At Domesday Wrentham was a very large community consisting not only of land comprising the present parish, but also the northern parish of Henstead, which was described as a Beriwick (outlying estate) of Wrentham. It was part of the lands in Suffolk that were owned by William de Warenne under King William. de Warenne then parcelled them out to tenants and the tenants distributed them amongst under tenants.


Eadric, a free man, held Wrentham TRE with 2 carucates of land as a manor. Then as now 5 villans. Then as now 11 bordars. Then 6 slaves, now 3. Then 1 and a half ploughs in demesne, now 2. Then 3 ploughs belonging to the men, now 2. Then as now woodland for 20 pigs. Then as now 2 acres of meadow. Now 2 horses. Now 13 head of cattle. Now 12 pigs. Now 113 sheep. Now 20 goats and 5 beehives. And 1 church with 40 acres. Then as now worth 40s. And Robert de Pierrepoint holds this.

In the same vill Thorkil, a free man, held TRE 2 carucates of land, then as now, as a manor. Then as now 5 villans and then as now 11 bordars. 2 ploughs could be made up in the demesne. And [there was] 1 when he acquired it. 2 acres of meadow. Woodland for 20 pigs. Then as now 40s. R[obert] himself holds this land.

In the same vill Wulfric, a free man, held 2 carucates of land as a manor. Then as now 5 villans and 11 bordars. 1 plough in demesne and another could be made up. 2 ploughs belonging to the men. 2 acres of meadow. Woodland for 20 pigs. Then as now worth 40s. And 1 church with 8 acres. The same Robert holds this.

In the same vill 20 free men dwelt with 360 acres. 2 bordars. Then as now 6 ploughs in demesne. Then as now worth 60s. Over 1 of these men Count Alan has half the commendation and half the land and the soke and sake. Robert holds all this from William de Warenne. The soke and sake over all this land belongs in Blythburgh Hundred.
[Folio 399v: SUFFOLK]

Also William has in the same vill 1 manor which Halfdan, a free man, held. Then 6 villans and now 4. Then 11 bordars, now 13. Then 3 slaves, now 1. Then as now 3 ploughs in demesne. Then and now 2 ploughs belonging to the men. 2 acres of meadow. Woodland for 40 pigs. Now 7 head of cattle. Now 24 pigs. 80 sheep. Now 30 goats. TRE it was worth £4, now £3. William fitzReginald holds this from William de Warenne.

In the same vill [...] 1 free man dwelt and he held half a carucate of land as a manor . Under him he had 2 free men with 10 acres. 1 bordar. Then as now 1 plough in demesne and half a plough belonging to the men. Woodland for 4 pigs. And half an acre of meadow. 2 horses, 6 head of cattle, 10 pigs, 30 sheep, 20 goats. Then it was worth 10s., and now the same.

In the same vill Elfric of Sandford held 50 acres as a manor. Then as now 2 bordars. Then as now 1 plough in demesne. 1 acre of meadow. 1 horse, 4 head of cattle, 8 pigs, 60 sheep, 7 goats. Then as now worth l0s.

In the same vill dwell 8 free men and they hold 1 and a half carucates and 10 acres of land. And they hold 1 bordar. Then as now 2 ploughs in demesne. Then as now worth 12s. William fitzReginald holds all this under William de Warenne.

Henstead, 1 berewick of Wrentham, 1 carucate of land. Then as now 4 villans and then as now 9 bordars. Then as now 1 plough in demesne and then as now 2 ploughs belonging to the men. 6 head of cattle, 40 sheep, 12 pigs, 20 goats. Then as now worth 20s. And now have been added 2 free men with 30 acres of land. They have 1 plough in demesne. It is worth 3s. Godfrey de point holds these 2 lands under William de Warenne. And all these lands are 3 leagues long and 2 broad. It renders 2s. in the king's geld.

[Folio 400: SUFFOLK]
The king has the soke and sake throughout all this land apart from the demesne of Halfdan. And of this land 6 acres of land were taken away from Count Alan which William's men took away for themselves, as the Hundred testifies. And Thorkil of Wrentham was a man belonging to Eadric, the predecessor of Robert Malet.


The Norman conquest was a great political upheaval with respect to the wholesale confiscation of landed estates which followed. It was in William's interest to make sure that the rights of the crown, which he claimed to have inherited, had not suffered in the process. The Domesday survey therefore recorded the names of the old holders (TRE) and the new holders of lands and the assessments on which their tax was to be paid.

Domesday was never a single volume but originally two books, Great Domesday and Little Domesday (which was a longer version, covering the counties of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, which was never written up into the main volume). It is now contained within five volumes, having been re-bound in 1984 to improve the prospects for its preservation for another millennium.

Great Domesday was mostly written by a single scribe, with the hand of a second clerk appearing, checking his work and adding some notes and further entries. Minor errors were inevitable and led to some inconsistencies for later scholars to worry over.

The counties of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk appear in a more detailed version known as Little Domesday. 'Little' refers to its physical size, not the content, as it is more detailed than Great Domesday, notably in its description of livestock belonging to the manor. Domesday Suffolk, for example, records 434 goats and 2 donkeys. It was the work of several clerks, perhaps as many as seven, and was neatly but hurriedly written, resulting again in minor errors.

By the king's instructions the survey endeavoured to make a national valuation list, estimating the annual value of all the land in the country,

(1) at the time of Edward the Confessors death,
(2) when the new owners received it,
(3) at the time of the survey, and further, it reckoned, by command, the potential value as well.

It is evident that William desired to know the financial resources of his kingdom, and probable that he wished to compare them with the existing assessment, which was one of considerable antiquity, though there are traces that it had been occasionally modified. The great bulk of Domesday Book is devoted to the somewhat arid details of the assessment and valuation of rural estates, which were as yet the only important source of national wealth. After stating the assessment of the estate (manor) or estates, of the community (vill), the record sets forth the amount of arable land, and the number of plough teams (each reckoned at eight oxen) available for working it, with the additional number (if any) that might be employed. The land's resources were then classified as the river-meadows, woodland, pasture, fisheries (i.e. weirs in the streams), water-mills, saltpans (if by the sea) and other subsidiary sources of revenue. The peasants are enumerated in their several classes; and finally the annual value of the whole, past and present, is roughly estimated.

It is obvious that, both in its values and in its measurements, the survey's reckoning is very crude.

The rearrangement, on a feudal basis, of the original returns enabled the Conqueror and his officers to see with ease the extent of a baron's possessions; but it also had the effect of showing how far he had engaged under-tenants, and who those under-tenants were. This was of great importance to William, not only for military reasons, but also because of his firm resolve to make the under-tenants (though the "men" of their lords) swear allegiance directly to himself.

To a large extent, Domesday comes down to the king's knowing where he should look when he needed to raise money.