Saddlescombe Farm in the Domesday Book
The Domesday Book was the result of a huge valuation survey, but what was important then was very different from what we would like to know now. In late Saxon times Saddlescombe belonged to Earl Godwin, the most powerful lord in the country. None of his family actually lived here because they owned much grander places, so the farm would have been rented out to a tenant. One of Earl Godwin's sons was King Harold, who was defeated at Hastings by William the Conqueror in 1066.
After William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 he rewarded his nobles by giving them all the land that had belonged to Saxon lords. Twenty years later he needed to know what property belonged to all these new owners - and especially how much tax they should be paying.
This is what the Domesday entry for Saddlescombe looks like in the original*:
And this is a modern version of what it says:
• 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.