Tempsford 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 no less than five holdings in Tempsford. The largest of them, four hides and one virgate was held by Eudo son of Herbert, steward to William I. The tenant was a man named William de Cairon and the manor included eight villagers and six slaves as well as a mill worth twelve shillings. This would have been a watermill since windmills were unknown in England until the last quarter of the next century. In 1066 the manor had been worth sixty shillings and had been owned by three freemen “Wulfmer of Eaton’s men”. The value had sunk by the time the freemen were dispossessed to forty shillings, but had risen to sixty again by 1086. The fall in the value of many Bedfordshire manors after 1066 has been ascribed to the depredations of the invading armies travelling north and east to put down rebellions: clearly the Great North Road would have been a key route for such armies.
Eudo had another, separate, holding in Tempsford - of one hide and one virgate, which he seems to have held himself without installing a tenant. The manor included a villager, two smallholders and a slave as well as a mill worth yen shillings. In 1066 two freemen had held the manor which had been worth 45 shillings, reduced to 40 shillings after the Conquest.
A man named Richard Poynant had two holdings in Bedfordshire, in Dunton and in Tempsford. The Tempsford holding comprised two hides “of the King’s Holding” and was tenanted by a man named Robert. The manor included four villagers and had been worth twenty shillings in 1066 when held by three freemen. By 1086 the value had risen to thirty shillings.
The Bishop of Lincoln (Remigius de Fécamp in 1086), held one hide, one virgate and three parts of another virgate. His tenant was William de Cairon, also tenant of Eudo the Steward, and the holding included one villager as well as two mills, valued together at 40 shillings and 120 eels and may, in fact have been one building, but with two pairs of mill stones. In 1066 a man with the unfortunate name of Alwin Devil held the manor and it was worth one hundred shillings. When the bishop was given it the value had fallen to forty shillings, this had risen slightly to sixty shillings in 1086.
A royal official named Alwin the Reeve also had land in Tempsford - one hide and a fourth part of a virgate. His holding included three villagers and had been worth 27 shillings in 1066 when held by six freemen. By 1086 the value was just 20 shillings.
From the above Tempsford seems to have contained 17 villagers, 2 smallholders and 7 slaves - a total of 26. 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 just over a hundred, making it a significant settlement for the time.