The Domesday Record


The earliest known reference to the word Sydnor, which for the sake of consistency has been standardized in this work, occurred as a place name in 1086 in the famous Domesday Book.  This remarkable record was compiled in Latin for an English king, William I, known as the Conqueror, to aid him in the consolidation of his power and to provide for effective and complete taxation.  In the book, almost each arable acre in England was accounted for in a surprisingly accurate manner.

To understand the following reference to Sydnor as recorded in the Domesday Book, a brief historical commentary may help.  The Edward mentioned below, bynamed St Edward the Confessor, was the king of England from 1042 to 1066 and a grandson of a duke of Normandy.  Edward was a listless and ineffectual monarch and yielded much of his power to his father-in-law Godwin, the earl of Wessex, who was also mentioned in the quotation.  By 1051, Edward outlawed  Godwin and his family.  The king then acquiesced a great deal of influence and land in England to the Normans.  In 1053, Godwin consolidated English power and regained property and power for disenfranchised nobles of England.  After Earl Godwin's death, his son Harold assumed his father's political role.  Both Harold and the duke of Normandy, William, claimed they were promised the English throne by King Edward.

When Edward died childless in 1066, Harold seized the throne.  William, duke of Normandy and claimant of the English throne, was assisted in his armed quest for the English throne by his half-brother Robert, the count of Mortain, who was referenced below as "the Count."  The quest reached a climax at the battle of Hastings in Sussex where the Normans led by William routed the Saxons led by Harold.  For aid in this campaign, Robert of Mortain was rewarded with one-sixth of Sussex, the rape[1] of Pevensey.

The battle at Hastings, so important as a precursor of the Domesday text given below, occurred only sixteen miles from the probable location of Sydnor.

The following is a liberal translation of the Latin.[2]


X.  The Land of the Count of Mortain [Rape of Pevensy]


In Wandelmestrei [now Alciston] Hundred[3]


[First Holding][4]


William[5] holds Selmeston and Sidenore [Sydnor][6]. from the Count[7].  Alfhere held them in freehold.[8] Then and now they were assessed for 4 1/2 hides.[9]  Land for 7 plows.[10]  In lordship 3 plows; 4 villagers and 3 smallholders with 4 plows.  A church[11] and a priest,[12] 5 slaves.

In the time of King [1066] and now, this was worth 70 shillings; when acquired 40 shillings.


[Second Holding]


Ralph[13] holds from the Count 1 hide in Sidenore [Sydnor], and it is assessed for as much.  Young Wulfmer[14] held it in freehold.  There is land for 1 plow.  It is there with 1 villager.

In the time of King Edward [1066], it was worth 8 shillings, and afterwards 6 shillings; now 10 shillings.


[Third Holding]


Walter also holds 1/2 hide there [at Sydnor] from the Count, and for so much it is assessed.  Earl Godwin held it.  There is land for 1/2 a plow, and there the 1/2 plow is with 1 villager.

The value is and was 4 shillings.


            Thus the place name Sydnor existed before the Norman invasion.

            It is unlikely that many of the original holders of the Sussex lands were holders by the time of Domesday twenty years later.  The claims for lands by the conquerors, coupled with the probable casualties at Hastings and the other battles of the Conquest, were so numerous that very few Englishmen in Sussex survived even as undertenants.[15]



The Location of Sydnor


            Because the place disappeared, there has been a question as to the exact location of the village.  From the reading of the reference above, it seems logical to place it in the neighborhood of Selmeston, and thus traditionally it is shown.  In the maps associated with the reference from which the above quotation was taken, Sydnor was shown about one-half mile northwest of Selmeston although the authority for such placement was not given.

            One Domesday researcher stated that Sydnor was a place name derived from a manor of that name adjacent to the manor of Mays in .Selmeston parish.[16]  Today the Mays Farm is located about one mile northeast of the present church at Selmeston in East Sussex.[17]  The reference to the manor of Mays is slightly disconcerting because there is another manor of Mays,[18] halfway between East Grinstead and Horsted Keynes, another area where we find the use several times of the name Sydnor in the 1300s.

