Notes and Documents
St. Benet of Holme and the Norman Conquest
The agrarian history of East Anglia in the middle ages is the natural result of the form of society described in the Domesday survey of that region, but the East Anglian Domesday is at present a record in isolation. Few documents have been published to illustrate the working of the characteristic East Anglian economy in the early decades of the twelfth century. The distinctive features of that economy, the absence of any standard peasant tenement, the loose attachment of free landowners to estates devoid of any geographical unity, the prevalence of the cash nexus as the tie uniting lord and man, undoubtedly persisted through this dark age. But at the present time any records which throw light upon East Anglian society in the two generations which followed the Conqueror's death are of value as rarities, quite apart from any intrinsic interest which they may possess.
The late thirteenth-century register of the abbey of St. Benet of Holme contains important material of this kind. Essentially a collection of leases and grants of monastic property, it includes copies of many royal writs and private charters, and numerous incidental memoranda. Among these memoranda a hand of the fourteenth century has copied a detailed statement of the encroachments which the property of the abbey had suffered from Roger Bigod, the greatest landowner in Norfolk in 1086, and his men. The original statement was composed between the election of Abbot Richer in or soon after October 1101 and Roger Bigod's death in 1107. It was a strictly contemporary record. It speaks of encroachments by the reeves of Ivo de Verdun in the year in which it was written. It may be regarded as an appendix to the schedule of 'Invasiones in Nordfulc' which concludes the Norfolk Domesday.
Que Rogerus Bigot ⁊ homines eius de abbacia sancti Benedicti iniuste subtraxerunt.ʼ subscripta manifestant. Ipsemet .R. apud Smalebergam
- MS. Cott. Galba, E. ii.
- fo. 205.
- The text is reproduced with the punctuation of the manuscript, but capital letters have been inserted where sense demanded them. All the places mentioned in the memorandum and in the other documents which follow are in Norfolk.