Thus from a document of uncertain date, possibly about the time of Alfred the Great, and translated by Stubbs (Select Charters) as "Of people's ranks and laws," we learn:--"And if a ceorl throve, so that he had fully five hides of his own land, church and kitchen, bellhouse and burh-gate-seat, and special duty in the king's hall, then was he thenceforth of thegn-right worthy."
Already in ZEthelberht's legislation we find characteristic fines inflicted for breach of the peace of householders of different ranks - the ceorl, the eorl, and the king himself appearing as the most exalted among them.
Kerl and with similar words in other Teutonic languages), one of the two main classes, eorl and ceorl, into which in early Anglo-Saxon society the freemen appear to have been divided.
In the course of time the status of the ceorl was probably reduced; but although his political power was never large, and in some directions his freedom was restricted, it hardly seems possible previous to the Norman Conquest to class him among the unfree.
At all events it is certain that the ceorl was frequently a holder of land, and a person of some position, and that he could attain the rank of a thegn.