            There is very slight evidence to suggest that Sydnor may have been located near what is now Horsted Keynes.  Any argument along these lines flies in the face of tradition.

            As shown in the footnote for the Domesday quotation given above, the Ralph holding land at Sydnor was probably Ralph de Dene, where Dene as a place became Danehill which was shown in Riston Hundred.  The Ralph de Dene was mentioned in Riston [Riston and Denne] Hundred in the Domesday.  Also William de Cahaignes [Keynes],[19] who was noted in the Domesday reference, held property in both places, Riston and Denn Hundred and Sydnor.  Thus, from the evidence, there was a close connection in terms of taxation, ownership, and surnames between the two hundreds whose centers were about fifteen miles apart.

            A key argument for the alternate location of Sydnor would be that portions of an estate could lie at some distance from the point at which it might be taxed.  One explanation of the phenomenon that could lead to this confusion reads:[20]


. . . which shows that portions of Alciston manor did actually lie at [other placenames]  The origin of these scattered members can be explained in two ways, either by the simple grant of lesser estate to the tenant of the greater, or by the settlement on waste lands of coloni from the manor for purposes of cultivation.


            There are many quotations from Domesday to support that scattering of tax properties.  Thus the place Sydnor was not, of necessity, near Selmeston or even in Wandelmestrei Hundred.  It was possible that Sydnor may have been shown there only for the assessment of taxes.



References from the Lewes Chartulary


            Sydnor (Sydenore, Sidenora, Sydenoura, and Sydenora) appeared as a place name in a series of deeds dated circa 1150-1170.[21]  These have been quoted below, but they seem neither to confirm nor confute any theory about placing Sydnor.  The Lewes Cartulary[22] was a well-known document from about the end of the twelfth century from which the quotations below were taken.


I Richard [de Aquila, baron] son of William son of Alvred [Alfred] give and confirm in free alms all the gifts which my father and my mother and my other ancestors or my men have given to the church of St Pancras Priory and the monks of the same place, namely the church of Grenested [East Grenstead], with half a hide of land and all its appurtenances, and the tithes[23] of Prestetona [Preston, probably near Brighton] and of Aluericestona [Alfriston] and of Berwyca [Berwick].  And moreover I grant and confirm the gift of William Malfet, namely half a hide [at] Posingewrda [Possingworth];  and five shillingsworths of land at Lamherst [Lamberhurst] and one hide of land at Sydenore of the fee of Roger de Borctune [Buncton].  And besides these gifts of my ancestors I Richard give in free alms to the said church the land of Hamwde [Home Wood] which was of Walder [Walter] and other land del hest de Grenested [East Grinstead] which is called Wederesfeld..  This my gift I grant to the church so freely that it may be quit both against me and against all men from everything except danegeld*.[24]  And these gifts and confirmations I have made to the said church and monks as to my brothers and they of their charity have given me 6 marks[25] of silver and gold and a riding horse worth 1 mark.  Of this gift are witnesses:  Master Theodoric, Thomas the priest, W. Limel, Simon the uncle of Richard, William Malfed, Hugh de Liued [Lovel];, W. [William] de Renefeld [Renfield], Godard de Bortune [Buriton], William de Wannoc [Wannock].[26]


