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Also known as the 'Bolden Book' or the 'Domesday Book of the North'.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 1085 recorded that King William I held,

a large meeting, and very deep consultation with his council, about this land; how it was occupied, and by what sort of men. Then sent he his men over all England into each shire; commissioning them to find out "How many hundreds of hides were in the shire, what land the king himself had, and what stock upon the land; or, what dues he ought to have by the year from the shire."

The resulting compilation "what dues he ought to have" became known as the Domesday Book, but the compilers of the Domesday Book did not however, succeed in surveying everywhere in what would generally be regarded as England today. It did not, for example, include a survey of any land lying between the Tees and the Tweed, what would in future be the future counties of Northumberland and Durham.

The reason for this was quite simply because, to all practical intents and purposes, England stopped at the Tees. None of the so-called Anglo-Saxon kings of England had ever been able to exercise much authority in the north beyond ensuring the technical submission of local rulers such as the Lords of Bamburgh, and in any event they had competition in the form of the Kings of Scots who also had their greedy eyes on the area as well.

Outside of perhaps the 'New Castle' built by Robert Curthose and the city of Durham itself, the Norman rulers of England were in no better position than their Danish or Anglo-Saxon predecessors. Indeed the only authority that really existed north of the Tees and south of the Tweed at the time was that of the Bishop of Durham, who gradually accumulated secular powers to the extent that they were virtually regarded as kings of the north.

In the year 1153 a gentleman by the name of Hugh of Pudsey (or Hugh of Le Puist as he is sometimes known) was appointed Bishop of Durham, an appointment not unconnected with the fact that his uncle Stephen was king of England at the time. Hugh of Pudsey was to serve as bishop for the next forty two years and became an extremly important and powerful individual who was to later act as Regent for all of England north of the Humber during Richard I's reign.

Hugh of Pudsey felt the need to have some record made of the vast amount of landed wealth that had accrued to the Bishops of Durham over the years and in the year 1183 he comissioned a survey of the bishopric's estates, or to be exact he commissioned a customal account that listed the various amounts of labour, money and produce due by custom to the bishopric.

As one of the first places to be surveyed, outside of Durham itself, was the bishopric's estate at Boldon, thereafter the description of almost every other location was accompanied by the repeated phrase `they pay rent and work as at Boldon' and hence the survey became known as the 'Boldon Book'.

Unlike the Domesday Book, the 'Boldon Book' is not a comprehensive survey of a particular geographic area, as it is restricted to those areas where the Bishops of Durham owned land. Although the Boldon Book survey therefore included most of County Durham (as it was later known), it excluded such areas as Barnard Castle, Hartlepool, and the Sadberge wapentake where other landowners predominated. Conversely it included other areas such as North Durham and Bedlingtonshire in what would today be regarded as Northumberland, which represented areas owned by the Durham bishopric.

The 'Boldon Book' included detailed accounts of the specific duties of each individual landholder, stating the number of days a week he (and it was always a he) was required to work for the Bishop and the scot-penny payable. It is consquently to the 'Boldon Book' that we are indebted for our knowledge of 'Ralph the Crafty', (a keeper of hawks at Frosterley), the intiguingly named 'Osbert Rat' of Darlington and a certain 'Weakman', who held land at Middridge.

This is the entry in the Boldon Book for Boldon itself;

In Boldon there are 22 villeins each of whom holds 2 bovates of land of 30 acres and pays 2s 6d of scot-penny and 16d of carriage-penny and 5 waggon loads of wood and 2 hens and 10 eggs and works during the whole year 3 days for the bishop ... and in his work he does four obligatory days in the autumn during the reaping with all the establishment of the household except for the housewife. And moreover each plough of the villeins ploughs and harrows 2 acres...they carry loads and when they carry them each man has one loaf and they mow for one day at Houghton in their work until the evening.

It was naturally enough originally written in Latin and survives in the form of four manuscript copies, the earliest of which is the British Library, Stowe MS 930 which dates from the thirteenth century. Since, as noted above, the Domesday Book itself omits any reference to Durham and Northumberland, the Boldon Book is often 'bundled up' with the Domesday in various facsimile and reproductions of that work.


Keys to the Past, Glossary entry for the Boldon Book at http://www.durham.gov.uk/durhamcc/K2P.nsf/K2PGlossary?readform&GLOSSARY=Boldon+Book

Public records: Land taxes and feudal surveys at http://www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/guide/feu.shtml

Mapping Durham at the Time of the Boldon Book at http://www.gwp.enta.net/durharticle.htm

County Durham History at http://www.harbourlights.nu/pilot/tynetees/CountyDurhamHistory.htm

Mick Knowles The History of Hebburn for the Boldon Book entry for Boldon at http://www.mkno.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/hebburn1.htm

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