The county of Sussex is regularly mentioned in the Domesday Book, with many of its towns and villages recorded in the important survey. As a result, the book has become a great source for historians hoping to learn more about Sussex after the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
The year 1066 was a significant turning point for England. After landing on Pevensey Bay in Sussex, William the Conqueror headed to Dover and then on to London, inflicting damage across areas of Sussex as he went. Even the Bayeux Tapestry, which was created in celebration of William’s victory, depicts his soldiers burning homes.
There is a great deal of information in the Domesday book but three sections are particularly enlightening when it comes to exploring early life in Sussex - how much each village and town was worth before and during 1066, and how much they were worth in 1085 to 1086.
|Name of manor||Value before 1066||Value at 1066||Value in 1085/86|
|Exeat||£4||No value given||£3|
|Hailsham||£5.10||No value given||£3|
|Hankham||75p||No value given||£3|
|Hastings (2)||£34||No value given||£50|
|Langley||80p||No value given||50p|
|Mayfield||£4||No value given||£5|
|Warbleton||£2||No value given||50p|
Others villages in Sussex were even more seriously affected:
|Name of manor||Value before 1066||Value at 1066||Value at 1085/86|
Although the Domesday book includes a great deal of information about Medieval England, there are no maps included at all. In fact, it wasn’t until 400 years later in the 1570s that a man named Saxton began to long task of producing maps of the English counties.
Despite this, the Domesday book makes it clear that most people living in Sussex were based in the south of the county, with very few up north. In fact, Crawley was only mentioned in 1203, 120 years after the Domesday book was published, while Crowborough wasn’t recognised until 1293. This suggests that much of the county was unpopulated at the time of the survey, likely as a result of it being largely covered by Ashdown Forest and so only useful for hunting rather than farming.
Southern Sussex, in contrast, offered the opportunity for fishing around the coast, where villages were well populated, as well as countryside that was useful for livestock.
Historians have long debated over why some already discovered areas of Sussex were also left out of the Domesday book. Horsham, for example, was first mentioned in 947 AD, which was 140 years before the survey took place. However, it was not mentioned in the final version. Having already been documented it was unlikely the town was simply missed, so some people believe the inspectors, on a very tight schedule, had just decided to miss parts of the country. This would have been welcomed by those who were overlooked, as they would not have been approached for tax for many years to come.
See also: Domesday Book
"Sussex and the Domesday Book". HistoryLearning.com. 2023. Web.