Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-559fc8cf4f-9dmbd Total loading time: 0.328 Render date: 2021-02-26T23:19:37.545Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true }

Article contents

The Hide and Related Land-Tenure Concepts in Anglo-Saxon England, A.D. 700 - 1100

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 July 2016

John F. Mcgovern
University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee


The hide was a common form of land tenure in pre-Conquest England. Scanty documentation and ambiguous statements in the sources have made it difficult, however, for economic and social historians to understand the evolving meaning of hide in the period from Bede to 1100. The present study attempts to clarify some of the problems surrounding this word by a re-examination of the sources and by an analysis of terminology in land-tenure institutions related to it. The results of the investigation show that revisions in land tenure during the later Anglo-Saxon era prepared the way for the introduction of Norman methods for governing the English countryside.

Copyright © Fordham University Press 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.


1 Denman, D. R., The Origins of Ownership (London 1958) 62 and see p. 58.

2 Harmer, Florence E., ed., Anglo-Saxon Writs (Manchester 1952) 374, believes that hide ‘was not a fixed area of land but a unit of assessment bearing no fixed relation either to area or to value.’ Concerning hide as a fiscal unit rather than a specific amount of acreage in the later Anglo-Saxon period, see Denman, Origins 88ff. For a succinct summary of the scholarship on hide as acreage consult R. Welldon Finn, An Introduction to Domesday Book (New York 1963) 103–105 and the following: Peter H. Blair, An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge 1959) 269; Sir Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (2nd ed. Oxford 1947) 638–40.

3 Boutrouche, Robert, Seigneurie et feodalité (Paris 1959) 242, asserts that hide ‘answered ordinarily to the manse.’ The remarks of Paul Vinogradoff are also of interest: The Growth of the Manor (2nd ed. London 1911) 162. Evidence that hide was rendered as mansa in Latin charters will be presented later in this study; see notes 9 and 10 infra.

4 Dubled, H., ‘Encore la question du manse,Revue du Moyen Age Latin 5 (1949) 204.

Google Scholar

5 Wright, Thomas and Wülcker, Richard P., eds., Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies I (London 1884) 225: ‘Domui, hiwrædenne.’ Mattie A. Harris, A Glossary of the West Saxon Gospels (Yale Studies in English 6; Boston 1899) 92 reveals domus glossed by ‘hiwræden.’ Vernacular versions of Latin texts reveal the same equation of Latin house and Anglo-Saxon family. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy 4 pr. 1 (ed. and tr. H. F. Steward and E. K. Rand; London 1926) 300, furnishes the reading domo, which the vernacular translation renders as ‘hirede.’ The Anglo-Saxon text is printed in Samuel Fox, ed., King Alfred's Anglo-Saxon Version of Boethius (London 1890) 172. The first verse of Exodus declared that the Jewish people left Egypt with their houses (cum domibus suis), and the Anglo-Saxon scribes in several gospel-books translated this phrase as ‘mid hira hiwun.’ Glosses also interpreted domesticus to be member of a family. Arthur S. Napier, ed., Old English Glosses (Anecdota Oxoniensia Med. and Mod. Ser. 11; Oxford 1900) section 1 no. 5132 ‘domesticis, hiwcupum’; see also nos. 2531 and 4183. The same Anglo-Saxon terms also glossed familia; consult the index at familia, ibid.

6 Smith, A. H., English Place Name Elements (English Place Name Society; Cambridge 1956) 247, notes ‘gehusan’ as translation for familia.

7 Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 155 ‘Domus hus, hywræden,’ and 183 ‘Domus, hus hywræden.’ Harris, ‘West Saxon Gospels’ 19 ‘hiwrædon,’ ‘heall,’ ‘ham,’ and ‘inn’ glossed domus. See also Napier, Glosses section 1 no. 291, and see the index at ‘hus.’

8 See note 5 supra. Normally, domesticus was glossed in this fashion: ibid. section 1 no. 2808 ‘domesticae, id est proxime, hiwcupre.’ But in Harris, West Saxon Gospels 19, domesticus is glossed by ‘gehusa.’ Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 86, provides the equation, ‘domesticis suis, hiore gehusan.’ W. M. Lindsay, ed., The Corpus Glossary (Cambridge 1921) 102 no. 5, states, ‘Lar: domus honesta.’ The same glossary at 103 no. 59 reveals: ‘Laris …: terra profunda.’ Wright, Wülcker, Vocabularies 124 section 4 no. 14, verifies the gloss on lar: ‘Domus, uel, lar hus.’ Lindsay, Corpus Glossary 103 no. 60, confirms the interpretation of domestics: lares is equated with domestici.

9 Robertson, A. J., ed., Anglo-Saxon Charters (2nd ed. Cambridge 1956) 455, cites the relevant charter printed in W. de Gray Birch, ed., Cartularium Saxonicum (London 1885–1893) III no. 879. For verification of this charter consult Peter Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters: An Annotated List and Bibliography (London 1968) 199 no. 543.

