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Bedford in 1086

After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 the usurping King, William I, also called William the Bastard and William the Conqueror gradually set about taking away land from indigenous nobles (earls and thegns) and giving it to his own followers. Towards the end of his reign, winter of 1085, whilst at Gloucester, he ordered a complete survey of his kingdom to determine who held each piece of land. This survey became known as the Domesday Book and was carried out in just one year, 1086, a very impressive piece of logistical planning.

Bedford (the largest centre of population in the county) was described as answering for a half-hundred before 1066, as it did in 1086 “in (military) expeditions (by land) and in ships”. In other words it had to find the number of men equal to a grouping of at least half a dozen or so rural parishes. The survey also noted “the land of this town was never assessed in hides and is not now, except for one hide which lay in Saint Paul’s Church before 1066, in alms [that is in the land of Saint Paul’s], and now rightly so lies”. It went on to note that Remigius de Fécamp, who was Bishop of the old Anglo-Saxon see of Dorchester-upon-Thames from 1067 to1072, then Bishop of the new see of Lincoln from 1072 to 1092, and thought to be a distant relative of King William, wrongfully placed it outside the lands of the church “as the men of the Shire state” and that he then owned it, the value being £5. It looks as if Remigius regarded this church land as his own private estate.