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Eversholt 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 Eversholt was broken up into three holdings. The largest of these, 7½ hides, was held by Hugh de Beauchamp, later created Baron of Bedford. His tenant was a man named Ralph. He had fifteen villagers and four slaves. This number of nineteen 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 76. The manor had woodland for one hundred pigs. It had been worth £3 in 1066 when it was held by a thegn of King Edward the Confessor called Thorgils. Somewhat unusually for Bedfordshire manors Hugh’s holding in Eversholt had increased in value by 1086 – to one hundred shillings.

Two hides in Eversholt were held by Bishop Odo of Bayeux , half-brother to King William I, though at the time he was in prison having fallen suddenly from favour in 1082. His tenant was a man named Ansgot of Rochester who had four families of villagers and one of smallholders on his estate. He also had woodland for fifty pigs. In 1066 the holding had been worth forty shillings and had been held by four thegns. This had declined to thirty shillings by the time Odo was given it and twenty shillings by 1086.

The final holding in Eversholt was half a hide held by Herbert, a reeve of William I. Royal reeves like Herbert were important officials with legal powers over districts as opposed to manorial reeves who managed the manor on behalf of its lord. Herbert also had three virgates in Woburn and one hide in Potsgrove. There was evidently some dispute as to the ownership of these three small estates but Herbert stated “that he has them by the King’s assent”. Total value was just six shillings as opposed to the twenty shillings they had been worth in 1066 when owned by five freemen.