I’ve been spending a bit of time in my erstwhile home of Norfolk this summer and it only takes a glance to see how historic this county is. But what do we know of its origins?

The Little Domesday Book includes Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. It is much less of a summary and includes more detail than Domesday, although it is more untidy.

Why did it remain separate from the main Domesday Book?
One suggestion is that it was begun first, and that the rest of the survey was cut down when they saw how bulky the work was becoming. Historian Vivian Hunter Galbraith suggested it might have been a local compilation made by the commission and actually posterior to Volume I. It is, apparently, nearer to the original returns, which could mean it was never sent in and condensed and that it is therefore more accurate.

The Inquisito Eliensis
This is a subsidiary source of information, relating to lands held by the abbot of Ely in Cambs, Hertford, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Huntingdon. There is some doubt as to how it came into existence. Galbraith: “It was the return demanded by Ranulf Flambard in 1093, when Abbot Symeon died, and the possessions of the abbey were taken into the king’s hands.” JH Round argued that it was the return of the Royal Writ of 1086 instructing Lanfranc to inquire further into Ely’s losses of lands and rights.

Ely – Photo by Dave Webster

A draft of the Little Domesday Book may have been revised to produce the I.E. Certainly the correspondence between the two is great and the differences are such that could have resulted from errors in copying.

Norfolk Settlements and their distribution
The total number of separate places – 731 – may not be accurate; today there are many villages bearing the same place name, and it is not always clear whether more than one existed in the eleventh-century. Great and Little Massingham were dealt with as Massingham (today, ½ mile separates them.)

Great Massingham – the pond is an old clay pit