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Thurleigh 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.

The major landowner in Thurleigh in 1086 was Walter of Flanders. He had two holdings. Three hides were tenanted by Hugh and included eight villagers, twelve smallholders and three slaves as well as woodland for 150 pigs. The value was 100 shillings. In 1066 it had been worth £4, when held directly from King Edward the Confessor by Thegn Leofnoth. The value had fallen to 60 shillings when Walter acquired it before rising again. The other holding was much smaller, just half a hide, and was tenanted by a man named Reginald. This holding included four smallholders and was worth 20 shillings. It had only been worth 5 in 1066 when held by Leofnoth's man, Orderic and had risen to 10 shillings when the Fleming acquired it.

A man named Robert d'Oilly also had two holdings in Thurleigh. One, comprising half a hide, was tenanted by Richard Basset, contained one villager, three smallholders and two slaves and had woodland for thirty pigs. The value was forty shillings, as it had been in 1066 when a native Anglo-Saxon named Wulfgeat had held it directly from King Edward the Confessor. A cryptic note left by the Domesday scribe reads: "Eudo's men claim this land through their lord's predecessor, all of whose lands King William bestowed upon him". Eudo is probably Eudo the Steward who had seventeen holdings dispersed across the county, some relatively close in Eaton Socon, Wyboston and Chawston. D'Oilly's other holding comprised one virgate and his tenant was Solomon the priest. This land included a smallholder and was worth, as it always had been, ten shillings. In 1066 Alwin held it from Bishop Wulfwy.

A man named Miles Crispin held one virgate in Thurleigh. His tenant was seemingly a native Anglo-Saxon, named Leofric, one of the few not to be thoroughly dispossessed by the aggressive Norman conquerors. He had been tenant before the conquest, his overlord having been an Anglo-Saxon named Brictric. The value of this smallholding was ten shillings, the same as before the conquest.

Hugh de Beauchamp, later created Baron of Bedford, held half a hide in Thurleigh, his tenant being another Anglo-Saxon called Leofgeat. The holding included four smallholders and one slave and was worth thirty shillings, the same as in 1066 when it was held from Queen Edith by a man named Moding. In between the value had dropped to fifteen shillings.

This suggests a population, not including tenants of holdings, of 9 villagers, 24 smallholders and 6 slaves – 39 people. 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 160, making Thurleigh much larger in comparison to nearby settlements than it is today – Harrold, for example had just 40 people.