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Aspley Guise 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 Domesday Book of 1086 recorded that the Manor of Aspley, of 10 hides, was held by Earl Waltheof, whose tenant was Leveva in 1066. Waltheof was Earl of Northumbria and was important enough for William the Conqueror to marry his own niece, Judith, to him. However, Waltheof rebelled twice against William and was executed in 1076. By 1086 the manor was held by Hugh de Beauchamp who, by 1100 had been created Baron of Bedford, Acard de Ivri was his tenant.

The manor was noted as containing 16 villeins, 4 smallholders and 5 slaves in Aspley - 25 heads of household. This figure should be multiplied by a factor of at least four to account for these men's dependents giving a total population of, perhaps, a little over a hundred. The manor included a mill, valued at 10/- and woodland for 50 pigs. It had been worth £10 in 1066 but had reduced this to half by the time that Hugh acquired it, though by 1086 the value had increased to £8. 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.