10 Harmer, Writs no. 107. Its authenticity is doubtful according to Sawyer, Annotated List 285 no. 946.

11 Concerning ‘hiwisc’ as hide see Robertson, Charters 455; see also ibid. no. cx and 32–33 for no. xvii. The ‘hiwissce’ of document xvii was rendered as hidam in what seems to be a Latin version of the vernacular charter; consult Miss Robertson's notes at 292. Bede reported a grant of familiae in his Ecclesiastical History 5.19; Charles Plummer, ed., Venerabilis Baedae opera historica (Oxford 1946; repr. of 1896 ed.) I 325, provides the text, and states that it meant hides in the index at familia; a more convenient text may be consulted in King, J. E., tr., Baedae opera historica 5.19 (London 1954; repr. of 1930 ed.) II 306. Anglo-Saxon versions of the passage translated it variously as ‘hiwisca’ and ‘hida’: Thomas Miller, ed. and tr., Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People 5.19 (EETS 95; London 1890) I 456; Jacob Schipper, ed., König Alfreds Uebersetzung von Bedas Kirchengeschichte (Bibliothek der angelsächsischen Prosa 4; Leipzig 1899) 662. The laws of Ine also referred to a ‘hiwisc’: F. L. Attenborough, ed. and tr., The Laws of the Earliest English Kings (Cambridge 1922) at Ine 44 no. 1. Felix Liebermann, ed., and tr., Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen (Halle 1903–16) agreed that ‘hiwisc’ in this instance referred to hide; see Attenborough, Laws 190. Consult also Albert S. Cook, ed., A Glossary of the Old Northumbrian Gospels (Halle 1894) 115, where it is noted that familia was translated as ‘hiuuwisc’ along with similar variants. The form ‘higida’ also served as a variant of ‘hid’: Florence E. Harmer, ed. and tr., Select English Historical Documents (Cambridge 1914) no. iii. In this connection, the remarks of Walter W. Skeat, ed., An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (Oxford 1893) 265, are relevant in regard to ‘hig’ and ‘hiw’ forms. The eminent philologist Allen Mawer asserts that ‘hiwisc’ meant house: The Chief Elements Used in English Place-Names (Cambridge 1924) 36. See also J. Bosworth, T. N. Toller, eds., An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, with supplement (Oxford 195–455; repr. of 1898 ed.) at ‘hiwisc,’ Dictionary 538–9, supplement 546–7, where they state that the word meant house as well as hide.

12 King, Opera historica 4.23 (p. 128); Plummer, Opera historica 4.21 (I 253), and the relevant comment at Notes II 244. The Anglo-Saxon versions present the forms ‘hiwscypes’ and ‘heowscipes': Schipper, ‘Alfreds Uebersetzung’ 465; Miller, Ecclesiastical History 4.23. For ‘hiwscipe’ as translation of domus see also King, Opera historica 5.12 (p. 252) and Plummer, Opera historica 5.12 (I 304). For the Anglo-Saxon version see Schipper, ‘Alfreds Uebersetzung’ 612. Consult also the Latin text of Bertram Colgrave, ed. and tr., Felix's Life of St. Guthlac 53 (Cambridge 1956) 168, as compared with the vernacular form edited by Paul Gonser, Das angelsächsische Prosa-Leben des hl. Guthlac 22 (Anglistische Forschungen 27; Heidelberg 1909) 172; the chapters in Latin and Anglo-Saxon versions of the life of Guthlac do not coincide.

13 Consult Bosworth and Toller, Dictionary 539, at ‘hiw-scipe,’ where they assert that the term had the meaning of house as well as hide and household. In the Vespasian Psalter edited by Roeder, Fritz in Der altenglische Regius-Psalter (Studien zur englischen Philologie 18; Halle 1904) domum appears as ‘gehusscipe’ at psalm 44 V. 11; see also ps. 97 V. 3, ps. 134 vv. 19–20. Cf. loc. cit. in S. Kuhn, ed., The Vespasian Psalter (Ann Arbor 1965).

14 Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 410: ‘Fratres, gebroper, et aliquando gemægas, aliquando gelondon, quas Latini paternitates interpretantur.’ Ibid. 211: ‘Contributes, id est cives, consanguineus, mæg, gelanda, parens, gesib, propinquus, uel simul tribulatus.’ Consult Bosworth and Toller, Dictionary 411 at ‘ge-londa,’ and supplement 353 and at ‘ge-landa.’

16 Napier, Glosses section 1 no. 232: ‘sodalitate id est fraternitate, broræddene & stapelfæsnesse.’ Association with a ‘stapol’ meant a connection with a house, as will be shown later on (note 37 infra) in this study. Marriages and married persons, presumably of lowly station, were usually glossed (Wright and Wïlcker, Vocabularies 191) as follows: ‘Contubernalis, uel socius, gefera’; Napier, Glosses section 1 no. 1784, ‘contubernia, gemanan,’ and section 1 no. 2353, ‘contuberniali, id est amicabili, mid leofre, mænlicere.’ House appeared in several other glosses, however. Ibid.: section 1 no. 414, ‘contubernia, gepoften, samwistu’; section 1 no. 704, ‘contubernio, id est mansione, gema’; section 1 no. 2663,’ ‘contubernio, id est societate, wununge’; section 1 no. 4554 ‘contubernium, samwiste.’

