Bayeux Tapestry

1066 to 1300 CE

The Norman invasion of 1066 saw the greatest upheaval in England since the Danish attack 200 years earlier. The old Anglo Saxon feudal lords were swept away and their manors given to the Norman barons, knights and churchmen who had helped give William the victory. Eventually a Norman abbot was appointed at Peterborough and was made responsible for the provision of 60 knights both for the protection of the Abbey and to fight in the King’s army when required.

This measure led to the introduction of the Knight’s Fee whereby the knight would receive an allocation of land from the Abbey in return for his military service. Many of these knights fees appear in the Domesday Survey completed in 1086. It was compiled not as a sort of census, but more as a register of land and property on which taxes might be levied.

The Warmington entry in the Domesday Book may contain errors; indeed in the translation of the Northamptonshire section the general editor states there are numerous mistakes throughout the county and feels it is not so carefully compiled as many other regions.

Whether error or not it seems highly unlikely that the bulk of Warmington lands would be in Polebrook Hundred, when a glance at the Hundred map shows Warmington to be wholly in Willybrook Hundred as indeed are Lutton, Tansor and Elmington, all of which are nearer to the boundary with Polebrook Hundred.

The parcel of land shown to be held at a knight’s fee by 2 men at arms in Willybrook may refer to Eaglethorpe whilst the land held by Isembard and Rozelin was probably Papley.

The survey shows a total of 10 hides, approximately 1200 acres, of arable land, the vast majority held in demesne, i.e. by the abbey. Though during the 12th century there were more grants of land to various individuals by the abbot, all held at a full or part knight’s fee. This may have come out of the Abbey’s existing lands or it may have been due to the creation of a third open field.

The two hundred years of so following the Domesday survey saw a tremendous growth in the population of the country. By 1300 it has been estimated that the population of Northamptonshire had grown to about 104,000 from a Domesday figure of around 30,000 – an amazing increase. Increased wealth, especially among those with the largest holdings of land, saw the building and endowment of the village church, and also the development of Southorpe, along the line of what we know as Taylors Green, and stretching on both sides of the street along nearly its entire length.

It should be borne in mind that the agriculturists of this period had no fertilisers or manure for spreading, but rather relied on turning their animals out on the open fields during their fallow period and then ploughing in such manure as there was at the end of that period.