I know that some villages were the sole and only property of certain minor lords or knights. Such villages surely had a manor (or even a castle) where the lord lives.

On the other hand, many lords had multiple villages under their fiefs. Such lords would have their castle in the most important village (probably would be a town).

So what about their other villages? Did the lord give each of them to one of their knights and so those knight would build their manors in them?

Or did they simply leave them under their direct control and thus they would have no manor in them? If this is the case then, how did lords collected taxes, protected, guard and rule these remote villages?

2 Answers 2


Looking at late 11th century England, the Domesday Book commissioned in 1085-6 by William I records a division:

  • of England into Counties;

    Counties were the primary structural element of Domesday Book. There were 31 counties in Great Domesday.

  • of Counties into Fiefs;

    ..., a fief being the conventional term for the manors held directly from the Crown by a single landowner in a single county in 1086.

  • of Fiefs into Hundreds;

    Hundreds were the main administrative subdivisions of a county, with a significant role in financial, military, judicial, and political matters, centred upon the Hundred court, which met monthly.

  • of Hundreds into Vills; and

    The Domesday vill was the smallest unit in the administrative system, an area often equivalent to the parish in the south or to the township in the north. ....

    A vill might be part of a manor, might correspond to a manor, or might contain two or more manors.

  • of Vills into Manors

    Manors are the atomic units of Domesday Book, the smallest discrete elements. .... Vills were administrative units; manors were units of ownership.

So the answer now hinges on your intended meaning of village.

The vill was an administrative unit, not a type of settlement. It might contain a village, but it might equally contain hamlets or scattered farms or some combination of village, hamlet and farm.

Until a generation ago it was generally assumed that many, perhaps the majority of Domesday vills were nucleated villages, and that nucleated villages were an ancient feature of the countryside in the eleventh century, as old as the Anglo-Saxon settlement of the fifth and sixth centuries. This is no longer credited. There is as yet no consensus as to the date at which nucleated villages began to emerge on a significant scale, though the period between the tenth and twelfth centuries is held to be the most probable.

Do you intend to refer to the administrative division of a county, or to a geographically isolated (relatively self-sufficient) cluster of households? The latter, in most instances of the time, would more properly be referred to as a hamlet:

In British geography, a hamlet is considered smaller than a village and distinctly without a church (one road with houses either side)..

There would have been at least one hamlet for each manor, plus isolated households distinct from any hamlet because, then as now, many farmers would prefer living closer to the land they cultivate than to the nearest community.

Further, the Domesday Book records some:

  • 30,000 manors;

  • About 13,400 [named] individual places

  • 48 castles including Windsor

  • 112 boroughs

  • Over 300 parish churches

  • Around 6,000 mills (but no windmills)

  • Numerous markets [60 noted, though inconsistently recorded]

  • And some industry including salt pans, lead working, quarries and potteries

So if your intended meaning of village is in regards some level of economic infrastructure, such as a market, mill, castle, or town, then except for mills there are two or more orders of magnitude fewer such than manors.

Details of individual manor entries can be looked up here, as for Stedham (annotated as being a very large manor both in population and income). Note that the suffix "ham" refers to it being a hamlet at original name adoption.

Households: 23 villagers. 16 smallholders. 10 slaves. [Heads of Household only - not a census count - so likely about 1/5 of actual population.]


Villager, or Villein
In economic terms, the villagers were indistinguishable from Freemen or freemen. They were the most substantial group among the unfree peasantry, possessing on average 30 acres of land and two plough oxen.

Bordar, or Smallholder
Smallholders formed the second largest group among the peasantry, constituting almost a third of the recorded population. .... On average, they possessed 5 acres of land and might have a share in the villagers' plough teams, ....

  • 1
    Thanks a lot for the great information you provided here. Domesday boob is truly a Jewel. I didn't know about it before. I'm wondering whether there are similar books with that much of details about the Holy Roman Empire estates? German estates, Bohemia, Moravia and other parts of the empire. If there is a similar book of Domesday about HRE , it would be really great as I'm looking more on Central Europe rather than England and France. Thanks a lot again Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 1:21




Every manor in Catholic and Latin medieval Europe had a manor house of some sort, except during intervals, possibly long intervals, between a manor house being destroyed and a replacement being built.

If someone was the lord of two or more manors, obviously he could not live in two or more manor houses at the same time. When a lord of a manor was not in residence, a steward or other representative of the lord would be in residence to direct manorial business.

Of course it was perfectly possible for a village to exist somewhere in medieval Europe that wasn't where the lord of its manor had its manor house. If a manor included two or more villages the lord of the manor might have had manor houses in two or more of the villages of his manor. Or he might have had a manor house in or near only one of the villages of his manor, leaving one or more villages without a manor house.

I believe that the Castle of Coucy and the nearby Village of Coucy-le-Chateau-Auffrique was described as the Caput of the lordship of Coucy, implying that there may have been other communities in the lordship of Coucy.

And of course Europe is a vast area no matter how its borders are defined, and of course the medieval era, no matter how it is defined, lasted for about a thousand years, which is enough time for many social changes to happen in a region. Social changes like introducing or abolishing the manorial system.

It is a fact that the manorial system didn't exist in every region of Europe for the entire middle ages, so there should have been many thousands of villages in Medieval Europe that were not part of manors and so didn't have manor houses in them.

  • It appears to me that a documented relationship between "manors" and "villages" is a glaring omission from this answer. Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 16:32
  • #Pieter Geerkens If every single acre or square foot of European soil was in a manor, every village would have to be in a manor. That was not the case and a lot of medieval European villages were not in one or more manors. But a lot of European villages were in land owned by one or more lords of one or more manors.
    – MAGolding
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 5:12
  • As noted in my answer, the historiography of nucleated villages even in Anglo-Norman England is uncertain: "There is as yet no consensus as to the date at which nucleated villages began to emerge on a significant scale, though the period between the tenth and twelfth centuries is held to be the most probable.' In those parts of Germany that escaped Roman subjagation the uncertainty might be even greater. In France and Spain, possibly less so. Yet you document and comment on none of this. Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 15:46

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