16 Napier, Glosses section 1 no. 2809: ‘clientela, id est obseruatio domestica, gefferrædene, inhirede, gepeodnysse.’ Most likely, glosses on clientela merely refer to any kind of association or following. Some clients were warriors or, at least, officials, however; ibid. section 1 no. 4182: ‘clientele, penrædene,’ and see Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 205 and 383.

17 Attenborough, Laws at Alfred no. 37, cites the passage in MS CCC 383 concerning the person who wishes to go from one ‘boldgetale,’ to seek service in another ‘boldgetale’; ‘boldgetale’ meant literally a ‘collection of habitations,’ according to ibid. 197. Seeking dwellings thus took precedence over ‘hlaford secan.’

18 Robertson, A. J., ed. and tr., The Laws of the Kings of England from Edmund I to Henry I (Cambridge 1925) II Canute 20.

19 Ibid. loc. cit.: ‘… sy he heorÐfast, sy he folgere.’

20 Liebermann, Gesetze II Canute 20: ‘Hoc quoque dicimus et de iis qui domum et terram habeant et de iis qui non sed servient aliis, quos Angli uocant husfæst & folgæres.’

21 Ibid. Conciliatio Cnuti: ‘sive paterfamilias sive cliens.’

22 Napier, Glosses section 1 no. 3154: ‘locuples, id est diues, gelenda, landspedig’; consult also Bosworth and Toller, Dictionary 618–19 at ‘landrica.’

23 Napier, Glosses section 1 no. 3386: ‘patres familias, hired.’ Meritt, Herbert D., ed., Old English Glosses (Modern Language Association of America General Series 16; New York 1945) section 28 nos. 231 and 162: ‘proceres hlafrÐs [hlafordas]’; ‘parentis, patris hlafr;des.’

24 Harris, West Saxon Gospels 45. Pope St. Gregory's Cura pastoralis 3.20 (PL 79 col. 83) reveals the phrase, ‘terrenae domus dominus'; it appears as ‘eorÐlican hlafordas’ in the vernacular version, ed. Henry Sweet, King Alfred's West-Saxon Version of Gregory's Pastoral Care 44 (EETS 45; London 1871) 318–19.

25 Harmer, Select Documents 76. The document is an authentic one of the ninth century, according to Sawyer, Annotated List 414 no. 1482.

26 Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 410; see also at 410: ‘Familiae erciscundae, yrfegedal.’

27 Family as house is discussed in notes 6 to 8 supra.

28 Latin repudium was construed as ‘hiwgedal’ in Harris, West Saxon Gospels 35; see ibid. 55.

29 Another interesting gloss states, ‘Jus liberorum, samhiwena yrfebec’; this is printed in Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 115.

30 Cf. e.g. the ‘staþelas,’ ‘eard’ and ‘eþel’ cited in Bosworth and Toller, Dictionary 912 at ‘staþol’ with the trinity of ‘eard,’ ‘eÐel’ and ‘ierfe’ cited in ibid. supplement 595 at ‘irfe.’

31 Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 247: ‘Fundamentum, uel fundamen, scilicet dictum quod fundus sit domui, stapol’; ibid. 247: ‘Fundamen, stapol.’ Examples of ‘stapol’ translating fundus in the vernacular scriptures are too numerous to cite here.

32 King, Opera historica 3.23 (p. 442–4): Ethelwald conferred a generic (possessionemaliquam) grant of land for building a monastery; then the place (locumconstruendi) for building was chosen; finally, the ‘stapol’ was set in the place (sic in eo monasterii fundamenta iacere — ‘in Ðare stowe þa staÐolas sette þas mynstres,’ according to the vernacular version). See loc. cit. for a similar distinction in the story of Chad (Studensjacere).

33 Ibid. 4.4 simply discusses a certain grant of land, but in the vernacular (Miller, Ecclesiastical History) there is the added assertion that now monks ‘were established (gestaÐolode)’ and settled there. Genesis A 1556, ed. Krapp, G. P., The Junius Manuscript (Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 1; New York 1931) 48, reveals an apparently similar passage: Noah after the flood once more began ‘to establish a home with his kinsmen — mid hleomagum ham staÐelian.’

34 Colgrave, Bertram, ed. and tr., The Life of Bishop Wilfrid by Eddius Stephanus (Cambridge 1927) 45, furnishes a possible instance of this: ‘domum Domino in honorem sancti Andreae apostoli fabrefactam fundavit’; cf. 81: ‘adiurans … fundavit.’ This interpretation of the text is arguable; a more certain example is furnished by Bede. Colman, Bede declared, built a monastery in Whitecalf Isle, and after the exertion expended on bricks and timber, monks were both ‘founded and established there (gestaÐolode & gesette)’: King, Opera historica 4.4 (p. 30); the vernacular version is supplied by Miller, Ecclesiastical History, loc. cit. See also note 35 infra.

