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Possible Bowles Ancestor References in the Domesday Book of 1086

Back to The Norman Origin of the Bolles of Swineshead? or A Norman Origin of The Bowles Surname

The most prominent possible Bowles ancestor in the book is a Norman Lord with a great many landholder entries, Lord Roger de Busli of Tickhill, Yorkshire.  His line can be traced thru his brother Ernold de Builli into Bedfordshire where their surname gradually changed from de Busli/de Builli to de Boelly, to Bowelley and to Bowel all on the same landholding which went out of the family in 1341 but soon after that we find Bowles nearby.  The Bedfordshire line also spread to Staffordshire and Herefordshire and possibly to Buckinghamshire, Nottinghamshire, and .


See Lord Roger de Busli of Tickhill and Roger de Bully’s Holdings in the Domesday Book of 1086


Another possible ancestor who appears in the Domesday Book is a Saxon priest named Bolle.  He was a major landholder in Dorset prior to the conquest.  His importance is shown by his unusual retention of much of his land after the conquest, holding it directly under the new King William.  There is no mention of a wife and family but there was no prohibition against priests marrying at that time.


Bolle the Saxon Priest

Bolla, Bollo or Bolle the priest shows up in Dorset,


on page 7:

Atrim, Dorset, 6 households, assessed 2 geld units, 1 villager, 3 smallholders, 2 slaves, 2 ploughlands, 5 acres meadow, 3 furlongs woodland, 1 cobs, 2 cattle, 3 sheep, Lord: Bolle the priest; Tenant in chief: Abbey of Abbotsbury St. Peter

and page 8

First entry is for Bere Regis, Dorset (no connection to Bolle)

Second entry is for Winfrith [Newburgh], Dorset, Lord: Bolle the priest, Tenant-in-chief: Bolle the priest, 17.3 households, assessed 0.3 geld units, .5 lord’s plough teams, 1 church, then it says ‘The King’s land with Bolle the priest holding the church.’

Third entry is Puddletown, Dorset, Lord: Bolle the priest, Tenant-in-chief: Bolle the priest, 3 churches

And on Page 18

Place: Mappowder, Dorset, Lord: Bolle the priest, Tenant-in-Chief: Bolle the priest, 33.3 households, assessed 8.3 geld units, 8 villagers, 3 smallholders, 2 slaves, 5 ploughlands, 2 lord’s plough teams, 3 men’s plough teams, 16 acres meadow, 3 furlongs woodland

Place: Chickerell, Dorset, Lord: Bolle the priest, Tenant-in-Chief: Bolle the priest, 11 households, assessed 3.1 geld units, 1 villagers, 6 smallholders, 4 slaves, 3 ploughlands, 3 lord’s plough teams, 6 acres meadow, 7 furlongs pasture.

The Dorset For You web site had the following in their Winfrith description (although the page has since been changed): 

Winfrith was unusual among Dorset parishes in having a church mentioned in Domesday book.  The incumbent was Bolla (or Bolle) the priest, who also owned one virgate of land and half a plough;  all told, this was worth ten shillings. Bolla also had the churches of Puddletown, Chaldon and Fleet, so he must have been a busy man!


He seems to have been a Saxon priest:


In 1066 he is listed only as Lord of Mappowder.  In 1086 he is listed as Lord of Mappowder, Chickerell, Puddletown, Fleet, Shilvinghampton, Atrim, Chaldon and West Chaldron and Winfrith Newburgh.  All in Dorset.




There was also a landholder named Bole who, together with a person named Bernac, held three manors in Lincolnshire.  They were likely pre-conquest lords of this land whom King William had allowed to retain a portion of their landholdings.


Bole, possibly a Viking


A ‘Bernac and Bole’ are recorded as holding three manors in Lincolnshire (Wiuelestorp, Opetorp and Helpericham) (Wilsthorpe, Obthorpe and Helpringham) when the Normans arrived in 1066 but are not listed in the Domesday Survey of 1086. 


In 1066 what is now Lincolnshire was part of an extensive Viking settlement in England called the Danelaw.  Earlier that year the King of England, Edward the Confessor, had died leaving no clear successor.  Harald Godwinson assumed the throne but was challenged by Harald Hardrada of Norway who landed in the Danelaw.  He was defeated by Harald Godwinson at the Battle of Stamford Bridge but then Harald was defeated just three weeks later when William of Normandy’s forces landed. 


Bole had landholdings at Market Deeping in Domesday, about 4 miles from Barnack.





Deeping Fen - LIN ENG

OS Grid Reference: 52°44'N 0°17'W

Name Origin: Old English deoping deep fen.

Domesday Book:


In ESTDEPINGE 4 bovates of land taxable. Land for ½ plough. A jurisdiction of this manor. 6 villagers and 2 smallholders have 1½ ploughs and meadow, 20 acres; 1 fishery, 5d.


