English Heritage, which looks after England's ancient treasures, stately homes, castles and other wonders (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have their own heritage organisations), has created a "new Domesday Book" online which has hundreds of images of some of England's greatest architectural achievements which show the richness of the country's ancient heritage and how England is one of the world's most beautiful places...

English Heritage creates 'new Domesday Book'

By Nigel Reynolds, Arts Correspondent
Daily Mail

Resembling something like a digital Domesday Book, images of the greatest architectural treasures in England have been collected together online for the first time in order to show off the richness of the nation's heritage to the world.

This photo of Britain's iconic red telephone box is one of 315,000 images of listed buildings (unfortunately they are being replaced by new ones that look similar to those in most other countries)

In a massive undertaking that has cost £7.4 million and seven years of hard work, a new English Heritage website has been launched (external - login to view) that is loaded with 315,000 digital images showing almost every building, structure and monument in the country listed as being of architectural and historical importance.

Glorious views of stately homes, castles, cathedrals and manor houses vie for attention with the more commonplace railway stations, lamp posts, telephone kiosks, bridges, bandstands and bus shelters that make up the fabric of England's built history.

"The intention was to capture for ever a snapshot record of how England looks at the start of the 21st century," said Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage (external - login to view).

This railway viaduct is one of the earliest constructed in Britain using laminated wood

"It’s a Domesday book for our times, a digital history of England that captures at one moment what our society values in its history and its architecture.

"It’s like architectural porn, like looking through the first 30 pages of Country Life. Of course, its not completely representative.

"If England did look like the 300,000 beautiful images we have, it would be an extraordinary country. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

"This is a unique record. With the gradual march of plastic windows, railings being removed and drives being Tarmaced, future generations will be able to look back and see how England looked."

London's Albert Bridge: an engineering masterpiece

Every image was taken by an army of 2,200 volunteers, amateur photographers who, according to where they lived, were allocated buildings to visit.

Over seven years, they clocked up 1.4 million miles and used 13,000 rolls of 35 mm film.

One volunteer, Lorna Freeman, became so enthralled that she took photographs in all of England's 34 counties, and can boast a total of 2,453 pictures on the website, Images of England.

She said: "For some volunteers, this became their life and they are feeling a little bereft that it is over."

The website's statistics are a testament to the attempts to preserve England's history. It boasts images of 420 castles, 7,484 parish churches, 2,146 telephone boxes, 2,700 milestones, 55 garden sheds, eight waterfalls, 1,098 lamp posts, 130 lock gates, 49 village stocks, 73 bandstands, 6,283 bridges, 187 boat houses, 11 skating rinks, 11 lidos, two penguin pools and one racing pigeon loft.

By using the search facility, visitors to the site will find pictures of 124,190 listed Victorian buildings, 85,250 from the Tudor period and 10,195 from the modern (post-1901) period. Or see images of the 20,539 listed properties in Devon.

"The site should appeal to many different people,” said an English Heritage spokeswoman.

Images from around the country include an 1807 post mill restored to working order in Essex, an old milepost in Derbyshire and a memorial clock in North Yorkshire

"Serious scholars can look up all the buildings by a particular architect or engineer.

"Or if you are going away for a weekend you can search for all the listed buildings in a particular parish, village or town."

The project, supported by £4.5 million lottery money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, had intended to photograph all 370,000 listed buildings and monuments in England but fell short.

"Some owners asked that their properties shouldn't be photographed and we have to respect their privacy," said the spokeswoman.

"There were other problems where ice houses had just disappeared or milestones had vanished."


