Domesday loan to British Library exhibition

The National Archives will loan the iconic Domesday to the British Library later this year for its Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition.

Commissioned by William the Conqueror at Christmas 1085, Domesday documents the huge upheaval of life as the Anglo-Saxon kingdom gave way to Norman rule which helped shape the foundations of the nation that we know today.

Domesday is a record of the highly-detailed survey of lands held by William the Conqueror and his tenants-in-chief 20 years after the Conquest. By recording details of the same lands before and at the time of the invasion, it gives us an insight into the enormous upheavals in society. It includes an astonishing level of detail – not just the taxable value of lands, but resources such as livestock, castles, vineyards, quarries, mills, potteries, fisheries and more.

Jeff James, Chief Executive and Keeper at The National Archives, said: ‘Even though Domesday is a familiar name to us all, this remarkable document can still inspire wonder and provides unparalleled insight into our shared history at such a pivotal moment.

‘Domesday has been at the heart of our nation for more than 900 years and is the most significant loan The National Archives can make. We are excited to give people an opportunity to see it in the context of the impressive collection assembled for the British Library’s Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition.’

Domesday was originally kept with the royal treasury at Winchester but from the early 13th century it was housed in Westminster: first in the Palace and then in the Abbey. From about 1600 it was kept in a large iron-clad chest. The chest had three different locks, the keys to which were divided between three officials so that it could only be opened by consent of all three. Since 1859 it has been in the custody of the Public Record Office, now known as The National Archives.

Dr Jessica Nelson, Head of Medieval and Early Modern Collections at The National Archives, said: ‘Domesday gives us a unique window through which we can see the medieval world and the enormous changes the Norman Conquest brought about in society, politics and economics.

‘From castles, vineyards, water mills, potteries, fisheries rendering lamphreys, eels and even porpoises, it gives an extraordinary level of detail of all the lands held by the king and his tenants-in-chief.’

Tags: Anglo-Saxon, British LIbrary, Domesday, Domesday book, exhibition, exhibition loans, william the conqueror