In WEST DEPING Atsurr had 2½ carucates of land taxable. Land for as many ploughs. Ælmer has as much land, 2½ carucates taxable. Land for as many ploughs. Godfrey of Cambrai has 10 villagers who have 3 ploughs. 4 mills, 40s; meadow, 100 acres; underwood, 8 acres. Value before 1066 £8; now 6. Exactions 10s.

In EST DEPINGE Ælmer, Arnbjorn and Frithgestr had 3 carucates of land and 6 bovates taxable. Land for as many ploughs and oxen. Two of Godfrey's men have 2 ploughs. 19 villagers and 4 smallholders who have 7 ploughs. Meadow, 93 acres. Value before 1066 and now, 100s. Exactions 35s.


St Peter's of Peterborough also had jurisdiction over 5 manors [the latin is here abbreviated to the point of confusion. Some translators have preferred "... had 5 sokemen upon 5 manors"] of 2 carucates of land and 6 bovates taxable. Land for as many ploughs and oxen. Two of Godfrey's men have 1½ ploughs. 12 villagers with 3½ ploughs. 1 fishery, 12d; meadow, 70 acres. Value before 1066, 60s; now 50. Exactions 12s.


In Helpringham Atsurr had 1 church in which lie 4 bovates of land and 4 acres of meadow. Godfrey has it; it lies in DEPINGE.



Ness Wapentake and the whole Riding have testified that the land of Wulfgeat and his mother Wulfflaed was not Arnbjorn's, his sororius [which may mean "sister's husband", "wife's brother", or "sister's son"], and that he only had it in charge until Wulfgeat could hold the land: that is 7 carucates in Uffington, 6½ carucates in Tallington, 6 bovates in Casewick, and 4 bovates ½ carucate — in ESTDEPING.


One of Godfrey’s two men may be Bole:


The Liber Niger of Peterborough Abbey:

In Deeping 1 carucate and land for 3 oxen in jurisdiction from the land of Bole. In the land of Leofwine of Deeping there is as much in jurisdiction. Godfrey of Cambrai holds it.


[Leofwine of Deeping and Bole are perhaps Godfrey's two men referred to above. The land returned to Peterborough ownership shortly thereafter, for later sources record the establishment of Market Deeping on Peterborough land here.]


A Topographical Dictionary of England, Samuel Lewis, 1831:

DEEPING-FEN, an extra-parochial liberty, in the wapentake of ELLOE, parts of HOLLAND, county of LINCOLN, 6 miles (S.W.) from Spalding, containing 398 inhabitants. This extensive district was enclosed from part of the waste land formerly belonging to several parishes, and is partly held by adventurers, for draining, and partly by persons who are free from drainage expenses by the nature of their tenures; all the land is exempt from the land tax, and from ecclesiastical and all other assessments.


The district of Deeping Fen includes the villages of Deeping St James, Deeping St Nicholas, Market Deeping, and West Deeping.


Godfrey of Cambrai,

In 1086 held 6 manors from the king and was chief tenant in 10 others, all in Lincolnshire


Helpringham in Kesteven which had been held before the conquest by Bernac and Bole (along with Obthorpe and Wilsthorpe)

and West Deeping, Deeping and Market Deeping in Kesteven.


‘Two men’ of Godfrey of Cambrai’s held Deeping for Godfrey of Cambrai


Godric held 42 manors before the conquest and was Lord of ½ ploughland in Drayton (Swineshead did not yet exist), 1 ploughland in Bicker (both in Kirton) and 5 ploughlands in Allington (in Kesteven).


Bolle-like Place Names in the Domesday Book


Which came first, the place or the surname?  It’s difficult to know whether a name recorded in a medieval reference as, for example, ‘Thomas Bole of Bole’ was a Thomas who took his surname from where he lived or whether the place he lived had been named after his family surname.  If you see a contemporary reference for ‘John Bolle of Swineshead’, for another example, then this person has clearly taken the Bolle surname but we can’t tell if he took the name from his father or again from his place of residence in Swineshead.  Then you find ‘John Carpenter son of John Bolle of Swineshead’ which implies that John Bolle Jr. had become a carpenter and took that surname.  Later if John Carpenter had a son Thomas then some later reference for ‘Thomas son of John Carpenter’ could actually be for a direct male line descendant of John Bolle’s.


Still there are some place names that were in existence long before the custom of adopting a family surname started.  Such as:


Bole, Derbyshire

On Derbyshire, page 5


On one Domesday Book site: Town of Bole or Bolun, Nottingham (?) (pre-Norman name; Bole is a Saxon term for a piece of wood, bolun is the plural); held by Geoffrey from Roger de Bully.  There may have been a county border change as all the references to Bolun in the Patent Rolls from the 1200’s have Bolun in Nottingham.

On a different Domesday Book web site it is Bolun, Derbyshire; Lord and tenant-in-Chief: Henry of Ferrers.  There may actually have been two Saxon settlements called Bole in that area or it might just be some Norman confusion regarding where the county line between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire was in those early years of occupation.

Bolle, Hampshire

On page 34 of the Hampshire pages in the Domesday Book.   Near Apleford in Hampshire


This site was last updated 12/27/19