Saddlescombe Farm in the Domesday Book

Image of Domesday text relating to Saddlescombe

Domesday Book is one of the most important documents in British history. It was ordered by William the Conqueror who wanted to know the value of his kingdom and it detailed every property in the country.

After William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 he rewarded his nobles by giving them all the land that had belonged to Saxon lords. At the time Saddlescombe belonged to Earl Godwin whose son King Harold was defeated by William at the Battle of Hastings. Earl Godwin's family owned much grander places so never lived at the farm which would have been rented out to a tenant.

Twenty years later William needed to know what property belonged to all these new owners and especially how much tax they should be paying.

The above image shows the original Domesday entry for Saddlescombe. 

This is what it says in modern English: 

•    the overlord is William de Warenne and the tenant is Ralph de Quesnay
•    before 1066 the overlord was Earl Godwin of Bosham and the tenant was Godwin the Priest.
•    there are 27 households of villagers and 6 households of smallholders
•    there is ploughland for 10 ploughteams to work, 3 teams working the lord's land and 7 the men's land.
•    there are 13 acres of meadow and one salthouse.

William de Warenne is one of the few nobles who is known to have fought alongside William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings and he received a huge amount of land in twelve different counties. He began building his family's stronghold at Lewes Castle soon after 1066. 

The population of Saddlescombe, estimated by counting households to be around 135, was large compared with other places and its value for taxation was very large. Villagers held more land than the poorer smallholders. Many of these families would have been the Saxons who lived here before 1066.

The acreage of arable land for growing crops cannot be reliably calculated from the 1086 'ploughlands', but in 1825 a survey of the farm again listed thirteen acres of meadowland. 

Salt would have been made by evaporating seawater on the coast and a salthouse would have provided dry storage for it.  Salt was a very valuable commodity as it was one of the few ways of preserving food, particularly fish, meat, cheese and butter.