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Heath and Reach 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.

Heath and Reach is not mentioned in Domesday Book, but Gladley is. This is the settlement of Nares Gladley near the boundary with Linslade. Gladley was one of two Bedfordshire holdings of a man named Jocelyn the Breton, the other being in Potsgrove. Gladley comprised just two and a half hides, most of the modern civil parish of Heath and Reach would have formed part of the Royal Manor of Leighton.

Gladley contained a mill worth sixteen shillings. This would have been a watermill as windmills were then unknown in England. It probably lay on the site of the later Grange Mill, or nearby. The holding also contained woodland for a hundred pigs. In 1066 Gladley had been held by a man named Wigot, huntsman to King Edward the Confessor (1042-1066). It had then been worth forty shillings. The value had been halved by the time Jocelyn acquired the holding and remained at this level 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.