I Richard de Chaannes [Keynes] grant to God and St Pancras [Priory] Priory of Lewes . . . in free and perpetual alms the land which is called Sydenoura [Sydnor], namely 2 1/2 hides, and the church of Horsteda [Horsted Keynes].  And with the abovesaid gift all the gifts which my ancestors gave to the church of St Pancras and the monks of the same, namely, 2 hides of land at Dudinton [Donnington], and one hide at Langeneia [Langney], and at Rimechinges [Rimeching]  60 acres of land with the marsh that belongs to them, and the land of Bradehurst [Broadhurst], and the land of Hoch [Hock]; which adjoins Bradehurst [Broadhurst].  And this I do for the soul of my father and my mother and for the salvation of my soul and of all my successors.  These grants I and my heirs will acquit towards the King and all men for all services and for all things except murder fines.  Witnesses: Gilbert Louell, William son of Simon de Hechingeam, Gervase de Channes [Keynes], Walter de Norfolc [Norfolk], Swein de Horsteda [Horsted], Odmer, Adam, Grento, who quitclaimed the claim which he had in the land of Sydenoura [Sydnor] in the chapterhouse and in my presence renounced it, Simon the Steward of St Pancras, Aldred the Prior's Chamberlain, Rannulf,  the Porter, William de Sancto Pancracio [St Pancras], Ralph Waleys.[27]


I Richard de Chahannis [Keynes] give and confirm the grant which Hugh my father made to God and St Pancras and the monks there in free alms; namely the land of Sydenora, 2 1/2 hides with all its appurtenances, and the church of Horstede [Horsted].  I give also and confirm with the abovesaid gift in free alms all the gifts which my ancestors gave to the church of St Pancras and the monks; namely 2 hides of land at Dudintune [Donnington] and one hide at Langaneia [Langney], and at Rimechinges [Rimeching] 60 acres of land with the marsh which belongs to them, and the lands of Bradeherst [Broadhurst], for the soul of my father and for the welfare of the soul of my mother and my own soul and of all my successors.  And all these gifts I will acquit towards the King and all men for all things except danegeld* and murder fines.  Witnesses: Baldwin the priest, Hugh my brother, Philip de Fochingtun [Folkington], Walter de Norff' ;, William de Oxynford [Oxenford], Mauger, Ralph the Steward, Rannulf the Porter.[28]


I Richard [de Aquila] son of William son of Aluered [Alfred] give and grant in free alms to God and St Pancras and the monks . . . one hide of land in Sydenora [Sydnor] which Roger de Brustona [Bruxton] my man had given to the said monks freely as his free fee, and his heirs with him.  So that the said Roger and his heirs shall do service to me from his other land for the same hide and the monks shall hold freely quit and discharged from all things except danegeld*, and this have done at the request of the same Roger [de Bruxton]. Witnesses:  Anscher the chaplain of Reigate, Richard the Chamberlain, John Sproth, William de Renefeld [Renfield], Hugh de Crulay, John son of Oddo, Adam de Sudwercha [Southwater], Rannulf the Steward, Ralph Waleys, Richard de la Mara.[29]


I Richer [Richard] de Aquila grant and confirm to God and the church of Lewes [St Pancras] Priory and the monks . . . all the lands and holdings which they have of the fee of the Count of Mortain or of my fee or of my men, of whosever gift they be, in pure and perpetual alms, namely, all their land in Langeneya [Langney] with the pasture of the sea shore and the land of Runechinges [Rimeching]. and the land of Thorie [West Thorney] and the land of Entenie [Antye Farm] with the surrounding marsh and the land of Achinton [Ashington] and of Crolle [Cralle Place] and the land of Langport [Landport Farm].  I confirm also to the church of Lewes and the monks . . . all their marsh with appurtenances which lies between Langenia [Langney]; and the ditch which is called Mistlinghe [Mistling]; in length from Scana as far as Elhous [Eelhouse] and from Elhous as far as the street of Torne.  I will also and firmly ordain that the monks and their men of Langeneia [Langney] be quit of suit of my hundred [____ Hundred] and of all other exactions and demands.  I also grant and confirm to the monks for the good of my soul all the gifts which Count Eustace made to them of the service of the land of Robert De Horsted [Horsted], as much as they have thereof, and of the fishery near Langenia [Langney], and of hundred pennies*[30] and all other demands.  I confirm also and grant to the church and monks of Lewes the land of Sydenore [Sydnor] and a hide of land which is called Haldelleya [Hairley (farm), Haldelee] (see Hairley Farm); with appurtenances, and the grove which is called Hamwode [Home Wood] and the land which is called Maplet and the land of Stokyngeham [Stokingham] and a villein*[31] with land whom Richard son of Hemming de Essete [Exceat] gave them.  The churches also of Grenested [East Grinstead] and of Hekyntone [Hechinton] with the lands and tithes belonging to them, and the tithes* of Brembeltie [Brambletye] and of Prestone [Preston] and the land of Bochingelee [Beckley] and the land of la Felde [La Field].  All these things aforesaid I grant and confirm to the church of Lewes and the monks there dwelling, for the welfare of my soul and of my wife and of all my relations ancestors or successors and of my children, in pure and perpetual alms free and quit of all secular exactions and demands which belong to me and my heirs. [Sealing Clause] Witnesses:  Hugh de Crudolaco [Crulay], Robert the Butler and his son Ralph de Dene, Anketil de Rey [Rye], Henry de Monstrol, William Maufey, Robert de Horstede [Horsted], Richard de Hertfeld, Martin the clerk, Ralph de Brade [Broad], Humphrey de Manekesne [Manxey], Richard de Truflet [Truefleet].[32]


