Stanford 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 no less than eight land holdings in Stanford in 1086. One of these were held by Eudo, son of Hubert, also known as Eudo the Steward, who also had land in Southill|. His largest holding was four hides| which had belonged to Wulfmer of Eaton [Socon], a thegn| of King Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) in 1066. He had had a tenant on half a hide of it. In 1086 William de Cairon was Eudo's tenant on the entire holding. The holding had three villagers and two slaves as well as two watermills| worth twenty nine shillings and fifty eels. The holding had been worth £4 in 1066 and was worth the same amount in 1086 but when Eudo acquired it the value had fallen to forty shillings.
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.
Hugh de Beauchamp held seven acres of land in Stanford. Domesday Book notes: "In the same (village) are seven freemen who hold seven acres of land; they were Wulfmer's men; they could grant their land. Now Hugh de Beauchamp holds it". Hugh also held one hide and half a virgate|. This holding comprised four villagers and a smallholder and was worth twenty shillings, the same value as in 1066 when it had been owned by four freemen, three of whom could sell and the other, who had the hide of land, could not. Were these, or their heirs, the four villagers present on the land in 1086?
Hugh had a third holding in Stanford, which was tenanted by a man named Roger and comprised one hide. Again four villagers and a smallholder lived on the holding which also had woodland for sixteen pigs and a half share in a mill, which would have been a watermill as windmills were unknown in England in 1086. This half mill was worth five shillings. In 1066 Aelmer of Hoo had had the land and it had been worth ten shillings. When Hugh acquired it the value had been halved but by 1086 it was worth fifteen shillings.
William Speke, or Espec, who also had land in Southill|, owned one hide, tenanted by a man named Hugh. This may have been Hugh de Beauchamp as Speke's holding also contained a half share of a mill worth five shillings. The holding also comprised two slaves and woodland for twenty pigs. A thegn of Edward the Confessor called Leofmer had held this land in 1066 when it had been worth twenty shillings, the same as when Speke acquired it. By 1086 this value had fallen to fifteen shillings.
Azelina, the wife of Ralph Tallboys, had two hides in Stanford, tenanted by a man named Roger, perhaps the same man who held land from Hugh de Beauchamp. two villagers and one smallholder lived on the land which had meadow for thirty pigs and a mill worth 13/4. Two freemen had held the land in 1066 when it had been worth sixty shillings, the same value as in 1086 but when Azelina acquired the land it had only been worth twenty shillings.
An Anglo-Saxon named Alric held four parts of a virgate from King William, the value being 12d., the same as in 1066 when Alric had also held it, a rare instance of a native still holding the same piece of land, albeit a small piece, twenty years on. The final land holding in Stanford was in the hands of another Anglo-Saxon, Ordwy, who also had four parts of a virgate, valued at four shillings, the same as in 1066 when he the same man had owned it.
Domesday Book lists thirteen villagers, three smallholders and four slaves in Stanford. It also notes the seven freemen holding seven acres of land under Hugh de Beauchamp. These may be included in the thirteen villagers already noted or, equally, may be different individuals. Alric and Ordwy should, perhaps, also be added to this total. Most of these men would have had families suggesting a population of between eighty and a hundred and twenty, a far more significant settlement in terms of the whole population in 1086 than Stanford is today.