Project Purley

The Local History Society for Purley on Thames

Project Purley

The Local History Society for Purley on Thames

Purley in Norman Times


  Very little is known of Norman Purley although we know the names of some of the major landholders. By the time of Domesday the manorial system was well established and the two principal manors of Purley Parva and and Purley Magna are listed although not under those names, rather as two holdings of land within Purley.  Other portions of land are listed under Burley and these could well have formed parts of other manors.  We know that something happened to the church that necessitated it being rebuilt around 1150 and suspect thast it was burnt down during the civil war between Stephen and Matilda.

In the pages below we cover the manin evidence of Purley in Norman times using documents and records. To see some different articles on the period click on Articles


The Domesday Survey

  The other information given in Domesday relating to meadow acreage and population can perhaps be relied on a little more as William's officials were fairly shrewd in assessing what they saw and there was little incentive to misrepresent the situation as it had been twenty years before. The reduction in hideage over the period shown for Purley Magna is likely accounted for by the adjustments made to allow for the reduction in the value of land caused by war.   A hide was a unit of  economic assessment and was originally the amount of land which could be ploughed in a year by, and support the family of a tenant. It varied from 60 to 180 acres depending on local conditions, but for Berkshire is usually reckoned as around 120 acres  However the average area of a hide can more easily be deduced from the pattern of settlement expansion in the Saxon period. In the time of King Edward it was the custom in this part of Berkshire for each hide to give a geld of 3½ d to the king every Christmas and Pentecost. If the king was sending out an army then one soldier was due for every 5 hides. If the soldier failed to appear then lands could be forfeit. It was for this reason that most villages were assessed in multiples of 5 hides and then this assessment divided between the landowners who were liable.    

The Domesday Entries

  The Domesday entries which refer to Purley are as follows



  In Reading Hundred   Roger also holds PURLEY. Brictward held it from King Edward.  Then it answered for 4  ½  hides; now for 4 hides.  Land for 4 ploughs, in Lordship 2;  9 villagers and 3 smallholders with 3 ploughs.  Meadow 16 acres. The value was 100s, later £4, now 100s.   This is assumed to be Purley Magna



  in Reading Hundred   In PURLEY  half  a hide. Edward held it and answered for it as much then as now. Land for 2 ploughs. In Lordship 1. 1 villager and 3 smallholders with one plough. Meadow 5 acres. The value was 40s; now 50s.

  This assumed to be Purley Parva.




Miles Crispin holds PANGBOURNE and William from him. Baldwin held it from King Edward. 6 hides and 1 virgate. They did not pay tax before 1066 and now only for 5 hides. Nothing in lordship. 3 villagers and 5 small holders with 2 ploughs. A mill at 10s, meadow 12 acres. A man at arms holds one hide of this land. He has one plough, meadow 2 acres. The value of the whole was £6, later £5 now £4  

The one hide is assumed to be Purley La-Hyde.



  In Reading Hundred   Aubrey the Queen's chamberlain holds one hide from the Queen in BURLEY. Alfward held it from King Edward he could go where he would. Then it answered for one hide, now for nothing. Land for one and a half ploughs. The value was 30s now 20s.   Harding holds 1 hide in BURLEY. He held it himself  from Queen Edith. Aelfeva held it before 1066; she could go where she would. Then for 1 hide, now for nothing. Land for 1 ½  ploughs. Nothing in Lordship but 3 villagers have 1 plough, woodland at 5 pigs.   The value was 20s, now 12s.  


  In Reading Hundred   In BURLEY 1 hide. Leofwin held it from King Edward. He could go where he would. He still holds it. Then and now it answered for 1 hide. 1 villagers and 1 smallholder with 1 plough. a fishery at 8d; meadow 2 acres, woodland at 5 pigs   The value was 10s now 20s.

