D. Doomsday

It is called the Doomsday book ….

 “because its decisions, like the those of the last judgment are unalterable.”

DSC_0986Richard Fitz Nigel, Dialogues de Dcaccarion circa 1180 (please click all photos)

The Doomsday Book Reference to ‘Mitune’.

The Doomsday Book completed in 1086 was a land survey initiated by King William l to document his feudal Barons fifes for their identification and taxation. Not the least of which was to clearly establish the Barron’s accountability to William himself.This included all of King Williams lands detailed manor by manor derived by right of conquest from Williams 1066 invasion of England. It is valid law to this day. William himself died Sept. 9, 1087 but his great survey lives on as the law of England.

Doomsday lists ‘Mitune’ as part of the manor of Grindleton, which had previously been held by Earl Tosti, At the time of Doomsday it belonged to Roger de Poitou. Within Grindleton, he held four carucates in Great Mitton, four carucates in Bashall Eaves, two in Waddington and two in West Bradford, as well as others around Slaidburn. The only land assessable was that under cultivation by the plough, and this was reckoned roughly in round numbers, with some consideration of the quality of the land for growing crops. Hence we cannot take the figures as anything but approximate. “Thus at the time of the Doomsday survey there were some 480 acres under the plough in Mitton”. – History of the Parish of Mitton, George Ackerley 1947. 

Danish influence on names

The Danish invasions had had a long lasting effect on the culture and language of Yorkshire.The north of England at the time of Doomsday was a much different place from the south. This meant that the inhabitants spoke a Scandinavian blend of English with distinctive Danish words. Thus Yorkshire was divided into ridings, wapetakes and carucates, all of a Danish origin separate from what was found it the south of England. These distinctions are still apparent today with the names still being used in Yorkshire. The first part of the surname Mit~ton, the mit is from just such a Scandinavian origin meaning middle.

Wapentake: A subdivision of a county used in Yorkshire and other areas of strong Danish influence. It is similar to hundred or a ward. It was used in Yorkshire during medieval times.

CarucateThe carucate was based on the area a plough team of eight oxen could till in a single annual season. A carucate of land contained about 100 acres; eight oxgangs made a carucate, and every oxgang contained twelve or thirteen areas, or thereabouts. Though the carucate is laid down at 100 acres, the actual area must have varied according to the nature of the soil and the custom of husbandry in each country. The word comes from the Latin word caruca, in French, carrue: a plough; and signifies as much land as one team could well manage to plough in a year”.  The History of Morley, by Norrison Scratcherd. 

Wasta: The Doomsday book of 1087 refers to “Mitune” as “wasta” meaning it had had no real value. The Norman “Harrying of the North” in 1069-70 destroyed much of what value the Normans had conquered. Including wrecking farm implements needed to sustain the Saxons to drive them into complete submission. It took 40 years for the countryside to recover. “Mitune” is in beautiful countryside today in the Ribble Valley but was a devastated area in the later part of the 11thcentury.

Importance of the Doomsday Book: So accurate was the Doomsday Book that by the completion in 1087, King William had acquired an exact knowledge of his possessions of the Crown that could never be disputed. It was a minutia survey, manor by manor of the entire lands of William’s conquest. Its authority was never called into question from that time on. There was no appeal from its findings by a court. It was the final judgment for dispute resolution and defined the legal disposition for lands held in “demesne” or by any other manor holding entity. “Doomsday” meaning “day of judgment” determined all such questions regarding title of land in the Kingdom from then on. One could appeal to Doomsday surveys in legal disputes, but there could be no repudiation of a Doomsday finding.

Richard FitzNeal wrote circa 1179 in the Dialogus de Scaccario;

for as the sentence of that strict and terrible last account cannot be evaded by any skillful subterfuge, so when this book is appealed to … its sentence cannot be quashed or set aside with impunity. That is why we have called the book ‘the Book of Judgement’ … because its decisions, like those of the Last Judgement are unalterable.

Note: Doomsday had a different connotation, meaning a legal judgment not final death as we might interpret it today.

The book was deposited in the king’s treasury at Westminster and it is still kept under lock and key at the National Archives to this day. The Doomsday Book continued to be used, last in 1982 to settle land disputes. It explains why so many of the names of various places in England have lasted 900 years. Mitton or “Mitune” in Doomsday became the legal definition.That name and many other names from Doomsday survived because of the absolute authority vested in King William’s original survey. No one wanted to change the names and confuse who had what from the great findings of Doomsday. The old Norman location names gave legal credence to a landowner as first determined by the 11th century accounting for the English lands of the Conqueror. The names have survived in place for over 900 years from that simple circumstance. Doomsday established the western idea of a land title enforced by government authority and upheld by a legal system. With out a doubt the Doomsday survey was a great advancement over what many nations have to this day.


Please click for a larger panoramic view.

Above left Mitton Bridge over the Ribble and Great Mitton Hall and Mytton Church on the Great Mitton north side of the Ribble

Private property is sacrosanct in legally advanced nations as it was in medieval England. The Doomsday legacy may be the greatest accomplishment of  William the Conqueror’s reign by establishing property rights (albeit first for him and his friends).

LockThe basic idea that one could hold land under the Kings authority and have a legal system to protect it advanced the idea of property rights by law. This was the central political posture of John Locke’s 2nd Treatise of Government written in 1688. Essentially, Locke (right) was defining the purpose of government as “the protection of private property”. It is the fundamental difference that separates those areas of the western world that use their legal system to protect private property rights, as opposed to governments who do not. The great differences of western nations economic advancements incorporating government protected property rights, or lack thereof, are first rooted in King William’s Doomsday Book of 1087.