Domesday (West Derby Hundred)

This is something of an experiment: to map the values of vills as described in Domesday Book. Rather helpfully, instead of having to read the Book itself, I found that have made their data available under a Creative Commons license.

My task therefore involved downloading the data and filtering it to show just those vills in the Hundred of West Derby, and choose the data I wanted to show.

Two things surprised me. Firstly, there are many more columns of data than I expected: all sorts of products like ploughlands, ploughs, churches, woodland etc, and people, from villagers, to priests to slaves. The second thing was just how much richer than everywhere else West Derby itself was.

Of course, it’s to be expected that West Derby would be where wealth was concentrated, but my main difficulty was showing map symbols whose size was in proportion to the measure in question. I could either show West Derby (26 geld tax) at a sensible size and have every other vill as a piddling little dot (and thus lose the subtle differences between vills paying 1.3 geld in tax and 2.1 geld). Or I could show the icons in a way which made it easy to see those tiny differences, and have the icon for West Derby take up most of the Irish Sea!

Hopefully I’ve struck a balance that works, and if you hover over an icon or place-circle then you can see the actual number.

Future development

I’m no expert on Domesday, and so a lot of the data confused me. There are very few columns that have data for every vill. There are multiple vills all marked at the same location, and I don’t know why (though I’m sure there’s a good reason!), and so it was hard to make a map that made sense.

I’ve therefore combined a few vills together (especially the half-dozen all called West Derby). If you know any information which will help me make sense of this then please do get in touch, because I’d love to learn more!

Likewise, if you don’t understand something, or you think something looks wrong, please let me know because I’m hoping to improve on this little experiment of mine as time goes on.


I used the API at to generate the data (in a very unsophisticated way – just adjusting the URL to match what I want). I also downloaded the raw data in Access database files from

I used a mixture of these two sources to work out how to whittle the data down to just West Derby, which I then imported into QGIS. I then cleaned it up, as I mentioned above, by removing or combining records. So if there seem to be any mistakes in the data, that’s down to my ignorant processing.

Many thanks to Anna Powell-Smith who built OpenDomesday and made the API, and to the University of Hull for posting the data online for all.

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