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Melchbourne 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.

Melchbourne in 1086 was held by Geoffrey de Montbray, Bishop of Coutances who had fought with the Conqueror at Hastings. It extended over ten hides and included woodland for one hundred pigs. The manor also contained 13 villagers, 15 smallholders and 3 slaves – 31 people. 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 to somewhere around 125 – a very decent sized settlement for the time, more, in proportionate times, than today.

In 1066 Melchbourne had been worth £6. When held by a man named Burgred from whom six freemen held their own plots. By 1086 the manor had increased in value to £8, somewhat unusually for Bedfordshire where the value often declines after 1066.