Sussex and the Domesday Book

Sussex and the Domesday Book

Sussex is very often mentioned in the Domesday Book and a lot of towns and villages are recorded in it. So it is a source of great value for historians who are searching to discover more about Sussex towards the end of the 11th century after the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

1066 was the year William the Conqueror landed on Pevensey Bay in Sussex, and after this the Norman army headed to Dover and then London. A lot of damage was inflicted onto Sussex areas where the Normans travelled through, and even the Bayeux Tapestry which was supposed to celebrate William’s victory shows soldiers burning homes.

The Domesday book features a lot of information though there are three sections in particular which provide a good idea of what occurred in Sussex - how much a village or town was worth before and during 1066, and how much it was worth in 1085 to 1086.

The values in the table below are rounded up to modern currency, but in the Domesday Book they are noted in the old style pounds and pence.

Name of manor Value before 1066 Value at 1066 Value in 1085/86
Alciston £48 £36 £40.50
Battle £48 £30 £40.50
Berwick £1.10 50p £1.15
Bodium £10 £6 £9
Brightling £5 50p £2.25
Catsfield £2.10 £1 £3
Charlston £3 £2 £5
Eastbourne £1 50p £2.50
Exeat £4 No value given £3
Hailsham £5.10 No value given £3
Hankham 75p No value given £3
Hastings (1) £5 £2 £6
Hastings (2) £34 No value given £50
Hastings (3) £5 £5 £6
Herstmonceux £6 £1 £10
Hooe £25 £6 £21
Langley 80p No value given 50p
Laughton £4 £2 £5
Mayfield £4 No value given £5
Ninfield £6 £1 80p
Rotherfield £16 £14 90p
Warbleton £2 No value given 50p

Other villages in Sussex were severely affected in 1066 as the Domesday Book shows:

Name of manor Value before 1066 Value at 1066 Value at 1085/86
Bexhill £20 Wasted £18
Crowhurst £8 Wasted £5
Hollington £1.50 Wasted £2.80
Netherfield £5 Wasted £2.10
Whatlington £2.50 Wasted £2.10

The Domesday Book holds a lot of information about medieval England but no maps are included. The book’s names are not matched up by being put onto a map of England. The Normans would actually have found this to be a challenging task, perhaps impossible. Only 400 years later in the 1570s did a man called Saxton began producing maps of English counties.

From the Domesday Book it can be discovered that the majority of people in Sussex resided in the south and a lot less were up north. Crawley was only mentioned 120 years after the Domesday Book in 1203 and Crowborough’s first mention was in 1293. This provides evidence that Sussex was not hugely populated - a lot of the area was wood based and used for hunting so it was not able to be used for livestock and general farming. So just because of this not many people would want to reside there.

Southern Sussex would have had more of a chance to fish and a lot of villages around the coast would be quite well populated. In general, it was easier to live in the south of the country and Ashdown Forest would have covered the majority of the centre of Sussex. The forest’s presence would have meant it was challenging to farm over a large area of the county and if people did not have farming they would find it hard to live.

The Domesday inspectors had clearly not covered the whole of Sussex - Horsham was mentioned in 947 AD, a whole 140 years before the arrival of the Domesday Book so obviously it existed, but there is not any referral to it within the final version. So it is most unlikely that Horsham was accidentally missed out after the evidence was gained, seeing as the people who put the book together were very careful with details. Another explanation is the inspectors had too much to do and several places were not visited, luckily for those living there.

See also: Domesday Book

MLA Citation/Reference

"Sussex and the Domesday Book". 2015. Web.