained the same. 

 

Brictwin held it.

Domesday entries begin with the name of the current lord of the manor, usually a Norman, and they end with the name of the previous lord, usually an Anglo-Saxon. Ralph was the Norman lord in 1086, but Castle Bromwich was formerly in the hands of an Anglo-Saxon lord, Brictwin. Very few Anglo-Saxons held onto their lands after 1066. 

'A History of Castle Bromwich for Young People' written by William Dargue 2016 for the Castle Bromwich Bellringers.

We’ve been ringing here for 500 years and are keen to involve local people in our ancient art. Contact us via our Castle Bromwich Bell Ringers website if you want learn to ring or visit the tower or have one of us talk to your group about the history of Castle Bromwich, our church or bellringing.  Material on this site may be reused only for non-commercial purposes providing appropriate attribution is given (Creative Commons Licence Attribution NonCommercial 4.0) - details on the Contact page.