            The Lewes Chartulary further referred "to the Priory a hide of land in Sidenore [Sydnor] a manor by Selmeston, mentioned in the eighth parcel of Nicholas de Aldeham's fee*."[33] 

            In addition, the cartulary of the priory circa 1150 mentioned that "at Sidenore [Sydnor] Hugh de Cahaines [Keynes] gave us 2 1/2 hides* pro monacatu[34] and Richard his son confirmed the gift."[35]

            "Two knight's fees* held by the heirs Simon de Litlington, William de Hamme [Ham]; and Remigius ate Wode [Wood] in Burton, Ditton [Denton] and Sidenore [Sydnor] of the yearly value of four pounds" were shown in 1293.[36]


Other References to the Place Sydnor


            A Sussex subsidy for "Hundr' de Rishton & Denne" in 1296[37] found Adam de Selmeston paid one shilling*, five and one-half pence* in Denne [Danehill].  Also Johanne de Berewyk [John de Berwick] was in the same subsidy.  This is interesting because someone whose origins were in the area of Selmeston and Berwick was paying taxes in a different hundred, an intriguing similarity with the location Sydnor shown below.  The appearance of the surnames for Rado, Ricro, and Walter atte Broke [Brook] as well as Waltero Bertelot [Bartlett] in the same reference causes one to reflect on the coincidence of their frequency of appearance in the records of Knolton along with Sydnor a hundred years later.[38]  There was no mention of Sydnor in this reference.

            Another subsidy[39] in 1327 showed Bartlett and Philipot, which were also names found at Knolton together with Sydnor a hundred years later; however no Sydnors were shown in that reference.

            The subsidy[40] for the "Villat' de Horsted Keynes in 1332, Hundre' de Ristonedenne [Riston and Denne]" showed "firmar'[41] de Sidenor [Sydnor]" as paying two shillings nine and a half pence.  It is interesting and puzzling that the tax was paid by a lessee, rather than a tenant with a given name.  Nonetheless, the word Sydnor may have appeared there as a surname about the time Peter de Sydnor, shown below, appeared in the Kent records in 1328 .  Also in the same subsidy,  Broke [Brook], a name familiar at Knolton, and Jeneur [Jenour], a later Sydnor maternal line, appeared on the rolls.

            Two knight fees[42] in Burton [Broughton?][43], Sidenore [Sydnor], and Ditton were shown in the Feudal Aid Return for 1302-1303.[44]

            The place Sydnor was referred to as late as 1350.  It then disappeared.  Perhaps Sydnor was lost in one of the epidemics of plague, pox, or cholera that ravaged the countryside during the 14th century.


