A free peasant farmer of Anglo-Saxon England. In status ceorls were above the serfs but below the thanes (noblemen), with a Wergild of usually 200 shillings. They were liable to military service in the fyrd and to taxation. Although they could own land, they were often forced by economic pressures and by reasons of security to place themselves in the control of the richer landowners. After the Norman Conquest their status diminished rapidly and the term ‘churl’ came to mean an ill-bred serf.