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Riseley in 1086

The 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 holds six entries for Riseley.

The first entry states that 2 Frenchmen and 6 Englishmen held 6 hides from the Bishop of Coutances. There were 6 villagers, 7 smallholders and 1 slave. The land was valued at 72 shillings. Prior to 1066, 2 hides of the land had been held by Burgred in Lordship. 6 of Burgred's freemen held the other 4 hides, which they could grant and sell 'as they would'. At this time it was valued at 100 shillings.

The second entry states that Godfrey held 1 hide from the Bishop of Lincoln. There was only 1 villager and 1 smallholder. Before 1066, this land was held by Godric, a thegn of King Edward's, and was valued at 20 shillings.

The third and fourth entries fall under the land of Hugh of Beauchamp. These state that Hugh held 1 hide in his own right. This land was an outlier of Keysoe. Before 1066, his predecessor Askell held it. The fourth entry states that Alric the priest held half a hide from Hugh. There were 4 smallholders, and the land was valued at 5 shillings. Prior to 1066, the land was held by Wulfnoth, Godric the Sheriff's man, and was valued at 8 shillings.

The Fifth entry states that Hugh Hubald held half a hide from Osbern, son of Richard, son of Richard. There was a single smallholder. The land was valued at 5 shillings. Prior to 1066, the land was held by Alwin, Stori's man, and was valued at 8 shillings.

The sixth entry states that David Argenton held 1 hide from the King. There was 1 villager and 3 smallholders, and it was valued at 10 shillings. Before 1066, the land was held by Earl Harold's man Honday, and was valued at 20 shillings.

These 25 people were just the heads of households and, to arrive at a truer figure for population one probably needs to multiply this figure by a factor of at least four, suggesting a population of around 100. The difference in value of these pieces of land between 1066 and 1086 is reflective of Norman armies travelling through Bedfordshire on their way to put down rebellions in the Fens and in the North and laying waste as they did so.