[1]                  The rape*, or borough, was one of the six major political subdivisions in county of Sussex.

[2]             Domesday Book, 2, Sussex, ed. John Morris (1976), f.21d in the original; also The Victoria History of the Counties of England, Sussex.

[3]                  The hundred, originally consisted of ten towns or ten tithings*, each composed of ten families of freeholders; later a political and tax subdivision.  Originally, there were one hundred hides (see the definition below) to the political division called hundred*, wherein its name.  At the time the Domesday Book was written, there may have been about eighty hides* to the hundred*.  The hundred* also was used to denote a unit that might be expected to raise about one hundred fighting men.

[4]                  The passage from the Domesday Book might be more easily understood if the reference were considered in three parts, called holdings here.

[5]                  This was William de Cahaignes (later surnamed Keynes).  His last name was derived from the fief* [fee*, or an estate held from a lord on condition of homage and service] of Cahagnes near Bayeux in France which was held of the count of Mortain.  See Sussex Domesday Tenants, III. William de Cahagnes and the Family of Keynes, L. F. Salzman (Sussex Archaeological Collections), v.63 (1922), pp.180-187.  This work contained a discussion about William and a number of references to land transfers referencing Sidenore.

[6]                  For modern place names of Sussex, see The Place Names of Sussex, ed. A. Mawer & F. M. Stenton (English Place Name Society), v.6 (1929); also The Place Names of Sussex, Judith Glover (1975).  Modern renderings have been shown in brackets.

[7]                  This was Robert, the count of Mortain and half-brother of that William who was first the duke of Normandy and later the king of England.  Robert was awarded, as the spoils of conquest, all of the rape of Pevensy which contained, among others, the hundreds* of Waldelmeistrei and Riston.

[8]             Freehold denoted a form of tenure whereby an estate would be held in favor of a fee* or for life.

[9]                  A hide* was a land unit reckoned at about 120 acres*.  Originally it was usually the land held by one large family.  Later, it was used in several ways, one as here for tax purposes.

               The size of an acre* varied with time and place, but it has evolved little hanged in area.  An acre was usually as much land as could be plowed in a long day with a team of oxen.

[10]                 A plow, or carucage, was reckoned as about eight acres of arable land, the typical amount of land tillable in a season with one team of oxen and a plow.

[11]                 This single church for both Selmeston and Sydnor was one of eighty-six churches enumerated in Domesday for Sussex, although the list of churches was known to be incomplete.  The church has usually been assigned to Selmeston.  See The Domesday Geography of Southeast England, ed. H. C. Darby and E. M. J. Campbell (1962), p.461.

[12]                 The priest at Selmeston/Sydnor was one of only five separately recorded for the rural population of all of Sussex in 1086.  What does this mean?  See The Domesday Geography of Southeast England, ed. H. C. Darby and E. M. J. Campbell (1962), p.418.

[13]                 Ralph was probably Ralph de Denne [Dene], one of two Ralphs who were subtenants of the Count of Mortain.  The two Domesday Ralphs are difficult to keep separate.  See Some Sussex Domesday Tenants, L. F. Salzmann (Sussex Archaeological Collections), v.58 (1916), p.171.

[14]             "Ulmer cild," as the name appeared in the original, also held some other lands together with Ralph of Dene.  Cild meant the younger.  See The Manor of Broughton in Jevington, W. Budgen (Sussex Archaeological Collections), v.90 (1952), pp.132-136.  This work also included a number of citations re land transfers in the 12th through early 14th centuries involving Sydnor.

[15]                 See William the First and the Sussex Rapes, p.189.

[16]                 See Domesday Book in Relation to the County of Sussex, ed. William Douglas Parish (1886), vicar of Selmeston.

[17]                 See Sussex Archives Society map from circa 1790, Access Record 1236.

[18]                 See The Buckhurst Terrier, 1597-1598, Epitomized by Ernest Straker (Sussex Record Society), v.39 (1933), p.58, plates II, XXXVIII, XXXIX.  Both of the Mays farms, which are currently denoted as farms instead of manors, are found on contemporary ordnance maps.

