In 1066 William, duke of Normandy, invaded England, defeated the Anglo-Saxons and King Harold at the Battle of Hastings and seized the kingdom for himself. William vanquished the Anglo-Saxons, and confiscated their estates, introducing a new tenurial system under which he owned all the land. He kept some of it for himself, gave some to the Church and granted the rest to the barons that had fought with him, on condition that they swore an oath of loyalty to him and supplied him with men for his armies.
The barons, in turn, granted part of the land to a select group of knights, who likewise pledged their loyalty. The knights then granted little strips of ground to large numbers of peasants, who worked their lord’s fields and gave him a share of their produce.
The tenurial system the king adopted had two consequences: it created a new ruling class, and tethered power to the possession of real estate because many of the invaders owed their social standing to the lands they held, rather than their lineage.Read More...
The Domesday Book and Loxwood
The Domesday Book was the first record of all the assets of the Country. William wanted a record of his new territory and the book reveals the scale of the Norman land grab. The aggregate value of the area covered by the survey was about £73,000. The Church held some 26 per cent of this territory, but almost everything else was in Norman hands. The king headed the nation’s “rich list”, with estates covering 17 per cent of England, with around 200 barons holding another 54 per cent between them. However, there was an elite within the elite. Some 70 men held lands worth £100 to £650, and the 10 greatest magnates controlled enormous fiefdoms worth £650 to £3,240. The remaining landholders (approximately 7,800) possessed relatively modest estates. In fact, more than 80 per cent of the Norman subtenants named in Great Domesday held lands worth £5 or less.
Native subtenants, by contrast, held only 5 per cent of the country – and the majority of them held just one manor. Some were survivors who had managed to cling to their ancestral estates. Others had supported William and prospered under the new regime.
According to John Buckwell, the Manor of Drungewick was part of the Norman Abbey of Seez of Arundel. Roger de Montgomery, earl of Shrewsbury, was one of William the Conquerors principal councillors. He held substantial land in Normandy France and commanded the Norman right flank at the battle of Hastings in 1066. He was awarded the Rape of Arundel in 1067 which was one of the most critical defence lines of England. Not long after he had obtained the earldom of Sussex, he gave certain lands and advowsons to the abbey of Séez, with a vacant site in Arundel to erect a priory, which was completed in 1102 when Gratian, a monk of Séez, became first prior. The priory continued for some 70 years.
In 1075 William the Conqueror created the See of Chichester at the Council of London and ordered a Cathedral to be built in Chichester. Bishop Stigand at Selsey moved his bishopric (Diocese) to Chichester.
The areas around Billingshurst, Wisborough Green, Kirdford, Plaistow, Alfold and Loxwood were not recorded in the Domesday Book, and it is thought that either the area was uncharted, or the records were included in nearby towns.
The places near Loxwood that were recorded in the Domesday Book were: Pulborough, Hambledon, Loseley, Petworth, Stopham all held by Roger de Montgomery, Bramley (which may have included Alfold) held by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, Shalford was held by Richard son of Gilbert, Guildford and Godalming were held by King William.
The area between Petworth, Pulborough and Godalming, including Loxwood, Wisborough Green, Kirdford, Ifold and Plaistow was either uncharted or the records were included in the nearby towns.
A new pattern of inheritance
In addition to redistributing England’s landed wealth, William altered the basis on which that wealth cascaded down the generations. In Anglo-Saxon society, when a man died, his lands were usually shared out among his sons under the principle of “partible inheritance”. In Normandy, however, there was a dual pattern of inheritance. An ordinary landholder could divide his estate among his chosen heirs. Conversely, a noble was required to pass all his inherited property to his first-born son.
William adhered to Norman custom. But when he himself died, he bequeathed Normandy (which he had inherited) to his eldest son, Robert Curthose, and England (which he had acquired) to his second son, William Rufus. He left no land for his youngest son, Henry, who simply received 5,000 lbs. of silver. Most of the barons copied the king’s example. If they had more than one son, the inherited lands generally went to the first-born and the acquired lands to the second-born, while any other sons had to make their own way in life. This practice soon spread to the lesser ranks. Within a century of the Conquest, male primogeniture applied to even the lowliest military tenancy.
Churches built near Loxwood
William The Conqueror made his base at Hastings, where he immediately built a wooden keep on a large mound of earth, inside a courtyard enclosed by a palisade and protective ditch. It was the first of many such “motte-and-bailey” castles. By 1100 more than 500 motte-and-bailey castles had been constructed. The Normans erected castles to subdue the native populace, and erected monasteries and churches to make their peace with God.
In 1066 there were some 45 Benedictine monasteries in England. By 1150 another 95 religious houses had been founded. Buildings for public worship were also springing up all around. In Anglo-Saxon times a fairly small network of minster churches served large territories. By the mid-12th century there were numerous little parish churches, many of which still exist, resting on the foundations of a Norman predecessor.
The Norman settlers in England were really the first great church builders in our country. The Anglo-Saxons had been just as Christian as the Normans before the great invasion, but the Normans had the money and the organisation to build churches and cathedrals. So it was that in every town and village churches were built many of which are still with us today. The villages near Loxwood also benefited from the unprecedented scale of church building, with churches constructed at Wisborough Green, Kirdford, Alfold, Billingshurst and Rudgwick, all around the year 1100. Given that these churches were all constructed within 14 years of the Domesday Book being completed, it would appear that these villages existed at the time the survey was carried out, but they were just not recorded.
As it was with churches and cathedrals, so it was with abbeys and manor houses. These quickly became the hub of village and town life. The lord of the manor, a Norman or a Saxon elevated by the Normans, was conditioned to think that the serfs tied to his land were definitely of a lower species. Thus the serfs toiled for their lords like slaves, cultivating their thin strips of land loaned to them in return for working on their master’s land.
Travel was as unlikely a part of people’s lives then as it is likely now. They knew little of life or politics outside the parish where they lived and died and what they did know was conveyed only by word of mouth, since they could neither read nor write.
Generally, the size of the village where such people lived was conditioned by its market. Markets were first held in the naves of churches, the common meeting place of the people, and Sunday was thus the day to shop. When market day was changed to a weekday, primarily because of the protests of the clergy, the market moved out to the street, or market place, where market crosses were erected to ensure that buyers and sellers still had God’s protection.
The home of a serf, or villein as he is sometimes called, was generally a two room hut. The family lived in only one of the two rooms; the other housed the oxen or livestock they owned. The floor of the living room, which was kitchen and bedroom for the family as well, was of beaten earth and sparsely furnished.