In the Survey or Record known to us as Domesday Book, commenced A.D, 1080 and completed A.D. 1086, the name of the parish is written Fatwella and Feltwella. Blomefield's History of Norfolk says: "Feltwell may derive its name from Feat and Wella, that is a pure water or spring, or rather from the Saxon word Fleot, which signifies an estuary, canal or bay, all which agree well with the site of the village on the side of those great waters which came up to it before the draining of the Fens." Gedge in his history of the parish of Methwold describes Feltwell as the Felt Well, the spring in the veldt.
The only Church given in Domesday Book for the Hundred of Grimshoe is Feltwell. It is recorded: "In fatwella I ecclesia hanc columpniatur Godric ad feudum Rad. qd. jacuit Stohu et inde vult unus homo Godric portare juditium," i.e., In Feltwell 1 Church, this Godric claims as of the fee of Ralph which lay in Stow (Bedon) and thereupon one man of Godric is willing to undertake proof by ordeal. Trial by ordeal was either of red-hot iron or of boiling water; red-hot iron was appropriated to the nobility, boiling water to the poorer classes.
In Domesday Book the parishes of Feltwell, Hockwold and Methwold are spoken of as being remarkable for the numbers of Bee Hives kept. In those days honey, which took- the place of sugar, was of considerable value, and was used largely in making mead, the favourite beverage of our ancestors. Rents of manors, in certain cases were paid in sextaries of honey; a sextary being one and a half pints.
Immediately following the Norman Invasion, William the Conqueror made gifts of land to his officers in recognition-of their services. Earl Warren, (William de Warren) who is said to have married the Conqueror's daughter received 139 Manors in Norfolk, one of which was in Feltwell. After a few years the king began to run short of money and in A.D. 1080 he ordered a survey to be made of his kingdom as a preliminary to the levying of taxes.
The result is known to us all as the Domesday Book which was completed in A.D. 1086. In this survey, Feltwell is called Fatwella. Blomefield suggested that:
"Feltwell may derive its name from "Feat" and "Wella", that is, a pure water or spring; or rather from the Saxon word "Fleot" which signifies an estuary, canal or bay, all of which agree well with the site of the village on the side of those great waters which came up to it before the draining of the Fens ".
Shortly before his death in 1968 I spoke to Dr. 0. K. Schram, M.A., Ph.D., F.S.A.Scot. of Edinburgh University. Dr. Schram was one of the country's leading authorities on place-names and in his opinion "Feltwell" was derived from the Saxon meaning "The settlement in the meadow by the stream." The stream was "The Beck" which rose from springs at the east end of the street named after it. The old name for the street was "The Long Beck" and the stream ran almost the full length of the street before passing beneath "Mud Island" and St. Mary's Street. It appeared as an open stream again behind Manchester House and meandered through the centre of the village until it passed beneath "Short Beck" at the foot of "The Hill". It ran alongside a former road, known as "The Common Bank", through the Lammas Meadows ("The Pastures") until it joined Dr. Sam's Cut which eventually tumbled into the Little Ouse River. By extracting from the Domesday Book the number of bordars, villeins, serfs, etc. (working men) I find that there were 147 of them, including 7 freemen. Freemen were those who owned their land free from all Manorial Rights, that is to say, they could not be called upon by the Lords of the various Manors for military, agricultural or other services, nor did they have to supply goods, beasts, etc., to the Manor House. They also had the right to sell their land should they so desire.
If there were 147 males in Feltwell in A.D. 1086 and assuming that most of them were married with several children we have a rough guide to the population of the village at that time - perhaps around 500. A settlement of this size in those days would be the equivalent of a 1970 town with well over 20,000 inhabitants. Feltwell, in Norman times was indeed a town for it possessed a church (St. Nicholas) - the only one in the Grimshoe Hundred.
Although the Domesday Book did not record poultry or domestic animals in Feltwell it recorded farm animals. There were 240 swine, 30 goats, 6 beasts (cattle), 100 sheep, 2 rounceys (stallions or hacks) and 17 hives of bees. Honey was then an important commodity, it was used as a sweetener (sugar was unknown) and was an ingredient of mead. The small settlement of Risinga (Rising) was also mentioned. It was situated within the triangle formed by Feltwell Weeting - Hockwold and may have been in the area now in the hands of the Forestry Commission bordering Devil's Dyke.
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