The Domesday vill was the smallest unit in the administrative system, an area often equivalent to the parish in the south or to the township in the north. In some counties - Cambridgeshire, for example - Domesday vills are almost exactly mirrored by the civil parishes of the late nineteenth century, suggesting a continuous history of over a millennium.
A vill might be part of a manor, might correspond to a manor, or might contain two or more manors. In the first case, individual details about the vill may be sparse as many of the statistics will often be subsumed in a single total for all the vills within the manor. Where all the land in the vill was owned by a single landowner - the most common occurrence - then all the information about that vill was contained in a single Domesday entry. Where, however, ownership of the land within the vill was divided, its manors were described in separate entries, often widely dispersed among the fiefs of a number of tenants-in-chief. In such cases, it is necessary to 'reconstitute' the ownership, resources and population of the vill from those of the dispersed manors it contained.
Angus J.L. Winchester, Discovering parish boundaries (second edition, 2000), offers a brief, lucid introduction to vills and townships. J.H. Round, Feudal England (1895), provides many individual examples of 'reconstituted' vills from Cambridgeshire, where fragmented vills were common; and William Airy, A digest of the Domesday survey of Bedfordshire (1881), and F.H. Baring, Domesday tables for the counties of Surrey, Berkshire, Middlesex, Hertford, Buckingham and Bedford and the New Forest (1909), provide the most comprehensive 'reconstitutions'.
See also village.