Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Shelton (Marston) > Upper and Lower Shelton in 1086

Upper and Lower Shelton 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 Shelton show that it had 18 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 around 70. Although it was relatively small, Upper and Lower and Shelton was divided into four separate estates: 

(1) One ploughland, half a ploughland of meadow, and woodland for 40 pigs, held by Herfast from overlord Nigel d’Aubigny (de Albini). There were four households: 1 villager, 2 smallholders and 1 slave. In 1066 the overlord was Alric son of Goding, with his man Alward as his tenant. The property was valued at £1 in both 1066 and 1086, although the value had fallen to 15 shillings when it was first acquired by Nigel d’Aubigny. 

(2) Half a ploughland, a quarter of a ploughland of meadow, and woodland for 12 pigs, held by Stephen son of Erhard, also from Nigel d’Aubigny. The only householders were 2 smallholders. Alric son of Goding also held this property in 1066, with his man Fuglo as tenant. The value was 10 shillings in 1066, 3 shillings when acquired by Nigel d’Aubigny, and 6 shillings in 1086. 

(3) The largest of the Shelton estates, with five ploughlands, with two lord’s plough teams and three belonging to other men, one “lord’s land”, three ploughs of meadow and woodland for 100 pigs, held by Albert of Lorraine as tenant-in-chief with no under tenant. In 1066 the overlord was Earl Tostig with Almer of Wootton as tenant. The value in 1066 was £2 5s and in 1086 £2, having fallen to just £1 in between. Tostig, the earl of Northumbria, was a brother of King Harold who had been banished in 1065. He joined King Harald Hardrada’s invasion of England in 1066 and was killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in September 1066.  

(4) Half a ploughland, with half a ploughland of meadow and woodland for 6 pigs, held by Adeliza, the wife of Hugh of Grandmesnil, as tenant-in-chief, again with no under tenant, and just one smallholder. In 1066 the overlord was Earl Gyrth (another younger brother of King Harold) and his tenant was named Godwin. The value in 1066 was 10 shillings and in 6 shillings.