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Westoning 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.

Bizarrely, at first sight, Westoning is not in the Bedfordshire section of the Domesday Book but under Hertfordshire. This is because it was held by King Harold as part of the Manor of Hitchin "but the obligations of this manor lay in Bedfordshire before 1066, in the Hundred of Manshead". In 1086 William the Conqueror held the manor and no tenant is mentioned. It covered five hides with sixteen villagers, three smallholders and four slaves - a total of twenty three. These were heads of household and so the figure needs to be multiplied by a factor of four or so, giving a population of around a hundred, a reasonable sized parish for the time. There was woodland for four hundred pigs "and three shillings too". Much of this was, presumably, at Wood End. "It is and always was a manor there; since 1066 it has not met the King's tax".