  These entries under BURLEY are assumed to refer to the minor parcels of land in PURLEY which lay outside the three principal manors and which are recorded as being traded or donated to monasteries over the next four centuries. In present day terms they may refer to the area to the west of Purley Lane which was later donated to Reading Abbey and the area around Beech Road which is still surrounded by an ancient boundary bank.  

Miles Crispin

Miles Crispin is notable for being one of the major landholders in Domesday. His connection with Purley is interesting as he was listed as having a holding in Pangbourne which has been identified with Purley La Hyde. There is also a connection with the Huscarles who became lords of Purley Magna as well as Beddington Huscarle in Surrey from which our link with Purley Surrey came about. Miles was the third son of Gilbert Crispin, baron of Bec and came across with William on his conquest of England. As a result he was awarded considerable land holdings.   Under King Edward the Confessor the lord of Wallingford, named Wigot, held very extensive lands in Berkshire and Oxfordshire. He held the positions of Sheriff of Oxford and cup-bearer to the king and, although not related by blood, seemed to have been treated as a kinsman by the king. Wigot was also a close confidant of William Duke of Normandy and when the latter had been victorious over the Saxons at Hastings, he came to Wallingford where Wigot received him in great style and ceremoniously delivered the town to William. William stayed in Wallingford several days and at the conclusion of the feasting there was a marriage between Aldith, the only daughter of Wigot to Robert D'Oily. Robert was the son of Seigneur de Oyley near Liseux in Normandy, one of William's most eminent chieftains.   Wigot had had a son Tokig who was one of King William's officers and died at the Battle of Archenbrai. Thus Aldith became Wigot's heir and on his death she inherited all his holdings which had not been confiscated by William as had happened to the majority of Saxon Thegns. Her only child was a daughter, Maud who was married to Miles Crispin around 1084, certainly before Domesday was compiled in 1086. Thus she would have been around 18 at the time, considerably younger than Miles who must have been at least 35. After Miles' death she remarried Brien Fitzcount and played an active role in the politics of the period.   Miles' Domesday holdings can be placed in two groups, first those that at the time of King Edward were held by Wigot and thus acquired by his marriage to Maude  and second those which had been held by other Saxon lords and which we may assume he had acquired as his reward for his part in the conquest. It is interesting to note how many of Miles's holdings had a reduced assessment in 1086 over what they had been in 1066. We may add a further group of Robert D'Oily's holdings. For many of Miles' holdings no holder in 1066 is shown and it may be assumed that these were all held by Wigot. In the case of Chessington in Surrey it is stated specifically that Wigot did not hold it.


Former holdings of Wigot now Miles

Bedfordshire Clapham (Brictric 5h)
Milton Ernest  (2 Freemen 16 acres
Thurleigh (Brictric 1v)
Oakley (Earl Harold 1h)

   Berkshire NONE

   Gloucestershire Brawn (3v) Alderley (1h)

  Hampshire Not stated in Kingsclere Hundred (2h) half hide  

  Oxfordshire Gatehampton  (5 hides) Chesterton (12h) Cuxham (5h) Wiltshire Rodbourne (5h) Manton (3h)


Former holdings of other Lords now Miles

  Berkshire Pangbourne (King Edward 6h 1v) 5 hides
Sulham (King Edward 1 hide) 1 hide
Clapcot (Wulfnoth 7h)  1 hide 1 virgate
Clapcot (Saxfrid 7h) 1h 1v)
Betterton (Leofric 10 hides) 5h
Appleton (Haldane 5 hides) 2 and half hides
Eaton (King Edward 5h) 5 hides
Eaton (King Edward 5h) 5 hides
Langley (Leofward 1 h) 1 hide
Wallingford (King Edward 15 acres) 15 acres


  Cherington (King Edward 2h)  


