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Laws in Chester, 1066


This is a resumé of the first 'City of Chester' section of Domesday Book. My copy is © John Morris (editor), 1978. Phillimore & Co. Ltd., Chichester.


  1. The City of Chester paid tax on 50 hides (50 x 120 acres) of land.
  2. The City paid tax on 431 houses and the Bishop paid tax on another 56.
  3. [The King's Peace can be the protection secured by the king for particular people or places or the general peace secured to the entire realm by the law administered in the king's name (the Free Dictionary)]. If you broke the peace given by the King, the King had 100s (£5). If given by the Earl, the Earl had the third penny [i.e. a third]. If given by the reeve, the fine was 40s, the Earl taking a third.
  4. If a free man killed a man in a house, he was outlawed and his land and goods went to the King. The Earl had the same right over his own men. Only the King could restore peace to an outlaw.
  5. If blood was shed between Monday morning and Saturday noon, the culprit was fined 10s, but between Saturday noon and Monday morning the fine was 20s, as it was on the 12 days of Christmas, Candlemas Day, the 1st day of Easter, 1st day of Whitsun, Ascension Day, Assumption, the Nativity of St. Mary and All Saints' Day.
  6. If you killed a man on those Holy Days, you were fined £4, otherwise 40s. Breaking and Entering or Highway Robbery on the above Holy Days or Sundays cost you £4, at other times 40s.
  7. Collusion with a thief incurred a fine of 10s, but 20s if you were a Reeve of the King or Earl. (Corruption in high places? Surely not).
  8. Whoever committed robbery or theft, or did violence to a woman in a house, was fined 40s (for each offence).
  9. If a widow had intercourse unlawfully she was fined 20s, but a girl 10s.
  10. Taking possession of another's land and not being able to prove it was his: fine 40s. The same applied to false claims of theft of land.
  11. You paid 10s to register possession of your own or your kinsman's (relative's) land. If you could or would not pay up, the reeve took the land for the King.
  12. Taxes not paid on time incurred a fine of 10s.
  13. If a fire broke out in your house, the fine was three ora of pence (4s) and you had to give 2s to the people in the house next door.
  14. Two parts of all sums were the King's. The third part was the Earl's.
  15. If a ship arrived in or left the port without permission, the fine was 40s from each man on board.
  16. If a ship arrived against the King's peace or despite his prohibition the King and the Earl had the ship, the crew and everything on board.
  17. Ships arriving with permission were allowed to sell their goods without hinderance, but 4 pence was charged for each cargo as it left. The exception was marten-skins, which had to be offered first to the King's reeve. A fine of 40s was imposed if this was not done.
  18. Anyone giving false measure was fined 4s. Anyone who made bad beer was either put in the dung-stool or fined 4s. The fine went to the King and Earl, no matter on whose property (Bishop or whoever) the offence took place. Withholding the fine for three nights cost you 40s.
  19. Seven moneyers 'paid £7 to the King and Earl, additional to the revenue, when the coinage was changed'.
  20. There were 12 judges in the city. If a judge stayed away from the hundred on a day when it sat, without a good excuse, he was fined 10s.
  21. For repairs to the city walls and the bridge (there was a bridge across the Dee in 1066), a man was expected from each hide in the county. The lord of any man who did not come was fined 40s.
  22. 'This city then paid £45 in revenue and 3 timbers of marten-skins'. A timber is a quantity of fur skins - the book says 40-60.
  23. When Hugh Lupus acquired the city, it was devastated: there were 205 fewer houses than before 1066. The revenue had dropped to £30. 'Now there are as many as he found there'.
  24. 'Mundret held the city from the Earl for £70 and one gold mark'. He held other land of the Earl's in the county at a revenue of £50 and one gold mark. [The Earl was Edwin].
  25. There is a note to say that it has been proved that the land on which 'St Peter's Temple' stands has always belonged to the city and the dues are rightfully the King's and Earl Hugh's. This is in response to a claim by Robert de Rhuddlan that, presumably, it was his.