Notes by Allen Smith of Braithwell, Micklebring and Clifton History and Heritage Group
1066 has passed into history as the date of the last successful invasion of this country. Most children know of the Battle of Hastings at which Harold was killed, his army routed and William proclaimed King William I in the newly constructed Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.
All the Anglo-Saxon Lords who took part in the battle against William had their lands taken away, and re-distributed amongst his followers. Edwin of Mercia, because of the defeat at Fulford, was still recovering, and so did not journey down South with Harold, and in consequence, he was able to keep his lands after the conquest. This situation did not last for long. In less than two years we learn that Edwin and his brother Morcar rebelled against the Normans. History tells us that William marched northwards with his army, and Edwin and his brother were killed. As a reprisal, his lands were taken and much of the great estate was laid waste in order to teach his followers a lesson that would also serve to stop others thinking of following suit.
Harold Godwinson had been owner of the Manor of Cunningsburgh, with its accompanying 28 Manors, (of which Braithwell was one) and this estate was given to William de Warene.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles tell us that in midwinter 1085:
"The King was in Gloucester with his councellors and held his court there for five days .... after this, the King had great deliberations and very deep speech with his councellors about this land, how it was occupied, and by what men. He then sent his men all over England, into each Shire, and had it made out how many hides of land were in the Shire, what the King himself had in that land, and in livestock on that land. What dues he had from property each twelve months from the Shire. Also he let it be written down how much land his Archbishop had, his diocesan Bishops, his Abbots, his Earls. What and how much each man was holding land in England, in land and livestock, and how much money it was worth. So very closely did he let it be searched out that there was not a single hide nor rod of land .. not an ox, a cow, a pig was left out that was not set in his document."
In order to check the accuracy of the results, independent assessors were sent out afterwards.
Braithwell is mentioned twice in the Domesday account. A small portion of the Township was joined with Edlington and Doncaster, and granted to William de Perci (This must have been the extreme northern portion of the Parish which had common borders with the other two Manors.) Half of this bequest was woodland, presumably the area now known as Edlington Wood.
By far the greater part of the Township was granted to William de Warene. He held the Manor of Conisborough and numerous neighbouring Manors. The document states that this portion of Braithwell was eleven carucates in size. (A carucate was a variable measure of area, said to be based upon the estimated amount of land that an 8 ox plough team could keep in cultivation. Caruca was a latin name for a plough. Experts accept a carucate as being an area of approximately 120 acres).
If we accept the figures, we arrive at an area of :
11 carucates X 120 acres = 1320 acres.
Remembering that the area of 11 carucates relates to land "taxable" (under cultivation), and then including all the waste , housing land, the small area of woodland, and also adding the portion given to William de Perci, the size of the Township appears to compare favourably with the acreage (1920acres) surveyed by John Snipe in 1838.
At the time of the Domesday survey, it was said that there were 16 sokemen, or socmen (freemen) and 20 borders (smallholders) with 16 ploughs living in the village. There was also a small area of woodland (1 furlong wide and 1 mile long), a church and a priest.
A socman, or sokeman was the top of the social structure in a village at that time. Braithwell was in the soc of Conisborough, and the socmen owed aleigance to the Lord. They could buy and sell their land, and had to pay tax. They also had to attend the Soc Courts at Conisborough, paid certain dues, had to perform certain services for the Lord, and were responsible for keeping the law in the village. Any fines incurred, when paid, went to the Lord.
The 'borders' in today’s terms would be classed as the casual labourers of the community. They possibly had a cottage and a smallholding, but probably few other rights. They would have certain rights with regards to the use of the common land, and ability to graze cattle on the open fields after the harvest.
Based on these figures, and taking the average size of a family in those days to be 5 it would appear that there were approximately 181 people living in the Braithwell Township - quite a large settlement for those days!
The value of the land to the Lord of the Manor at the time of the Conquest was said to be £4. In 1086 it was estimated to be only worth 30 shillings. This was most likely due to the land having been laid waste following the rising of the Barons in the North against William in 1068. The Domesday Survey took place in 1086. Had it been 17 years earlier, just after the Northern Territories were ‘laid bare’, it could have shown that the parish was worthless. Perhaps the 1086 30 shilling shows that the villagers had returned and were gradually restoring the area under Norman rule.
William died before the "Book" was completed, so he never was able to benefit from its findings. To present day historians its findings are invaluable.