Domesday Book – the day of judgement

Great Domesday Book Surrey, 1086-1087 (E 31/2/1 f30v)
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Would you like to take part in our Domesday drama?

This workshop brings to life one of the most important and famous documents in history and the events behind its creation. To begin the session, students visit The Keeper’s Gallery and find out more about The National Archives and the fascinating history of Domesday Book.

Students then participate in an imagined encounter between the villagers of Mortlake and King William’s Commissioners, based on the entry in Domesday Book for Mortlake, Surrey. The commissioners who first visited Mortlake appear to have found some mistakes in the amount of tax due to King William. A second group of commissioners have arrived in the village to find out where the mistakes were made and who was responsible for them. With the help of Rannulf the Reeve, Mortlake villagers hopefully will not suffer too much at the hands of the Norman Commissioners! Professional actors playing the parts of Rannulf the Reeve and Chief Commissioner Canon Robert de Belleme lead the role-play, while students assume the roles of the Anglo-Saxon villagers, traders from London, Canons of St. Paul’s or Commissioners of the King. Details of the roles and requirements for the day can be found in the preparation materials.

To conclude the workshop, students come out of character and share what they have learnt, reflecting on the value of using role-play to understand the past. They also examine original documents relating to Norman Britain, including the Domesday Abbreviato and tally sticks dating from the 13th-century.

I enjoyed acting out different parts because I learnt more by doing something…I found it fun because Canon Robert made the scene really tense and it was quite scary!

Year 7 pupil.

This session is delivered as a workshop. Find out more about the types of session we offer.

Session options

This session is delivered as a:


at The National Archives

2 hours

Available: January 25 – 29 2016

Cost: Free to UK schools

Suitability: Key stage 3

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Contact us

All activities must be booked in advance.

Tel: +44 (0)20 8392 5365

Fax: +44 (0)20 8487 9202

Contact the education team