35 Harmer, Select Documents no. xxi; see also the comments of Sawyer, Annotated List 405 no. 1443.

36 Robertson, , Charters no. xxiii; Sawyer, Annotated List 166–67 no. 391 cites opinion that the charter is a post-Conquest fabrication.

37 For example, Harmer, Writs no. lxxvii; according to Sawyer, Annotated List 333–34 no. 1121, this charter may, in essence, be a genuine one of the eleventh century. In the document Edward the Confessor grants land and certain rights to Westminster, and orders ‘that this protection of their rights remain firm and steadfast (stapelfæst) for the holy foundation ever in perpetuity…’ The authentic charter datable to around the year 900, cited in note 35 supra, refers to New Minster of Winchester as a ‘worÐig.’ Nevertheless, property was attributed to it as a fundus - ‘stapol.’ Napier, Glosses section 1 no. 4843, explains why: ‘fundi, id est uille, tunes, worpiges.’ See also Napier, Glosses section 1 no. 3790: ‘praedia … wordias' for ‘worÐias,’ and Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 333: ‘Predium, worpig.’ ‘Stapol,’ ‘stede,’ and fundus were interchangeable terms, and all of them were related to house. See notes 15 and 31 supra. Napier, Glosses section 1 no. 2192: ‘[in] … statu, on wununge, on stede.’ Bosworth and Toller, Dictionary 914 quote the following gloss from Haupt's Anglo-Saxon Dictionary: ‘Stede & stapal statum, stabilitatem.’ Glosses equating ‘stapol’ and ‘stede’ are rather numerous. That ‘stede’ was also related to house may be gathered from the gloss in Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 186: ‘Asylum, friÐhus, uel generstede.’ Attribution of properties to a ‘stapol’ meant their integration and consolidation; glosses of the tenth century confirm this contention. Ibid. 238: ‘Firmaretur, id est consolidat, wæs getrymed, uel gestapolad, uel gefæstnad’; 247: ‘Fundatum, consolidatum, gestapelad.’ See also at 247 no. 5. Note the numerous instances of ‘stede’ in the documents furnished in Harmer, Writs.

38 Robertson, , Charters no. lxi, a late-ninth-century lease (which is authentic, according to Sawyer, Annotated List 388–389 no. 1369) attributes acres to the ‘stede’ in this way.

39 Kemble, J. M., ed., Codex Diplomaticus aevi Saxonici (London 1839–48) III no. 675. This document seems to be an authentic lease of the late-ninth century, according to Sawyer, Annotated List 387 no. 1362. ‘Steall’ was a frequent variant for ‘stapol.’ An interesting commentary on ‘steall’ as status, and so on, is furnished by Herbert D. Meritt, Some of the Hardest Glosses in Old English (Stanford 1968) 74. The connection between status and house is cited in note 37 supra. Against this background the gloss ‘in praedium, on hamstealle,’ becomes understandable: Napier, Glosses section 61 no. 55.

40 Sawyer, Annotated List 389 no. 1373, views Kemble, Codex Diplomaticus no. 680 as authentic; this charter of the late-ninth century (also printed in Robertson, Charters no. lvi) declares that the ‘fifth acre of the partible meadow also belongs to the hide.’ Four other portions of the meadow were attributed to four other hides; consult the references to the earlier charter granting these original five hides, cited ibid. 363 (and Birch, Cartularium no. 552, authenticated by Sawyer, Annotated List 126 no. 219). Sawyer also declares (378 no. 1314) that Birch, Cartularium no. 542, is an authentic tenth-century charter; the English bounds of this document state that ‘two strips of plow-land among the land of the servants’ belong to the hide. Grundy, George B., ‘The Saxon Settlement in Worcestershire,Birmingham Archaeological Society Transactions and Proceedings 53 (1928) 3 asserts that a determined effort was made to obtain the necessary properties and resources for the hide even to the point of obtaining such acreage miles away in isolated, fragmented or shared holdings. The norm of self-sufficiency seems to have remained a theme in the later period. In the first half of the twelfth century Henry of Huntingdon said, ‘The hide of the English is called the cultivated land of one aratrum sufficient for the year.’ The text is available in Henry Petrie and Rev. John Sharpe, edd., Henrici Archidiaconi Hunten-dunensis Historiae Anglorum (Monumenta Historica Britannica 1; London 1848) 753 (A). Another translation is available in Thomas Forester, ed. and tr., The Chronicle of Henry of Huntingdon (London 1853) 187.

Google Scholar

41 For references to status see at notes 37, 38, and 39 supra. The following are also of interest: Hessels, John H., ed., The Leiden Latin-Anglo-Saxon Glossary (Cambridge 1906) 16stans-domus’; Napier, Glosses section 1 no. 75 ‘instantia … onwununge’; ibid. section 1 no. 1833 ‘statum, antimbre’; Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies no 164 ‘Aedificium, getimbrung,’ and cf. 81 no. 12. On dignity and social position as indicated by status in the glossaries consult Meritt, Hardest Glosses 74. The concept of estate, represented by Latin status, entered England before the Conquest, contrary to the belief of most commentators. See, for example, the opinions expressed by Denman, Ownership 84.