[19]                 See Domesday Book, 2, Sussex, ed. John Morris (1976), f.22d in original; also The Victoria History of the Counties of England, Sussex.  This William de Cahaignes was he from whom the parish Horsted took its suffix of Keynes.

[20]                 See A History of . . . Sussex, William F. Page (1905), p.358.

[21]                 See The Chartulary of the Priory of St Pancras of Lewes, Latin ed. L. F. Salzmann (The Sussex Record Society), v.38 (1932), pp.74, 108, 130, 160.

[22]                 A chartulary, or cartulary, was a medieval manuscript register that contained copies of charters and other deeds relating to the foundation, privileges, property, and rights of the owner.

[23]                 Tithe, or tenth, was a species of incorporeal hereditaments being the tenth part due the church of the increase yearly arising and renewing from the profits of lands, the stock upon the lands, and the personal industry of the inhabitants.

[24]             Danegelt, or danegeld, or dane gold, were those ancient annual taxes levied in England to provide funds for warfare with the Danes, a tax that was collected for the crown long after the Danes ceased to be a menace.

[25]                 The mark was thirteen shillings* four pence*, or two-thirds of a pound sterling.

[26]                 See The Chartulary of the Priory of St Pancras of Lewes (Sussex Record Society), v.38, (1932) p.74; originally referenced as Pt 1, It.iii/J, circa 1170.

[27]                 See The Chartulary of the Priory of St Pancras of Lewes (Sussex Record Society), v.38 (1932), p.108; originally referenced as Pt 1, It.iii/H, circa 1170.

[28]                 See The Chartulary of the Priory of St Pancras of Lewes (Sussex Record Society), v.38 (1932), pp.108-109; originally referenced as Pt 1, It.v/H, circa 1170.

[29]                 See The Chartulary of the Priory of St Pancras of Lewes (Sussex Record Society), v.38 (1932), p.130; originally referenced as Pt 1, It.xxi/H, circa 1170.

[30]             Hundred pennies referred to a tax levied on a hundred and collected by the sheriff or by the lord of the hundred.

[31]                 Villein meant a tenant of the lowest order during the feudal period.

[32]                 See The Chartulary of the Priory of St Pancras of Lewes (Sussex Record Society), v.38 (1932), pp.159-160; originally referenced as Pt 1, It.v/G, circa 1150.

[33]                 The Manor of Eastborne (Sussex Archaeological Collections), v.43 (1900), p.198.

[34]                 Pro monacatu likely meant "for the monastery," although it has not been found in contemporary law or Latin dictionaries.

[35]                 See Sussex Domesday Tenants, III. William De Cahagnes and the Family of Keynes, L. F. Salzman (Sussex Archaeological Collections), v.63 (1922), p.184.

[36]                 See The Manor of Broughton in Jevington, W. Budgen (Sussex Archaeological Collections), v.90 (1952), p.15; original as Close Roll Calendar, 21 Edw. I [1293].

[37]                 See Sussex Subsidies 1296, 1327, 1332 (Sussex Record Society), v.10 (1910), p.324.

[38]                 See the notations at William Sydnor below.

[39]                 See Sussex Subsidies 1296, 1327, 1332 (Sussex Record Society), v.10 (1910), p.1946.

[40]                 See Sussex Subsidies 1296, 1327, 1332 (Sussex Record Society), v.10 (1910), p.262.

[41]                 Firmar. denoted a lessee and is the basis for the modern word farmer is derived.

[42]                 Knight fee referred to an estate sufficiently large enough to maintain a Knight; later a basis for assessing taxes.

[43]                 See Berton [Broughton?] mentioned in the will of William Sydnor.

[44]                 See Some Sussex Domesday Tenants, L. F. Salzmann (Sussex Archaeological Collections), v.58 (1916), p.171.