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Marston Moretaine 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 entries for Marston Moretaine show that it had 31 households in 1086. To get an idea of the total population one should probably multiply the number of households by at least four, to allow for wives and children - giving a estimated population of about 120 –130. There were two separate estates, for which the overlords in 1086 were Walter Giffard and Nigel d’Aubigny. 

Nigel d’Aubigny (or de Albini) held 8 hides and 1 virgate of land, valued at £7 in 1086, up from £5 when he took over the estate. In 1066 this land had been held as a series of smaller tenements by a total of 21 freemen and was valued at £12. This pre-Conquest arrangement with a large number of free tenants holding what later became a single Domesday estate was unusually egalitarian. In 1086 there were 20 households: 14 villagers, 2 smallholders, and 4 slaves. Presumably many of these must have been the freemen whose land had been taken by the Normans, or their heirs, now having to farm as tenants land which had once been their own. The estate consisted of 10 ploughlands, with 11 plough teams (three belonging to the lord), meadowland, and woodland supporting 300 pigs. The tenant of this property in 1086 was Herfast, whose only other land holdings were all in Bedfordshire, at Shelton, Henlow and Arlesey.  

Walter Giffard held just under two hides of land which later became Wroxhill Manor. Before the Norman Conquest this had been held by two unnamed thegns and valued at £4. When it was taken over by Walter Giffard it was worth just £1, and had increased in value to £2 10s by 1086. This land supported six villagers and five smallholders, with land supporting three plough teams, one belonging to the lord and two to other men. There was also meadowland, and woodland for 300 pigs. In 1086 the tenant under Walter Giffard was Hugh of Bolbec, who held substantial estates of his own, mainly in Buckinghamshire, both as tenant-in-chief holding directly from the king, and as an under tenant. 

There were also four entries in Domesday Book for Lower and Upper Shelton