42 Consolidation of landed property by means of the ‘stapol’ has been commented upon in the text and in notes 35 to 40, and especially note 37, supra. Other ninth-century glosses expressed the same notion. Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 57, ‘stabiliuit, gestaþelad’; 58, ‘etstabilientur, and sin gestaÐelade’; 66, ‘opus instabili, unstaÐolfest weorc.’ Consolidation and stability were normally regarded as the work of a ‘stapol’ in Anglo-Saxon literature. For example, in Roeder's ‘Regius-Psalter,’ the Latin and vernacular of psalm 103 are revealing: ‘Qui fundauit terram super stabilitatem eius — se stapelode eordan ofer steapolfæstnisse.’ In Roeder's and Kuhn's editions of the Vespasian Psalter the crucial words in the same psalm are rendered ‘steaÐelade’ and ‘steaÐulfestnisse.’ See also the vernacular versions of Psalm 8's ‘lunamfundasti,’ in the same Vespasian and Regius Psalters. Meritt, Glosses section 9 no. 77, provides the interesting gloss: ‘slamine, stede.’ ‘Stede’ or ‘stapol’ as roots could be applied to land-tenure and houses. Harris, West Saxon Gospels 47, reveals that plenitudo was translated by ‘stede’; see also at 27. Lindsay, Corpus Glossary 30, presents the gloss: ‘Capacitates: domus'; 35, ‘Cap[ac]itas: amplitudo.’ Harris, Martha A., A Glossary of the Old English Gospels (Leipzig 1902) 89, reveals that lucrari was translated by ‘gestaÐelian.’ The fundus was equated with possessions in Lindsay, Corpus Glossary 82; Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 401 no. 25, furnish ‘Fundi, grundas …’; Meritt, Hardest Glosses 112, prints the interesting gloss: ‘fundi, praedia. agri. tribui. possessiones.’ Unattached to such a ‘stapol,’ wealth was precariously placed: Lindsay, Corpus Glossary 28, ‘Bona caduca: facultates quae non habent firmitatem.’ The equation of firmitas and ‘stapol’ is clear in note 37 supra and the evidence cited at the beginning of this note. Napier, Glosses section 1 no. 1420 adds further confirmation of this: ‘firmo, id est stabili, stapelfæste’; see also Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 238 no. 41. Without a domus, apparently, one lacked secure wealth. J. A. Giles, ed., The Miscellaneous Works of Venerable Bede Hom. 44 (London 1843 ff.) V 336; ‘voluit in civitate David peragi, ut parentes ejus non ibi domum, non possessionem haberent…’ The homily seems to be authentic according to M. L. W. Laistner, A Hand-List of Bede Manuscripts (Ithaca, New York 1943) 114–116; see also Plummer, Opera historica cliii. Giles, Miscellaneous Works of Bede VI 19 De Orthographia contains the following statement: ‘Inquilini, non habentes propriam domum, habitant in alieno.’ This is one of Bede's eaily works, according to Laistner, Hand-List 137. Anglo-Saxon poetry made plentiful use of ‘stapol’ phraseology. Geomor, Japheth's son in Genesis A 1610–12, ed. Krapp, Junius Manuscript 49–50, dispensed his father's ‘flettgesteald’ among his ‘dear friends and relations.’ The expression ‘flettgesteald’ is a poetic variant of ‘steall.’ Heorot in the Beowulf poem was ‘a most famous palace,’ and the seat of government, according to the text of Ft. Klaeber, Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg (3rd ed.; New York 1950) lines 309, 310, 411, 412, 465, and 466. But Heorot was fundamentally a ‘select house,’ and a high ‘stede’: ibid. line 285. The wealth, the ‘twisted gold’ of the ‘wide city’ of Babylon in the Old English Daniel 672 (ed. Krapp, Junius Manuscript 130) seems to be an emanation of the hall-‘stede’ where Nebuchadnessar sat with his earls. Satan's power of governing hell was exercised from his infernal ‘stapol.’ The Genesis poem declared that God cast Satan into ‘the house of perdition’ from which he should ‘rule’ and govern the abyss. Satan himself speaks of this house which is his source of rule as ‘this narrow “stede”’ (Genesis B 342, 356, ibid. 13–14). God Himself, the poem Christ and Satan informs us, had ‘fixed the world's regions,’ which involved, later on, settling the fallen angels into a home with a ‘stapol’ in hell: Christ and Satan 3, 25, ibid. 135–6. Interestingly, ‘stapol’ sometimes translated familia, according to Bosworth and Toller, Dictionary 912 at ‘stapol.’

43 Harmer, Writs no. lxxiii. While Miss Harmer believed the document to be ‘reasonably authentic,’ the consensus seems to be otherwise: Sawyer, Annotated List 332–333 no. 1117. Another forgery (Robertson, Charters no. xxiii; Sawyer, Annotated List 166–167 no. 391) records the grant of a sizeable number of hides to Milton Abbey, Dorset. The king declared that he wished the land to ‘be as free in everything with all that belongs to it as my own property in every “stede” in my kingdom of England.’

