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Lower Gravenhurst 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 both Upper and Lower Gravenhurst were held, as one manor, by Hugh de Beauchamp, later created Baron of Bedford. Hugh de Beauchamp’s tenant was William Froissart, who also held Milton Bryan from de Beauchamp. The manor comprised three-and-a-half hides and contained four villagers, three smallholders and four slaves - a total of eleven. 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 of somewhere around forty four.

In 1066 the manor had been held by five freemen who could “grant and sell their land to whom they would”. Their land was worth one hundred shillings. When William I (1066-1087) took their land away and gave it to de Beauchamp the value had sunk to sixty shillings, at which value it remained in 1086. It is reckoned that the decrease in value of so many Bedfordshire manors is due to despoliation by Norman armies moving north and west to crush rebellion.