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Chalgrave 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.

Chalgrave has two entries in Domesday. The larger holding is that of Albert of Lorraine. It contained eight hides and two parts of one virgate. This is larger than the five hides given to Ealdred by the royal grant in 926. It contained thirteen villagers, four smallholders and six slaves. This number represents the heads of household. To get an idea of the total population it is probably necessary to multiply this figure by a factor of at least four suggesting a total population to somewhere around ninety to one hundred. The holding also had woodland for fifty pigs.

The value was £7 in 1086. Before 1066, by which time Albert was already owner, it was worth £6. This is an instance of a holding rising in value rather than, as often in Bedfordshire, falling after 1066. Clearly Chalgrave had not suffered from the depredations of William I's armies. This may seem surprising given that it lies on a major artery - Watling Street, but the Normans were moving not north-west but due north and east to put down revolts. It may also be that as the land belonged to a Frenchman, and a favourite of the new king as he had been of Edward the Confessor, it was spared any looting.

A much smaller piece of land in Chalgrave, just one third of a virgate, was held by Arnulf of Hesdin. It was valued at two shillings. Arnulf's only other Bedfordshire holding was in Toddington and so, presumably, the two holdings adjoined one another. Before 1066 this piece of land had been owned by one Edward White, presumably a native Englishman deprived in order to enrich one of William's French followers.