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Oxfordshire and the Domesday Book

There were only 243 taxable houses in the City of Oxford in 1086. Robert d'Ouilli (Doyly) held 61 manors in Oxford. He was Oxford's most powerful Norman magnate. Oxford was also known as Hokenorton or Hooknorton. He, Robert, was granted much of the county of Oxford by Duke William of Normandy for his assistance at the Battle of Hastings. Robert was Constable of Oxford. Robert had previously built built Wallingford Castle, completed in 1071. He held 61 manors in Oxfordshire. "He was so powerful a man no one durst oppose him" He was from Ouilly-le-Basset, near Falaise in Normandy. His sworn brother-in-arms, Roger d'Ivri or Ivry and he were both at Hastings with Duke William of Normandy in 1066. Between them and Bishop Odo of Bayeux, half brother of Duke William of Normandy, they held most of the whole county of Oxfordshire.

By word of explanation, the Domesday Survey, or Book, as it is somtimes known, (in the U.S. it is commonly spelt Doomsday) was commanded by Duke William of Normandy during one of his many travelling courts at Gloucester in 1085 A.D. Confronted by many conflicting claims to title of lands by his Norman magnates, and his own uncertain taxation levels, he sent teams of commissioners into most of the counties of England to record taxable holdings. It was to be completed within one year, a target dealine which was almost met. The Domesday Book recorded all valuable and taxable assets, including ploughland, fishing rights, stock, mills, forests, salt pans, even ducks, geese and goats, anything of taxable value. Importantly, it also recorded the tenants-in-chief, under-tenants, sometimes man-at-arms, freemen and slaves who held these assets. It could be regarded as the first official census. It became known as the Domesday Book because, whether implicitly stated or implied that the holders of the assets, or their benificiaries, successors or assigns, would be entitled to them until the last Domesday Book was finally read.

Included in the Domesday Book of Oxford were strange sounding villages, some of which survived, such as Ducklington, Brightwell Baldwin, Britwell Salome, Black Bourton, Chipping Norton, Cropredy, Duns Tew, Great Rollright, Great Tew, Horspath, Little Rollright, and Yelford; and other more well known villages such as Banbury, Woodstock, Whitney, Ascott, Broughton, Benson, Bladon, Chalgrove, Deddington, Forest Hill, Fulbrook, Milton, Hampton, Heyford, Mapledurham, Oxford, Sandford, Shipton, Whitchurch, Woodstock, Worten and Wroxton. Many of these village names migrated to North America, Australia and other countries with the early settlers.

Other principal land holders in Oxfordshire, magnates from Normandy, were Earl Aubrey of Ver, near Bayeux in Normandy and Richard de Courcy of Courci Castle of Falaise in Normandy, who were also at the Battle of Hastings. Other Norman magnates who held in Oxford were Earl Hugh (of Chester), the Bishop of Winchester, the Bishop of Lincoln, the Bishop of Exeter, Miles Crispin (33 Lordships) , Walter Giffard (Count of Longueville), William de Warrene (Count of Warren), Henry de Ferrers (Sire de Saint Hillarie), Arnulf de Hesdin, Robert of Stafford, the Bishop of Lisieux, the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Coutances, Ralph de Mortimer, Abingdon Abbey and, of course, the Duke William of Normandy himself. Most of these magnates from Normandy and were at least Sires, Barons, some Earls and Counts and many Bishops. From these Norman settlers sprang most of the notable Oxford families, and others not so notable who have lost touch with their main lines.

Many of the ancient family surnames of Oxfordshire developed their own ancient genealogies collected by the Heralds during the "Visitations" of the 16th and 17th centuries in justifcation of a grant of a Coat of Arms. These ancient manuscripts are archived in the Harleian Manuscripts Collection which is in the British Museum in London. Many of the genealogies record descendants from the Battle of Hastings, the Domesday or the Magna Carta through to the 16th and 17th centuries.

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