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 Recording the events of September 1066
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Charters & Land holdings

We now embark on an investigation into the land holdings as they provide some information about the layout and use of the 1066 landscape. We know from the Domesday Inquest that Earl Tostig held 10 hides before the conquest.

"..in Fulford Morcar had one manor of ten carucates of land. Earl Alan now has it. There may be five ploughs and six villeins had two ploughs there. It has in length one mile and in breadth half a mile. Value in King Edward's time twenty shillings, now sixteen shillings. In the Manor of Clifton lies the Soke of Fulford."

The ‘Soke of Fulford being in the Manor of Clifton’ means that the rights of jurisdiction and the holding courts belonged to the owner of the land at Clifton. It appears from this record that Fulford had not suffered as much as some villages when the district was laid waste in "the harrowing (or harrying) of the north" in 1069, as the value was not greatly reduced (20 to 16 shillings) about 1086 when this assessment, or inquest, was made.

One can infer that the infrastructure did not suffer much because it was Norman land and also suggests that there was limited infrastructure in terms of dwellings, livestock and equipment to damage. This is consistent with the balance of subsequent evidence which suggests this was mainly pastoral rather than arable land.

In 1078, King William I had given Morcar's land to Count Alan of Brittany as one of many manors in the north: Count Alan’s chief acquisition was the castle of Richmond, Yorkshire, with 156 manors, and 43 manors outside the castelry, among which were Fuleforde and Fuletrop.

Alan's successor, Count Stephen of Brittany, gave the manor Fuletrop plus one carucate and three bovates of land in Fuleforde to St. Mary's Abbey in York after 1086 and possibly in 1100. This reinforces the earlier suggestion that the ‘ford’ and the ‘thorp’ had distinct identities but with Fuleforde now describing the wider area.

Drake, the 18th century historian of the city, records many ancient gifts of land to the Abbey:

"Bryan, Bishop of Worcester, granted to it eight messuages and gardens, one dovecote, thirty acres of land with four of meadow and four of pasture in Over Fulford. Jeremiah de Brettegrave granted one carucate of land with its tofts and crofts in Fulford Magna."

Drake also notes that the rights on the various Fulford moors and commons extended as far south as Pool Bridge, which is the south-east boundary of Fulford with Wheldrake, Heslington and Deighton. The diverse prefixes associated with the name Fulford support the earlier contention that such a large area needed these qualifications. The manorial court roll of 1509 also records that Fulford extended south to Poole Bridge.

Land was also being steadily reclaimed in Fulford, so extending the area and altering the 1066 landscape. We discover that the Abbey of St Mary’s is recovering Damlands in a deed dating from 1332. Citizens of York were entitled to common pasture and turbary rights in the southern portion of the parish known as Tillmire from 1375 when some tree clearance created ‘the new riding’ on Tilmire. In 1447, the Abbey's Manorial Court rolls show that fishing and fowling took place on the Tilmire.

Gradually, the whole area of Fulford came within the ‘Liberty of the Blessed Mary’ so the lord of the manor of Fulford enjoyed the privileges that were granted to St Mary's, such as freedom from attendance at some courts and exemptions from royal exactions. Instead, they paid their taxes to the Church. The Abbey retained the land until the Dissolution and, 60 years later, in 1599, Fulford was leased by the Crown to tenants.


It was only natural that disputes arose between the City and the Abbey because the latter were the landlords of much of the valuable lands that surrounded an expanding city. In 1484 an Order of Award was made between the Lord Mayor and Commonalty of York on the one side and the Abbot and Convent of St Mary's on the other concerning the bounds and commons of pasture in Fulford.

The boundary of the ‘franchise’ between the city and Fulford was to run from Greendykes to the south end of ‘Siwardhowfield’ and then by a dyke to ‘Ox Pasture’ and on west to the York-Fulford road ‘and there a cross to be set and called the Franchise Cross’, part of which still survives (fig 3.6), and then north to a little stone bridge "upon a causeway leading from Fulford into Fishergate butting upon Kingsdyke to the water of Ouse".

The ‘Mayor and Commonalty of York’ were to have pasture within the area ‘every time thereafter the corn and hay be had away, called averidge time, when they lie unsown until Candlemass next following "... that it be lawful to the said Abbot and quiescent ... to cast up dykes at their pleasure and to keep and defend the cattle of the city from the said meadows and pastures." The award goes on to say that if the city cattle escape they werer not to be impounded (in the pinfold) but to be driven out ‘in godly wise’. Nor must the Mayor and Commonalty ‘vex or trouble’ the Abbot for doing this.

The Mayor and Commonalty also had rights of watering their cattle from the moors bordering Fulford and Heslington to the waters of the Ouse and no Abbey official was to interfere. The Mayor and Sheriff had no right to arrest the Abbot, his servants or tenants whilst they went about their business in the arable fields and meadows of Fulford.

A pamphlet describing the Strays of York, published by ‘The York Group for the Promotion of Planning’ in 1968, opens with these words.

"The Strays today comprise over 800 acres of open land, mainly under grass. They are the residue of vastly greater areas of common land on which the Freemen of York had the right from time immemorial to depasture their cattle."

The Pasture Master agreed to cede the management to the Corporation of York in various agreements that were negotiated in the years following WWII. It notes that the central part of Walmgate Stray can be waterlogged even in the summer. Cattle still roam the Stray and the first task for those arriving to play football is to take their shovel to clear the pitch.


The picture emerges of land being reclaimed at the southern end of Fulford, known as Tillmire, south of Germany Beck. The evidence suggests that this was a wooded and wet area so not suitable as a place to move an army through and was not a possible battleground in 1066. The land north of the beck was a well regulated mix of arable and pasture to judge from the charters and recorded neighbourly disputes.


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The author of the content is Charles Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com   Last updated April 2015

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