Hartlebury In The Doomsday Book
For most places in England, the first accessible description is found in Domesday
Book for some, there may be an Anglo-
Domesday Book was produced for William the Conqueror. Having won the Battle ol Hastings in 1066, and then occupied the whole of England, William governed the country by giving large estates to his most trusted followers, who were called tenants in chief, holding lands directly from the King. To prevent any tenant in chief from being tempted into rebellion these estates were generally scattered in different hundreds, different counties and different regions. By 1085 the question of who owned what and where and under what terms must have been confusing. Some tenants in chief had died. New ones had been admitted to parts or all ol their predecessors' estates. Some barons, by a variety of dubious procedures, had appropriated the lands of others. This was especially true of the Sheriff of Worcestershire, Urse d' Abitot, who appears time after time in the county having helped himself to a few acres here and a small estate there. He became a major landowner by 1085. William also wanted to discover how much taxation he could expect from his newly won land. So Domesday Book was a tax book and a land record and a record of who owned what.
A committee of three or four government officials visited each county to collect
the answers to a series of previously circulated questions. Each delegation had at
least one senior churchman who would be expected to write down the answers. The odd
way in which the village names were recorded in Domesday may, in part, be explained
by a Bishop, whose native language was Norman-
LANDS OF THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF WORCESTER
In Cresslow Hundred
The same church holds HARTLEBURY with 6 berewicks (attached areas). There are 20 hides and in the demesne (the bishop's estate) 4 ploughs and 24 villeins and 3 bordars and a. priest Between them all they have 21 ploughs. There are 12 slaves and 3 female slaves and 2 mills which pay 4 shillings and 10 summae of corn. There is a woodland 1 league long and half& league wide and in Droitwich 5 houses pay 5 mittae of salt. In the time of King Edward it was worth £16: now it is worth £13:10:00.
So Hartlebury, nine hundred years ago, was in a part of Worcestershire called Cresslow
Hundred, an area of land in theory of 100 hides. Whose "capital" was at a place called
Cresslow, the situation of which is unknown. Hartlebury was part of a huge estate
that had been given over the years to the abbey church and cathedral of Worcester.
Hartlebury's landlord in 1086 was Bishop Wulfstan, who was the last Anglo-
The manor was a valuable one, assessed at 20 hides. A hide seems to have been an
artificial unit of valuation and liability for tax. It was common for the church
lands of Worcestershire to be assessed in multiples of 5 hides. Because the Lord
of Hartlebury was a monk-
The Domesday surveyors were supposed to record a valuation of the manor for the time
of King Edward the Confessor (1043 -
Domesday tells us little more. It does not record the agricultural system practised
in Hartlebury: it has nothing to say about any buildings, but it does give an idea
of its population. The surveyors were interested only in men -
There is no way of checking the accuracy of this census. Domesday was a land and tax record not a count of population. All we may safely conclude is that, of its neighbours, Hartlebury was second only to Chaddesley Corbett, which using the same calculating method, had a population of over 100.
There are numerous books on the Domesday Book. Members of Hartlebury History Society
may find particularly interesting the Worcestershire chapter in H.G.Darby 'The Domesday
Geography of Middle England' or, even better, the Alecto edition of 'Domesday for
Worcestershire' published in 1986 -