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Tilsworth 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.

Domesday Book records that Tilsworth, comprising ten hides, was held by William Peverel in 1086. His mother was Anglo-Saxon but he may have fought for William at Hastings and was certainly in favour with that king, being rewarded with over a hundred holdings in England, though only one in Bedfordshire.

Peverel's tenant was called Ambrose and the manor had ten villagers, six smallholders and three slaves. Most of these nineteen men would have had families, suggesting a total population of around eighty. The manor had woodland for a hundred pigs though Domesday states: "Oswy took away this woodland; the Hundred states that it lay in this manor before 1066". Leofric, son of Osmund, a thegn of King Edward the Confessor, had held the land in 1066 when it was worth £10. This value had fallen to £4 by the time Peverel acquired the land but had risen slightly to £6 by 1086.

It is suggested by historians that the reason for the general lowering of the value of manors in the area is accounted for by William I's armies coming through Bedfordshire on their way to put down rebellions in the north. They would have lived off the land and no doubt have committed certain acts of vandalism in what was, to them, still alien, even enemy, territory.