A commissioner was an official charged with delivering or witnessing royal writs or grants. The phrase 'neither writ nor commissioner' implied that an estate was held without royal authority. The estates of such officials are sometimes to be found among the collective fiefs of royal thanes or sergeants, and may therefore have been sergeantry tenures as early as 1086, or even before the Conquest.
The term commissioner is also used by historians to describe the high-ranking nobles and ecclesiastics who conducted the Domesday Inquest in each circuit. The names of the commissioners for circuit 5 have been preserved: Remigius, bishop of Lincoln; Henry of Ferrers; Adam son of Hubert; and Walter Giffard. The bishop of Lincoln was one of the king's most trusted counsellors, and the three laymen were among the wealthiest men in the realm, ranking 19th, 21st, and 29th in manorial wealth respectively; as such, they would have been close to the king. Their high status is a further measure of the importance the Conqueror attached to the Domesday survey.
The bishop of Hereford recorded that commissioners were sent to areas they did not know and where they were unknown. The commissioners for circuit 5 bear out this observation. Of the four, only Ferrers held any property at all in the five counties of circuit 5, and he had only one manor of significant value.
For more detail, see 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 David Roffe, Decoding Domesday (2007), pages 70-73.