44 Lindsay, Corpus Glossary 61, reports the interesting gloss, ‘[A]edilitatem: ham-scire.’ An identical gloss is furnished by Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 391: ‘Edilitatem, hamscire.’ The word ‘shire’ implied a power of jurisdiction; ibid. 40, ‘Procuratio, sciir,’ and 117, ‘Prouincia, sciir.’ Important houses possessed orbits of power; orbit was expressed by a variety of terms, including orbis, circuitus, peribulum, and the vernacular ‘ymbwyrft.’ The psalm verse ‘et revelata sunt fundamenta orbis terrae,’ for example, was rendered in the vernacular Vespasian Gospel (Roeder, ‘Regius-Psalter’ and Kuhn, Vespasian, Ps. 17) as ‘steaÐelas ymbhwyrftes eorÐan.’ The form ‘staÐylas ymbhwyrftys eorÐan’ appears in Karl Wildhagen, ed., Der Cambridger Psalter (Bibliothek der angelsachsischen Prosa 7; Hamburg 1910) 33. Roeder, ‘Regius-Psalter,’ for Psalm 48 (p. 87), ‘Audite haec omnes gentes auribus percipite qui habitatis orbem,’ reports the Anglo-Saxon rendering, ‘þe bugiaÐ ymbhwyrft.’ The same passage in the Vespasian Psalter reveals, ‘eardiaÐ ymbhwyrf.’ Apparently, an orbit was associated with a ‘staþol’; see also Psalm 17 for the phrase ‘in circuitu eius tabernaculum eius.’ Thus, varieties of houses possessed spheres of influence. Napier, Glosses section 18 no. 30, presents ‘orbem, burh,’ and believes that the glossator meant urbem. Whether this is true or not is unimportant; a house or a borough and its environs are what mattered. In section 1 no. 4853 Napier offers, ‘Municipatus, burhscipe, eardung.’ Wright and Wulcker, Vocabularies, print a selection of glosses which suggest that orbem, not urbem, was correct: 333, ‘Atrium cauertun, oÐÐe inburh’ (atrium and ‘cafertun’ are discussed in note 48 infra); 425, ‘In tribulanam, in þa burh.’ Scholars have long suspected that ‘burh’ essentially referred to house; consult Sir Frank M. Stenton, ‘Norman London,’ in Social Life in Early England (London 1960) 188 note 6. A ‘geburhscipe,’ according to the Textus Roffensis and the Quadripartitus, is an area in which one is a resident (in qua residens est, and ‘on hamfast ware’): Liebermann, Gesetze I 138, I Eadweard no. 1/4. The house was somehow central to jurisdiction, and the house possessed an orbit of influence. Napier, Glosses section 1 nos. 18–19: ‘orbes, hofringas,’ and ‘orbibus, hofum.’ On the term ‘hof’ consult below at note 48. This jurisdictional orbit would apply to more prestigious houses; ibid. section 1 no. 886: ‘parrochiam, id est gubernationem, scire’; section 1 no. 2033 ‘parrochias, id est adiacentes domus aut diocesis, biscoprica.’ On ‘biscoprica’ see the remarks of Dorothy Whitelock, ed., Anglo-Saxon Wills (Cambridge 1930) 103. Other types of areal jurisdiction were said to be centered upon a ‘stapol’: Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 177 section 5 no. 20, ‘Pagus, tun’; 144 section 4 no. 26, ‘Pagi, tunstede.’ Concerning ‘stede’ in this regard consult Attenborough, Laws II Aethelstan no. 8. A variety of types of houses possessed such powers over its circuit. Thomas Symons, ed. and tr., Regularis Concordia (London 1953) 8 states that ‘The brethren shall not gad about visiting the properties of the monastery…’ The relevant Latin text reads, ‘villarum autem circuitus….’ Similarly, an apparently genuine charter of the Anglo-Saxon period (Birch, Cartularium no. 34; Sawyer, Annotated List 333–334 no. 1165) records that hundreds of hides were granted to Chertsey; then the king added ten more hides which were geographically separated (pars semota … juxta portum Londiniae) from the rest of the lands. Yet the king declared concerning both portions of lands, ‘Omnia igitur in circuitu ad praedictum monasterium pertinencia … teneatis….’ Somewhat the same thinking can be discovered in Klaeber, Beowulf line 1735. Consult also R. E. Latham, ed., Revised Medieval Latin Word-List (London 1965) 343 at peribula, where it is noted that around the year 960 the plural form meant precincts. Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 184, provide the gloss: ‘Peribolum, scire.’

45 Robertson, Charters no. xxix publishes the Anglo-Saxon version of the Latin document printed in Birch, Cartularium no. 825; the Middle English version is printed in ibid. no. 826. Comments on these apparently authentic charters are furnished by Sawyer, Annotated List 399 no. 1419. Miss Robertson, however, finds the use of ‘stowan’ for mansas ‘suspicious, especially.’ It is interesting that Henry Ellis in his introduction to Domesday-Book, seu Liber censualis Wilielmi primi (London 1816) III xlvi quoted, apparently in approbation, Bishop Kennett's definition of hide as ‘a house or habitation.’

