900 years ago this year, England’s political structure changed. The new king very quickly replaced all the minor Saxon lords known as thanes and replaced them with more powerful barons and bishops. These men were granted great tracts of land, often scattered across the country, which they could hold from the king as tenants-in-chief. In turn they distributed land to their followers. In many parts of the country the change was noticeable and significant.

Titchfield, however, was probably immune to this change. It was held directly by King Edward before 1066 and assumed by King William after the Conquest, and because it was held by the king, the Domesday Book of 1086 is less helpful than it is with other manors. Usually the entries express a value of the land as it was in 1066 and its present (i.e. 1086) value. Sometimes this went up and sometimes down and more often than not stayed the same. Titchfield was not given a value in either 1066 or 1086. Since it was not subject to any pillaging by the invading army in 1066, it is probable that the villagers placidly went about their work and the value of the land stayed constant.

The size of Titchfield is also difficult to estimate from the Domesday entry. It did become a very large parish, stretching to the Hamble river in the west, to Rowner in the south east and to Wickham in the north east. We cannot be absolutely sure that this was the extent of the parish in 1066, but by eliminating manors held by others we may arrive at some estimate. William’s powerful baron, Hugh of Port, held Wickham, Segensworth, Hook and Stubbington. Count Alan held Crofton and Funtley. William Maudit held Rowner. So by eliminating these manors Titchfield in 1066 might not be too far from our present understanding of its domain. That is, it probably extended from Segensworth to the Solent on the west side of the river and included Titchfield Common, Whiteley, Sarisbury and Swanwick.

Another difficulty is being able to read the tax assessment. The Anglo-Saxon system used a unit called the hide. It is not a precise measure as its value would depend on the quality of the land, but scholars reckon that it was about 120 acres in most parts of England. A manor assessed at 10 hides would cover about 1200 acres. For comparison purposes here, Wickham was assessed at 12 hides and Crofton at 7.

Titchfield is only assessed at 2 hides, so by using the above calculation we would be looking at an acreage of about 250. This is clearly wrong because there are other indicators to show that it is quite prosperous. There is land in Titchfield for 15 ploughs, whereas Wickham has land only for 7 ploughs and Crofton 5. Something else is happening, and that is that the good villagers of Titchfield are not being assessed for tax. They are presumably paying their rental to the king but the king is content to waive any further taxes. So the inhabitants of Titchfield were in a favourable position.

There appear to be other indications that this competitive advantage is working for them. There are two mills in Titchfield, each valued at 20s. Wickham has only one mill of the same value and Crofton’s mill is valued at 12s 6d. Titchfield also has a market with the toll rights amounting to 40s. (Let me also add that while these amounts appear trivial today, they were huge in 1086.)

16 villagers, 13 smallholders and 4 slaves are recorded at Titcfield in 1086. The villagers probably worked 30 acres each and the smallholders half of this or less. The slaves of course had no rights and possibly worked the king’s land. If we assume that each of these individuals counted here represents a family of, say, 4, then including two millers, we might have found a population of 140-150 in Titchfield in those days, and, small as this appears to us today, they formed a larger community than any of the surrounding manors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *