In 1085 England was again threatened with invasion, this time from Denmark. William had to pay for the mercenary army he hired to defend his kingdom. To do this he needed to know what financial and military resources were available to him. At Christmas 1085 he commissioned a survey to discover the resources and taxable values of all the boroughs and manors in England. He wanted to discover who owned what, how much it was worth and how much was owed to him as King in tax, rents, and military service. A reassessment of the tax known as the geld icon took place at about the same time as Domesday and still survives for the south west. But Domesday is much more than just a tax record. It also records which manors belonged to which estates and gives the identities of the King’s tenants-in-chief who owed him military service in the form of knights to fight in his army. The King was essentially interested in tracing, recording and recovering his royal rights and revenues which he wished to maximise. It was also in the interests of his chief barons to co-operate in the survey since it set on permanent record the tenurial gains they had made since 1066. The results of the survey were written up into a book, and became known as the Domesday Book. The nickname ‘Domesday’ may refer to the Biblical Day of Judgement, or ‘doomsday’ when Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. Just as there will be no appeal on that day against his decisions, so Domesday Book has the final word – there is no appeal beyond it as evidence of legal title to land. For many centuries Domesday was regarded as the authoritative register regarding rightful possession and was used mainly for that purpose. It was called Domesday by 1180. Before that it was known as the Winchester Roll or King’s Roll, and sometimes as the Book of the Treasury.

The Domesday Book provides us with a wonderful before and after snapshot of Aughton. It tells us who the landlords were at the time of Edward the Confessor, in 1066, just prior to the Conquest, and the names of the Norman landlords at the time of the survey, in 1086.

The Domesday survey was not an ecclesiastically based survey, i.e. the units with which it dealt were not dioceses, archdeaconries, deaneries and parishes, but rather the shires, the honours or liberties, the manor, the vill and the townships.

The land owners or principal tenants immediately prior to the Conquest, in 1066, were:

Earnwig: He had in Aughton (Actun in the survey) 1 manor of 6 carucates to the geld, and there could be 3 . This same Earnwig had the manor of Spaldington (Spellinton), of 3 carucates and 1½ bovates, including Willitoft, 5 bovates, and Foggathorpe, 1½ carucates.

Earnwine: The Clamores say that the land Earnwine the priest claims in Aughton ought to be his; but Nigel Fossard calls the king as warranntor, concerning this land, for the use of Count Robert. It is unclear if Earnwine and Earnwig are one and the same, or two different people.

Grim: He had 1 carucate of land to the geld in East Cottingwith (Alia Cotewid or just Cotewid in the survey).

Knut: He held the manor of East Cottingwith of 2 carucates to the geld, which could support 1 plough. Indemsne half a plough, and 8 villans with 1½ ploughs.

The land owners or principal tenants at the time of the survey, in 1086, were:

Count of Mortain: The manor of Aughton (formerly held by Earnwig) was held by the Count, and was farmed by Nigel . He had 6 villans and 4 bordars with 3 ploughs. There was woodland pasture, 1 league long and a half broad. The whole manor was 1 league long and 1 broad. At the time of King Edward it was worth 100s., now 20s. 

The soke of the manor of Aughton included 3 carucates and 1½ bovates in Spaldington, 5 bovates in Willitoft, 1½ carucates in Foggathorpe, 2 carucates and 5 bovates in Laytham, 2 carucates and 6 bovates in East Cottingwith. The sokeland totalled 10 carucates to the geld, and could support 5 ploughs. Nigel had 6 sokemen and 1 bordar with 1 plough.

Erneis de Buron: He nows holds the 1 carucate to the geld in East Cottingwith that Grim held, but it is now waste. There is land for half a plough, and woodland pasture 2 furlongs long and 2 broad.

Gilbert Tison: He held 11 bovates of land in Laytham (Ladon or Ladone in the survey), soke of the manor of Wressle.

Notes on terms used:

During the Domesday survey some land became the subject of disputes over title. The Clamores were the settlements following these disputes, and those for Yorkshire comprise folios 373-374 of Domesday..

A carucate was the amount of land that could support 1 family and be ploughed by a team of 8 oxen. It was also a measure used when levying taxes, as it was patently unfair, in an agricultural-based system, to tax a man on the size of his land, which might consist of poor quality scrub and rock, as opposed to rich loamy agricultural land. So the physical size of a carucate could, and did, vary, depending on the soil quality. A rule of thumb average is around 120 acres, consisting of 8 bovates of 15 acres each.

Sokeland were detached portions of land that belonged to a manor. This originally came about when the land was settled by invaders, who owed allegiance to a lord and his court. This meant that some villages, hamlets and farms were under divided lordship. A sokeman was a tenant of such a manorial lord, and he was a freeman.

A villan, or villein, was an unfree tenant, who held his land subject to various services and fines.

A cottar was a cottager, usually with a smallholding, and who was obliged to provide labouring services on his lord's land, either for free, but sometimes for a fixed sum.

Notes on the Domesday Tenants in Capite:

Ralph de Mortimer was the son of Roger de Mortimer, by his second wife, Hawise, of Mortemer-en-Lions in the pays de Caux, and first cousin of William de Warenne. Ralph's elder brother, Hugh de Mortemer is known to have fought at Hastings, and Ralph was probably there too, but proof is lacking.

Shortly after 1074, Ralph's father died, and as his elder brothers had also died, without issue, he became the heir of the Normandy estates, together with the manors in England, primarily in Hampshire, Somerset and Leicestershire. His holdings increased around this time with the reduction of Eadric the Wild, which placed large estates in Shropshire and Herefordshire at the redisposal of the Conqueror, and Ralph acquired some of these lands. Among the Herefordshire estates was the castle of Wigmore, and this became his principal seat.

Also included in his lands were eleven manors in the East Riding, formerly the possessions of King Harold's queen, Edith. The Domesday Book tells us that Ralph held the manor of Breighton, but is mute on the owner in King Edward's time. It is possible that the manor of Breighton was one of the eleven in the East Riding belonging to Queen Edith which passed to Ralph de Mortemer.

Gilbert Tison is first met with in the Domesday Book, and no certain mention of him is known prior to this. In a charter to Selby Abbey he styles himself "the high standard-bearer to the lord the King of England", but that charter has been called into question, as one of the witnesses was archbishop Aldred, who had died in 1069, when the charter was not made at the time of the survey, 17 years later.

Gilbert was involved in the rebellion of 1095 against William II (Rufus), the Conqueror's son. His lands escheated to the crown, and were divided between Nigel de Albini and Ivo de Vesci. It is not improbable that Ivo de Vesci was the son or brother-in-law of Gilbert.

Robert, Count of Mortain was the younger half-brother of the Conqueror, and was at his side at Hastings. He is shown on the left of William in the Bayeaux tapestry, with Bishop Odo, his brother, on William's right. Robert was granted more of the spoils of England than anyone else, including many scattered lordships in Yorkshire. However, all of his lands in Yorkshire were actually farmed by two undertenants, Richard de Sourdeval and Nigel Fossard.

Robert was another lord who chose the wrong side in the rebellion against William Rufus in 1095, by supporting Duke Robert, William's elder brother, and all his vast lands in England escheated to the crown. The lands were restored to Robert's son, William, Count of Mortain, who followed his father in rebelling against the next King, Henry I, again by supporting Duke Robert, and this time the lands escheated for good. Count William was confined in the Tower of London for life.