46 For the most part, ‘stow’ referred to a place in its widest extension, and thus normally translated locus. Bosworth and Toller, Dictionary 912 at ‘stapol,’ quote Arnold Schröer's edition of the Benedictine Rule (Die angelsächsischen Prosabearbeitung der Benedictinerregel [Bibliothek der angelsächsischen Prosa 2; Kassel 1885] 59) for the phrase ‘according to the site of a place,’ which in Latin is secundum positionem loci, and in the vernacular, ‘Be Ðare stowe staÐole.’ Thus, the site of a house was its ‘staþol,’ and the house itself was the ‘definition’ of a general locale: Wright and Wulcker, Vocabularies 391, ‘Definitionem, getimbrunge’; 164, ‘Aedificium, getimbrung.’ Nevertheless, ‘stow’ lost this precise function, and gradually obtained meanings which referred, according to Bosworth and Toller, Dictionary 924 at ‘stow,’ to a place which is built, a house, a collection of houses, a habitation, and so on. In fact, ‘stow-lic’ could refer to a situs, and Lindsay, Corpus Glossary 164, reports the gloss: ‘Situs, positio.’ Thus, the site was not always a ‘stapol,’ with ‘stow’ reserved for referring only to a generic location. Bosworth and Toller, Dictionary at ‘stow,’ remark that ‘wunenesse and stowe’ sometimes translated mansionem. The evidence of King, Opera historica (compared with the Anglo-Saxon versions of Miller, Ecclesiastical History, and Schipper, Alfreds Uebersetzung) confirms the impression that ‘stow’ referred to a dwelling place in Bede's History: 1.15 (employing King's chapter enumeration), locum habitationis, ‘eardingstowe’; 1.26, mansionem, ‘eardingstowe’; 1.33, habitationem, ‘eardingstowe’; 3.7, sedem episcopalem, ‘biscop eardungstowe & biscopsetl’; 4.26, locum mansionis, ‘wunenesse & wic’; 5.11, locum cathedrae episcopalis, ‘biscopsetl.’

At ibid. 5.19 it is apparent that hides were attributed to a ‘stow,’ just as they could be attributed to a ‘stapol’: ‘tyn hiwisca landes on paere stowe’; ‘pritiges hiwisca on stowe.’ A doubtful writ (Harmer, Writs no. 107; Sawyer, Annotated List 285 no. 946) reduces hidation and establishes the grant ‘into pere halgan stowe.’

47 On ‘heafodbotl’ consult Whitelock, Wills xiii p. 136 and the index at 238; see also my study ‘The Meaning of “gesette land” in Anglo-Saxon Land Tenure,’ Speculum 46 (1971) 593–4. Hides were physical properties and were used as landmarks in charters whose boundary sections are, at best, of the tenth century. In Kemble, Codex Diplomaticus no. 632 (Sawyer, Annotated List 263 no. 841, and 438 no. 1587) the survey speaks of ‘the most westerly hide in Little Witley.’ In Kemble, Codex Diplomaticus no. 764 (Sawyer, Annotated List 183 no. 467) the survey mentions the ‘Ridge hide’ and the ‘Church hide’ as direction-finders. Another survey (Kemble, Codex Diplomaticus no. 617; Sawyer, Annotated List 382 no. 1334, and 434 no. 1554) asserts, ‘There are three hides of this land … both near the village and away from it even as he had it before…’ The ‘stede’ was also a physical and locatable item recorded in the charters. One survey, printed by Birch, Cartularium no. 1282 (regarded in Sawyer, Annotated List 250–1 no. 186 as possibly genuine), records the phrase, ‘Along the Seven to the house “stede.”’

48 The Anglo-Saxon hall was the center from which the house developed, and the hall ‘might be applied to the whole house of which the hall was the principal room …,’ according to Hamilton Thompson, A., ‘The English House’ in Social Life 140. Concerning hall as house see notes 7 and 42 supra. Glosses also indicate that hall meant house. Meritt, Glosses section 28 no. 126 ‘aulica pa hllelican’; Napier, Glosses section 1 no. 2996 ‘ad palatinas, id est ad regales, to heallicum, hyrdelicum, to cynelicon, to hoflican.’ Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 85, ‘in aedibus, on hofum’; 184, ‘Aedicula, lytel hof’; 184, ‘Basilica, cinges hof, uel cyrce.’ Lindsay, Corpus Glossary 7, ‘Aedibus: domibus’; 7, ‘Aedicula: domus modica.’ See note 44 supra for other notices of ‘hof’; the statement, ‘Aula, Latine domus regia est …,’ in Giles, Miscellaneous Works of Bede VI ‘De orthographia’ 2 is also of interest.