Great Haseley (Queen Edith 16h)
Aston Rowant (Wulfstan 20h)
Kingston Blount (? 7h)
Nethercote (? 2h)
Chalgrove (Thorkell 10h)
Rotherfield Peppard (Wulfric 5h)
Mapledurham (? 3h)
Whitchurch (Leofric & Alwin 10h)
North Stoke (Edwin 10h)
Newnham Murren (Engelric 10h)
Wainhill (Brictric 1h)
Cowley (Toli 1.5 hides & one third virgate)
Somerton (Brictric 1h)
Thomley (half hide)
Draycot (2h 1v)
Marsh Baldon (Azor 10h)
Heyford (Besi 5h)
Henton (Leofnoth 8h 1v)
Adwell (Wulfstan 3h)
Britwell Salome (Wulfstan 5h)
Britwell Salome (1h)
Berrick Salome (4h)
Gangsdown (Ordgar 1h)
Harpsden (5h)
Kingston Blount (5h)
Nethercote (2h)
Garsington (1h)
Watcombe (2h)
Alkerton (6h)
Swyncombe (2.5h)
Somerton (Ketel 1h)


  Beddington (King Edward 25h) 3 hides
Chessington (Magnus Swarthy 5h) 1 hide


  Wootton Bassett (Leofnoth 12 h)
Chilton Foliat (Earl Harold 10 h)
Clyffe Pypard (Harold 5h)
Clyffe Pypard (? 1h)
Littlecote (Godric 1h 1v)
Walcot (Alnoth 2 and half h)
Walcot (Leofnoth 3v)
Draycot Foliat (Leofnoth 10h)
Brinkworth (Toki 5h)
Chedglow (2 Thanes 1h 1.5v)
Ogbourne (Earl Harold 10h)
Hazelbury (Leofnoth 5h)
Swindon (Thorbert) 2 hides - disputed
Ashley (Aldred) 1 virgate claimed by one of Miles' men-at-arms


Holdings of Robert d'Oily


  Chaddleworth (King Edward 4 h) 4 hides
Letcombe (Wigot from King Edward 10 h) 7 hides
Great Shefford (King Edward) 1.5 h) 1 and half hides
Ardington (Edwin 5h) 2hides and 1 virgate
Ardington (Saewin 9 h) 4hides 3 virgates
Ardington (Azor 1h) 1 hide
Ashbury (Abbot of Glastonbury 40 hides in all) 4.5 out of 16 now held by Robert
Steventon (Harold) 13 sites in Oxford now held by Robert
Wallingford 4 dwellings
Aldermaston 1 site
unstated 2 sites
Watlington 2 houses
Waterperry 1 house
The Honor of Wallingford


After the death of Robert D'Oily all his holdings came to Miles and became the Honor of Wallingford. He had made Wallingford Castle his seat and had become known as Miles of Wallingford. In 1084 the future King Henry I who was then 15 years old, was sent by his father to Abingdon Abbey for tutoring and Miles and Robert were invited, together with Osmund, Bishop of Sarum, to sit at the Royal high table at Easter. Miles granted the church of All Hallows in Wallingford to the 'Capel of St Nicholas in Wallingford Castel' just prior to 1101.   The concept of an Honor is an odd one. It comprised a group of manors and seems to have derived from the Saxon concept of a burgh which provided shelter to an area of up to 15-20 miles around in time of danger. In return each manor had to contribute a number of men to defend the burgh and so there had been established an obligation which was not quite the same as that between an earl and his underlords whereby the earl could call men to the fyrd (Militia) and demand dues from his manors, and quite different from the relationship between a thegn or other holder of a manor and his undertenants. In many cases an honor simply became part of the holding of an earl and for practical purposes the differences ceased to exist, but while the holdings of a given individual could and often were taken into the king's hands and re-distributed, the set of manors which made up an honor remained fairly constant up the 16th century even though the ownerships were in different hands. Thus, while within a matter of a hundred years or so there was scarcely any common ownership between any of the manors which had once been held by Miles, the honor remained as an entity until it was merged with that of Ewelme in 1540  and sold in 1817. The honor was taken into the king's hands on his accession in 1154 and for many years thereafter was granted to the sovereign's eldest son and so became tied to the Earldom, later the Duchy of Cornwall.   In 1106 Miles gave an Inn and its adjacent lands to the Abbey of Abingdon. He had fallen ill and had been nursed at the Abbey by the monks. He was particularly grateful to Abbot Faricus for his skill as a physician and in recognition granted the Inn at Colnbrook to the abbey. The Inn had been kept by Aegelward of Sutton and was roughly half way between Abingdon and London and thus would serve as a very convenient staging post for travellers between the abbey and London. Miles sent his steward to Abingdon to lay the title deeds of the hospice on the high altar of the Abbey.  Miles finally succumbed to his illness and died in 1107. A few years later on 16th September 1115 King Henry I confirmed the gift in perpetuity which was noted as having been given 'in alms' by Miles and his wife Matilda.   

