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Beeston in 1086

Domesday Book was commissioned by William the Conqueror (1066-1087) at Christmas 1085. It was designed to show who held every piece of land in the newly conquered Kingdom of England. It was known colloquially as the Domesday Book because it was seen as being as final as the Last Judgement and as difficult to conceal things from. The book does not cover the whole country - Cumberland, Durham, Northumberland, and Westmorland were omitted and London and Winchester likewise, along with some other towns. A separate book, called Little Domesday covered the counties of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk and, despite its name, it is actually bigger and more detailed than the Great Domesday Book containing the other counties.

Domesday Book records a number of holdings in Beeston. Three of these were held by Eudo the Steward, also known as Eudo, son of Hubert. Three hides were held from Eudo by a man named Roland and his holding included four villagers, two smallholders and a slave. These seven people were just the heads of household and to include their wives and children the figure should be multiplied by a factor of at least four - suggesting around thirty people. The Victoria County History states that this holding later became Buddenho alias Berells alias Frenches Manor. The holding had belonged to a man named Norman, ironically, in 1066 [see below] and had been worth 40 shillings, 20 shillings when Eudo acquired it and 30 shillings in 1086.  

It is suggested by historians that the reason for the general lowering of the value of manors in the area is accounted for by William I's armies coming through Bedfordshire on their way to put down rebellions in the north. They would have lived off the land and no doubt have committed certain acts of vandalism in what was, to them, still alien, even enemy, territory.

Eudo's second holding was in the hands of the man named Norman and comprised four hides, four villagers and three slaves as well as a mill worth 50 shillings before 1066, 40 shillings when acquired. Norman had been the owner of this land in 1066, as he had that leased to Roland, and Eudo had evidently dispossessed him. The Victoria County History states that this holding later became Beeston alias Beeston, Thornecote and Hatch Manor.

Eudo's third holding was tenanted by a man named Pirot, probably the same Pirot who held land in Northill. This comprised one hide with a smallholder and had belonged to a man named Raven and had been worth 20 shillings. The value had dropped to 5 shillings by the time Eudo acquired it and had risen to 10 shillings by 1086. The Victoria County History states that this holding later became the Manor of Beeston-Caldecote alias Trumpingtons.

Another holding in Beeston was in the hands of William Speke or Espec. This comprised 3½ virgates and was held without a tenant. "Young Leofwin", a thegn of King Edward the Confessor, had held this land in 1066 when it had been worth 20 shillings. This value had been halved by the time Speke acquired the land and remained at that level in 1086. The Victoria County History states that this land lay mostly at Thorncote.

Another Beeston holding was in the hands of Thurstan the Chamberlain. His half hide was, again, held without a tenant and had been held by Godwin "Earl Tostig's man" in 1066 - Tostig was the brother of King Harold who had died fighting against him and for King Harald of Norway at StamfordBridge just before the Battle of Hastings. In 1066 the land had been worth 20 shillings but Domesday Book records: "This land has been laid waste but when Thurstan acquired it the value was 10 shillings". The fact that the land had been laid waste supoorts the theory about William's armies, and indicates that the land probably lay right along the Great North Road.

Godmund, one of the Burgesses of Bedford held three virgates from King William I in Beeston. Clearly, from his name, this man was a native Anglo-Saxon. He was one of the few landowners to successfully hold his land from the reign of King Edward the Confessor. Before 1066 the value had been 10 shillings, which had been halved by 1086.

The final holding in Beeston mentioned in Domesday Book was in the hands of a man named Alwin, a royal official and comprised 1½ virgates with two smallholders. A man named Dot had the land in 1066 when it had been worth ten shillings. This had fallen to four shillings when Alwin acquired it and it had sunk still further, to just twelve pence, by 1086.

The total number of people noted in these entries is sixteen. As we have seen this would suggest a population of around 64.