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Keysoe 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.

In 1086 there were two estates in Keysoe. By far the largest of these was five hides, les one virgate, held by Hugh de Beauchamp, later created Baron of Bedford. It contained nine villagers, six smallholders and one slave as well as a watermill worth two shillings and woodland for 200 pigs. This gives a total population of sixteen. As 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 64.

The manor had been worth one hundred shillings in 1066 when it was held by Askell, a thegn of King Edward the Confessor. There were also twelve freemen who had 3½ hides. By the time Hugh acquired the holding it was £4 but had risen again to 100 shillings by 1086.

The virgate that Hugh did not hold was held by Osbern, son of Richard, whose tenant was Hugh Hubuld. In 1066 it had been worth four shillings but this value had halved by 1086. This may have been due to depredations from William’s Norman armies riding north and east to crush rebellions.