The Church

King William was concerned at the difference between the English church and that prevalent on the continent where bishops were centered on major cities rather than in England where their dioceses were regional .The English bishops were therefore ordered to live in towns rather than on their manors in the country as had been their custom. The bishop of Ramsbury had moved between his principal manors of Wilton, Ramsbury and Sonning, and recently also Sherborne as Hereman was also bishop of Sherborne. As a result the See was moved to Old Sarum and hence Purley became part of the new Diocese of Sarum (which later became Salisbury)   King Henry I founded Reading Abbey in 1121 as a Priory following the Cluniac observance.  It was richly endowed and its initial endowments included the manor and church of Pangbourne. Later the manor of Tilehurst was also added In 1123  Henry I added the pensions from several local churches, formerly payable to the Church of St Mary le Butts to the endowment of Reading Abbey.  Among these were 2s from Purley and 4s from Sulham.  This was confirmed by Roger as he took office as Bishop of Salisbury. The payment to St Mary le Butts no doubt arose from its role as the Minster church for the area whereby priests based in the Minster ministered to their local churches on circuits which were later reinvented by the Methodists in the 18th century. King Henry died in 1135 and was buried in January 1136 at Reading Abbey. He had died in France and brought back to Reading sewn inside an oxhide. His death marked a real turning point in the affairs of England as he had exercised strong central control and had kept the barons in check. Jocelyn de Bohun, Bishop of Salisbury, issued letters recording that it had been proved in his presence, of sufficient testimony of reliable persons, that the Church of Purley should pay 2s annually to the Abbot of Reading.  

The Anarchy

After Stephen came to the throne in 1136 the country experienced a protracted period of civil war and anarchy. Queen Matilda, his rival to the throne spent a considerable time at Oxford and Wallingford and her knights roamed the countryside around pillaging and generally destroying everything they came across. In his book ‘A Legend of Reading Abbey’, .... gives a graphic account of the sacking of Purley, Tilehurst and Theale in 1138. The characters are wholly fictitious but there seems more than a touch of reality in the story and explains nicely the need to rebuild the church around 1150. (477-i-146) (dated 1142x84)   Around this time the church at Purley was rebuilt in the Norman style. The font and the chancel arch survive and their design can be closely dated to this period. It also seems very likely that the church was rededicated when it was reopened, to the Virgin Mary. This was a very common practice which arose partly from a wave of popularity for the Virgin and partly from a desire on the part of the authorities to remove dedications to Saxon saints.  

Lords of the Manors

After the initial allocation of manors to his followers there were considerable changes as individual landholders and families sought to consolidate their holdings or sublet to lesser knights. Purley Magna came under the control of the Huscarle family but it is not until 1160 that we first learn of a name. Similarly Purley La Hyde came under the control of the de la Hydes. By contrast we know that the Siffrevast family gained control of Purley Parva from at least 1137, however in all cases their stories are best told within the Plantagenet context.

N1220 25/1/2018

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