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Swineshead 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.

Swineshead was in Huntingdonshire in 1086 and Domesday Book records two landowners. William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, had three and a half hides. His holding included a freeman, seven villagers and five smallholders and was worth forty shillings. He had a tenant called Eustace. Another half a hide was held by Eustace the Sheriff, who is probably the Eustace who was de Warenne's tenant for the other three and a half hides. His tenant was called Ralph. His holding contained a villager and had been worth fifteen shillings in 1066, though it was only worth five shillings by 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.

Domesday Book notes declaration by "the sworn men" about Swineshead which reads as follows: "The men of the County testify that King Edward gave SWINESHEAD to earl Siward, with full jurisdiction, and so Earl Harold [the King Harold of 1066] had it; moreover that (its men) paid tax in the Hundred, and went with them against the enemy".

Most of the eight villagers and five smallholders mentioned by Domesday Book would have had families. This sugests that the total population may have been just over fifty people.