Monday 23 March 2015

Eton Wick: The Norman's and the Domesday Book

By Norman times the manor of Eton was firmly established and Eton Wick, together with the villages of Hedgerley and Wexham, was part of it. The great census of 1086 which resulted in the making of the Domesday Book gives the first hint of how small the Milage still was, for in the whole of the manor only twenty-three families and four serfs (slaves) were recorded. The Lord of the Manor was Walter Fitz Other, the Constable of the newly built castle at New Windsor. Eton was only one of the manors awarded to him by William the Conqueror and his fees or honour straddled across the Thames as far north as Beaconsfield.
William the Conqueror had instigated this survey of his kingdom because, even after nineteen years, he knew very little of its resources; and, though far from complete and with many obvious omissions, the Domesday Book is a rich source of information.  The home farm or demesne of Walter Fitz Other comprised a quarter of the whole manor and was tilled by three plough teams. The rest was in the hands of the peasants (villeins and cottagers) and between them they owned another six plough teams of bullocks.  There was a shortage of meadow, no more than sufficient to feed two of the teams, which suggests that much of the land nearest the river and brooks was still too marshy even for growing hay. There was enough woodland to feed 200 swine and, though much of this may have been in Hedgerley and Wexham, later records show that the north-east corner of the parish towards Wood Lane and Little Common was still wooded. There were two watermills: one was almost certainly by Cuckoo Weir, and here too would have been caught many of the 1,000 eels that were required as rent and would have helped to feed the soldiers and courtiers at Windsor Castle. 
Eton entry in the Domesday book of 1086
There are few other documents from the Norman period which make mention of Eton. Those that do are mainly concerned with the lords of the manor, father, son, grandson and great grandson. Each was made Constable of the Castle, still a fort and prison as well as royal residence, invoking a picture of an English village ruled by Norman conquerors.

This is an extract from The Story of a Village: Eton Wick 1217 to 1977 by Judith Hunter.

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