Domesday Book (also known as Domesday, or Book of Winchester) was the record of the great survey of England (external - login to view) completed in 1086 (external - login to view), executed for William I of England (external - login to view). The survey was similar to a census (external - login to view) by a government of today. William needed information about the country he had just conquered so he could administer it. While spending Christmas (external - login to view) of 1085 in Gloucester (external - login to view), William "had deep speech with his counsellors and sent men all over England to each shire ... to find out ... what or how much each landholder had in land and livestock, and what it was worth." (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (external - login to view))

One of the main purposes of the survey was to find out who owned what so they could be taxed on it, and the judgment of the assessors was final—whatever the book said about who owned the property, or what it was worth, was the law, and there was no appeal. It was written in Latin (external - login to view), although there were some vernacular words inserted for native terms with no previous Latin equivalent and the text was highly abbreviated. The name Domesday comes from the Old English (external - login to view) word dom, meaning accounting or reckoning. Thus domesday, or doomsday, is literally a day of reckoning, meaning that a lord takes account of what is owed by his subjects.

Medieval Christians believed that in the Last Judgement (external - login to view) as recorded in Revelation (external - login to view), Christ would carry out a similar accounting of one's deeds—hence the term doomsday also referred to this eschatological (external - login to view) event.

In August 2006 (external - login to view), a complete online version of Domesday Book was made available for the first time by the The National Archives (external - login to view).

Domesday Book is really two independent works. One, known as Little Domesday, covers Norfolk (external - login to view), Suffolk (external - login to view) and Essex (external - login to view). The other, Great Domesday, covers the rest of England (external - login to view), except for lands in the north that would later become Westmorland (external - login to view), Cumberland (external - login to view), Northumberland (external - login to view) and County Durham (external - login to view) (because some of these lands were under Scottish (external - login to view) control at the time). There are also no surveys of London (external - login to view), Winchester (external - login to view) and some other towns. The omission of these two major cities is probably due to their size and complexity, Cumberland is missing because it was not conquered until some time after the survey and the Prince-Bishop (external - login to view) William of St. Carilef (external - login to view) had the exclusive right to tax Durham; the omission of the other counties has not been fully explained. Parts of the North East of England were covered by the 1183 'Boldon Book', which listed those areas liable to tax by the Bishop of Durham.

Despite its name, Little Domesday is actually larger — as it is far more detailed, down to numbers of livestock. It has been suggested that Little Domesday represents a first attempt, and that it was found impossible, or at least inconvenient, to complete the work on the same scale for Great Domesday.

For both volumes, the contents of the returns were entirely rearranged and classified according to fiefs (external - login to view), rather than geographically. Instead of appearing under the Hundreds (external - login to view) and townships, holdings appear under the names of the local barons (external - login to view), i.e. those who held the lands directly of the crown in fee.

In each county, the list opened with the holdings of the king himself (which had possibly formed the subject of separate inquiry); then came those of the churchmen and religious houses; next were entered those of the lay tenants-in-chief (barons); and last of all those of women, of the king's serjeants (servientes), of the few English thegns (external - login to view) who retained land, and so forth.

For the object of the survey, we have three sources of information:

A passage in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (external - login to view) (a collection of annals (external - login to view) in Old English (external - login to view) - the language spoken in England at the time - narrating the history of the Anglo-Saxons (external - login to view), which was written between the 9th Century and 1154), which tells us why it was ordered:

"After this had the king a large meeting, and very deep consultation with his council, about this land; how it was occupied, and by what sort of men. Then sent he his men over all England into each shire; commissioning them to find out "How many hundreds of hides were in the shire, what land the king himself had, and what stock upon the land; or, what dues he ought to have by the year from the shire." Also he commissioned them to record in writing, "How much land his archbishops had, and his diocesan bishops, and his abbots, and his earls;" and though I may be prolix and tedious, "What, or how much, each man had, who was an occupier of land in England, either in land or in stock, and how much money it were worth." So very narrowly, indeed, did he commission them to trace it out, that there was not one single hide, nor a yard of land, nay, moreover (it is shameful to tell, though he thought it no shame to do it), not even an ox, nor a cow, nor a swine was there left, that was not set down in his writ. And all the recorded particulars were afterwards brought to him."