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The lands of the minor landowners who held directly from the Crown were normally grouped together in a collective fief at the end of the text for each county. These minor landowners were usually described as the king's thanes or servants though Domesday Book is not entirely consistent in its classification. In Great Domesday alone, 45 landowners are classified as tenants-in-chief in one county but as thanes or servants in another. Some, like William son of Ansculf and Ralph of Feugères, were among the wealthiest men in the kingdom.
At a later date most of these lesser tenants-in-chief would be known as sergeants. Though few medieval sergeantries can be traced back to a Domesday tenant in an unbroken line of descent, many of the estates in the collective fiefs of 1086 were subsequently held in sergeantry, making it probable that such sergeantries already existed in 1086. Since many of them were held by the sons of the tenants of 1066, the services due from them probably existed before the Conquest. As James Campbell has put it, the sergeantries first documented in the thirteenth century 'are the semi-fossilised remnants of important parts of the Anglo-Saxon governmental system.'
Unlike the major tenants-in-chief, sergeants normally performed some service other than knight service for their land. These could be very various. Many of the household officers of the Crown held sergeantries, ranging from the kitchen, pantry and larder upwards. Bakers, cooks, larderers and scullions are all recorded in Domesday Book, several of them among the royal thanes and servants. The more elevated household offices, and the king's enthusiasm for hunting, account for many more holdings subsequently held in sergeantry.
For more detail, see J.H. Round, The king's sergeants and officers of state with their coronation services (1911); E.G. Kimball, Sergeantry tenure in medieval England (1936); R.R. Darlington, 'Introduction to the Wiltshire Domesday', Victoria History of the county of Wiltshire, vol. 2, edited by R.B. Pugh and E. Crittall (1955), pages 42-177; James Campbell, 'Some agents and agencies of the late Anglo-Saxon state', in Domesday studies, edited by J.C. Holt (Woodbridge, 1987), pages 201-18; and Ann Williams, The English and the Norman Conquest (1995).
See also codes for landowners, occupations, subinfeudation, and tenure.