Back to Home   Back to Our Past



A Brief History of Kimpton Page 2

By John Pollington








11th Century and The Domesday Book

By this time the prehistoric river that flowed down the Kimpton Valley, had already been reduced to little more than a brook. Gradually the farmers cleared the forest on the banks until by the beginning of the 11th century they had reached the present village site.

Most of this is pure supposition as apart from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles (which don't mention a place as small as Kimpton) there are virtually no written documents.

We do know however that in King Edward the Confessors reign just before the Norman Conquest, the Manor was owned by a woman - Aelveva, the widow of Aelfgar the Earl of Mercia who died in 1062. His father, Leofric, had a very famous wife Godgifu, or as she is better known, the legendary Lady Godiva.

Aelveva's children were also prominent historical figures. Edwin, the eldest son, had become Earl of Mercia on his father's death. Morcar was made Earl of Northumbria in 1065 and her daughter, Edith, took as her second husband, Harold II who was King of England for a few months in 1066, before his defeat and death in the battle with the Normans at Hastings.

This battle marked the start of the Norman Conquest. By Christmas 1066 the chief barons of. England had submitted after the area around London had been ravaged, and William the Conqueror was crowned in Westminster Abbey.

William confiscated the lands of the Saxons. Many of the manors were handed over by the King to the leaders of this army in return for military support.

Kimpton was one of the many estates given to Odo, the warrior-Bishop of Bayeux, the King's half-brother. Odo in turn sub-let the manor to "Ralf" probably Ralf de Curbespine, who also owned other manors in Kent. Kimpton was assessed at 2 Knights Fees, that is to say, Ralf would be responsible for supplying 2 knights for about 2 months each year to serve in the King's army.

In 1085 William ordered a national survey to be carried out so that "he might know what obligation each landowner owed him." The information was gathered together and summarised at Winchester into the "Domesday Book." The entry in folio 134b refers to Kimpton, and an 18th century translation of the Norman French in the document would read as follows:

"Ralf held Kamintone of the Bishop of Bayeux, in the half hundred of Hiz It was rated at 4 hides. The arable is 10 carucates, in demesne are 2 and a 3rd may be made. There are 2 Frenchmen and 12 villeins with 2 bordars having 7 carucates, there are 3 cottars and 5 serfs. Meadow for 6 oxen, wood to feed 800 hogs, and a mill of 8/- rent by the year, in the whole value it is worth and was worth £12 by the year, in the time of King Edward £I5. Alveva the mother of Earl Morcar held this manor."

What sort of picture can this information give us of Kimpton?

Each shire or county was divided into Hundreds - Kimpton was one of the manors in the Half Hundred of Hiz or Hitchin.

The population of Kimpton was 24 excluding women and children. The area of forest which had been cleared for cultivation was about 480 acres - this would be equal to an area on the north bank of the brook, ½ mile wide stretching from Claggy to Kimpton Mill. The area would be divided into two huge open fields each in turn divided by low banks into narrow strips of about ½ acre (this was reckoned to be the area a plough team of 8 oxen could till in one day). Ralf, the Lord of the manor, held about 270 of these strips called the demesne. It is unlikely he actually lived here as he owned larger manors in Kent. His steward and bailiff would manage the estate here, possibly the two frenchmen mentioned in the Domesday Book.

There were 12 villeins each owning about 50 strips which were scattered over the fields to ensure that each man had a share of the good and bad land alike. In return each man would have to work on the Lord's demesne with his own plough for 2 or 3 days per week, perform cartage duties, and give extra help at sowing and harvest time.

The 5 bordars and cottars would have a small holding of up to 5 acres in return for helping on the Lord's land.

The 5 serfs were the lowest order of society, with virtually no land and they were probably employed as swineherds in return for the barest necessities of life. Much of the manor was still forest, sufficient to keep 800 pigs.

Each year one field would be sown and the other left fallow. There was a little meadowland in the valley bottom near Kimpton Mill to provide some hay for the oxen, which would otherwise graze on the fallow, stubble, or forest waste.

The villeins would grind their corn at the Lord's water mill, probably located in a similar position to the present one.

The village would be a group of low single room hovels, without the refinements of windows or chimneys, accommodating both family and animals. The Domesday Book gives no details of the siting of Kamintone, but a location near the present village green would afford a reasonable view over their fields down the valley. No mention is made of a church, but Domesday only seems to document churches which were of economic importance to the community. So there may have been a crude, wooden, barn-like church standing on the site of the Parish Church.

The manor seems to have declined in value between 1066 when it was worth £15 and 1086 when it was worth only £12. This may have been caused by a reduction of the workforce due to military service in these troubled times. Another factor was the bad weather in 1082, which according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle caused a great famine.

Besides the actual Manor of Kimpton, there was another area of cultivated land, probably on the south side of the Kime Valley covering about 200 acres. This was an appurtenance of the Manor of Pirton and came under the control of Ralf de Limesi, Lord of that manor and founder of Hertford Priory. Some 200 years later this area was to form the independent Manor of Bibbesworth. More...


Back to page 1

Kimpton’s lord was once connected by

marriage to Coventry’s famous Lady Godiva



The Domesday Book entry for the manor

of Kimpton



Comments? Enquiries?

More information?

Please get in touch