Medieval Grantham

Grantham and the feudal system

The town of Grantham is first mentioned in the Domesday Book in the year 1086. By 1086 Grantham had become a Royal Borough, or an important town, along with (in Lincolnshire) Lincoln, Stamford, Torksey and Louth. 


Not only was there land in Grantham but there was a large amount of land belonging to the estate in the surrounding area, known as sokeland. The running of the estate would have happened in the Manor at Grantham.  Land belonging to the manor in Grantham included parts of Gonerby, Harlaxton, Great Ponton, Stoke Rochford, and Hungerton to name a few. There are some villages which no longer exist which were part of the estate, like Dunsthorpe, Westhorpe, Nonegtune, Spittlegate and Walton. Those that disappeared often became part of other settlements which still survive.


Grantham and the surrounding villages, like the rest of England, was organised under the feudal system. The Domesday Book recorded the amount of land and people in villages, so that King William would know how much tax to charge each village.


In the feudal system, a town was run by a manor, which housed a man of important social standing, for example a Lord. This person owned all land around the manor, which he rented out to people further down the system.


Under the Lord were the sokemen (or freeholders) who paid rent for their land and also taxes to the Lord, but were independent. Then came the villeins, who also paid rent to the Lord but were not free. If they went to court, their Lord was the judge and he could take their land away from them at any time. 

At the very bottom of the chain were bordars, or peasants. They didn't have any land and could be hired as labourers or craftsmen. 


Sokeland consisted of very large, open fields that surrounded a town. Sections of these were divided out amongst the peasants. See if you can find evidence of sokeland in the interactive map activity, and what has the land use changed to now?


Bidding - Someone's orders or instructions

Borough - Once a town with special rights from the monarch

Domesday Book - A book listing everyone who owned land in England in 1086, created to find out how much taxes they would pay

Estate - An area of land owned by one person

Feudal system - Where lords and people who own land have much more power than ordinary working people

Labour - Work done by someone, usually physical

Manor - A house and the land around it, owned by a Medieval Lord

Peasants - Someone in Medieval times who worked on the land but did not own it

Settlement -A place where a small group of people live

Sokemen - Medieval tenant farmers with more rights than villeins

Villein - Medieval farmer who paid rent for their land

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