Enclosures and courtyards were also forms of houses. Bishop John, Bede tells us, took pity on a mute, and provided ‘a small hut’ for him within ‘the boundaries of the same house.’ The Anglo-Saxon word, ‘cafertun,’ translated the phrase, ‘in conseptis … mansionis'; consult King, Opera historica 5.2, and loc. cit. in Miller, Ecclesiastical History. The vernacular Bede was fond of ‘cafertun’ for rendering court. King, Opera historica 3.11, provides the passage, ‘atrio domus huius', and the Anglo-Saxon in Miller, Ecclesiastical History translates it as ‘cafertun … pæs huses.’ Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy 2 pr. 7 (p. 212) speaks of ‘angustissima inhabitandi … area,’ and then, in the next line, as ‘minimo puncti quodam puncto circumsaepti atque conclusi.’ All of this is rendered in the Anglo-Saxon version (Fox, Alfred's Boethius 18.1, p. 62) as ‘an lytel cafertun’ and as ‘cauertun.’ There are numerous examples of the identification of ‘cafertun’ and atrium. The ‘cafertun’ thus represented the enclosure around a house; ‘cafertun’ translated the ‘mansionem angustam circumvallente aggere’ of Bede's History 4.28. Wright and Wülcker, Vocabularies 186, clarify this by furnishing the gloss: ‘Atrium, mycel and rum heall,’ and 274, ‘Aulea, heall.’ The ‘cafertun’ was merely another form of domus. Harris, West Saxon Gospel 7, reveals that atrium was glossed by either ‘cafertun’ or ‘botl.’ Benjamin Thorpe, ed. and tr., Homilies of the Anglo-Saxon Church (London 1844–1846) I 423, reveals that the king's court was ‘cynges cafer tune.’ Ibid. II 249: ‘Peter stood in the hall [cauertune] …,’ in which Christ was first accused. Most rural houses or halls, whether of the lowly or the highly placed, possessed an enclosure. Lindsay, Corpus Glossary no. 2125 ‘muri, id est edificia …,’ and loc. cit.Moenia: superior domus.’ Birch, Cartularium no. 42, an authentic charter according to Sawyer, Annotated List 73 no. 10, records a grant in which a king conferred ‘a court (curtem) containing 12 hides … with buildings (domibus) and all utensils.’ For an even more illuminating example see Birch, Cartularium no. 332, and consult Robertson, Charters 262 as well as Sawyer, Annotated List 367 no. 1264. The laws of Ine required the ‘worthy’ of a ‘coerl’ to be fenced in: Attenborough, Laws Ine 40, and Liebermann, Gesetze I 106–107 loc. cit., where the Latin version of the Quadripartitus renders ‘worÐig’ as curtillum. See note 37 supra concerning ‘worÐig.’ Bede told the story (History 4.28) concerning Cutlibert of how he built a ‘narrow-manse’ for himself ‘surrounded by a bank,’ and how he had ‘necessary houses’ erected inside it. Such enclosures with houses inside them are also evident in the Domesday Survey: Ellis, Domesday-Book seu Liber censualis lxxiv.

49 Birch, Cartularium nos. 618–619, taken from the twelfth-century Winchester chartulary, but which are authentic for the years around 900 (according to Sawyer, Annotated List 405 no. 1444) furnish evidence that hide had not entirely developed into an impersonal fiscal unit in the early years of the tenth century. The bishop of Worcester informed King Edward that the 70 hides of land in Beddington, Surrey, ‘are all now well reeved, which, when my lord gave them over to me, lacked all wealth, and it was barren with poor people.’ The bishop declared how he then ‘endeavored to overhaul the stock in it, on account of which, betimes, poor men lived there….’ Thus, land could be in wretched condition, badly mismanaged, while the hidage remained constant, at least in the early-tenth century.

50 Consult chapter 7 on the peasantry in Finn, Introduction to Domesday Book. Galbraith, Vivian H., The Making of Domesday Book (Oxford 1961) discusses fully the feudal nature of the Survey and the concern with the income of seigniorial tenants: 29–30, 37–38, 43, 52–54, 61–62, 78–80, 85, 116–118, 160, 168, 176.

51 On the seigniorial orientation of the Survey the page references to ibid. in note 50 supra are enlightening. The contemporary record of Robert, bishop of Hereford, is illustrative of the emphasis upon cataloguing the tenements of feudal lords (‘in possessionibus singulorum procerum’) rather than the ‘domos et agros possidentibus’ of what may be non-feudal hideholders: translated in ibid. 52 and the text provided by William Stubbs, Select Charters of English Constitutional History rev. by Davis, H. W. C. (Oxford ninth rev. ed. 1921) 95. Concerning the feudal nature of aula and similar terms consult Finn, Introduction to Domesday Book 50–51, and Ellis, Domesday-Book seu liber censualis lxxiv.

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 9 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 26th February 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Hide and Related Land-Tenure Concepts in Anglo-Saxon England, A.D. 700 - 1100
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

The Hide and Related Land-Tenure Concepts in Anglo-Saxon England, A.D. 700 - 1100
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

The Hide and Related Land-Tenure Concepts in Anglo-Saxon England, A.D. 700 - 1100
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *