musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Domesday Book

Sheepish in the snow

There is snow outside again. Wow, we will write about this winter for a looooong time, or at least still spring or summer (assuming we have one).  Anyway, I went walkies again because frankly I love seeing the snow.  I never grew up with the phenomena when I was young, in fact the first real snow I saw was in the USA in 2000.  Gathering my winter woolies I headed out on a different route and looked for somewhere new. The sad irony is that from Mitton I could see hills in the distance but could not find a place to photograph them as there was no open area with a clear view. Unless otherwise noted all images are 800×600 when opened.

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My meandering took me to a part of Mitton I had not been in before and I really wanted to see whether I could find Mitton Manner which served as a military hospital from June 1915, until it closed in January 1919. It treated 1,188 sick and wounded soldiers, the first patients being a group of Belgian soldiers. Over that period, only three patients died, and those from the 1918 influenza epidemic. It was manned by the Gloucestershire Red Cross volunteers, who were almost entirely local women, under the command of Mrs Devereux. (https://www.tewkesburymuseum.org/mitton-manor-plaque-unveiled/) . Not too long ago I spotted a set of images at the local doctors office about the house and it’s history as a hospital, but as usual I could not find them (since found  and their information is added to the update).

This strange structure below is supposedly called “the long barn”.

Update 07/05/2018.

This wonderfully warm and sunny bank holiday took me back to the former Mitton Manor where I was able to photograph the plaque relating to the role the house played in World War 1. I have however not found any trace of the Devereux family that were associated with the house at the time. 

The display at the Devereux Centre did not throw out too much information either. This is what it says:

In 1872 Dr Daniel Devereux was the inspiration for the opening of the first hospital and was appointed as surgeon.   

1914, Dr W.C. Devereux presides over the Tewkesbury Voluntary Aid Detachment under the Red Cross, to treat the influx of wounded. Mrs Ethel Devereux is appointed Commandant at Watson Hall

In 1915 the Red Cross moves to Mitton Farm. Over the next four years at least 121 local people served there.  

In 1918 Mrs Devereux is awarded the M.B.E for her work as Commandant.  And in 1919 Mitton Farm is stood down.  In 1927 Dr Devereux resigns from the post and the couple move to Cambridge. Mrs Devereux dies in 1931. Strangely enough, one of her daughters married a South African from Johannesburg. 

The Domesday Book entry for Mitton reads: 

  • Head of manor: Bredon.
  • Taxable units: Taxable value 4 geld units.
  • Value: Value to lord in 1066 £4. Value to lord in 1086 £4.
  • Households: 12 villagers. 6 smallholders. 10 slaves. 3 female slaves.
  • Ploughland: 5 lord’s plough teams. 9 men’s plough teams.
  • Other resources: Meadow 40 acres. Woodland 2 furlongs.
  • Lord in 1066Worcester (St Mary), bishop of.
  • Lord in 1086Worcester (St Mary), bishop of.
  • Tenant-in-chief in 1086Worcester (St Mary), bishop of.
  • Places mentioned in this entryMittonTeddington.
  • Phillimore reference: 2,23

I hope to revisit this post once I find the odds and ends I had collected about the manor and Mrs Devereux. Another interesting snippet came via a work colleague who told me that at at one point the house was in the family of some baroness who was a famous model and who slept under her car when she arrived home only to find it had been vandalised in her absence (the house.. not the car). After our original conversation he found the following info:

“In the 1950s the estate was in the possession of an Austrian Baroness, Violet von Gagern, a former Cecil Beaton model. However, by 1960 the Baroness was rarely in residence, and the manor started to fall into decline. It was at this time that she sold much of the surrounding farmland to the housing company Jane s of Luton, which constructed the present housing estate, mainly between 1963-7. By 1969 the manor house had become so dilapidated that local residents started to voice concerns. But thankfully in 1971 a planning inquiry refused the Baroness permission to demolish the manor house to provide space for further new housing. Subsequently the house was bought and carefully restored by its present owners Jan and Margaret Lucas.”  (http://www.glosarch.org.uk/Glev%2037.pdf)

I also found out that the Carrant Brook that flows past where I live is actually the border between Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. 

My exit from Mitton took place more or less where the border signpost is, and I photographed that sign when I paid a visit to St Giles in Bredon in 2016. On the left hand side of this sign is a farm and of course the Avon flows past here too. It looked like this in 2016.

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The Avon was running quite low at that point, although the same cannot be said of today. What I was hoping to see were the sheep that live on that patch of green, and this post is dedicated to them. 

They were looking quite cosy in their woolie jumpers too. The area where they are is now a snow covered winter field, and the Avon is much higher than in 2016

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It is looking very beautiful out there, and at the time of writing the wind is blowing like mad. The weather forecast is for temps between 1 and -2 degrees with snow showers and breezy. It looks like it Winter will be with us just a wee bit longer this year. 

And that was the weather. We return you now to our regular Sunday broadcast of church music, radio drama and pictures of sheep. Baaaah. 

Incidentally, this is what it looks like today (07/05/2018)

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DRW © 2018. Created 18/03/2018. Updated 07/05/2018.  Domesday Book Image by Professor J.J.N. Palmer and George Slater. The Open Domesday Project and the associated  images are kindly made available by Professor J.J.N. Palmer. Images may be reused under a Creative Commons BY-SA licence.  

Updated: 07/05/2018 — 19:26

Exploring the Domesday Book

When I heard about the “Doomsday Book” many years ago I was intrigued. After all, a book with a title like that sounded positively like something that could be the harbinger of the Apocalypse. Naturally I filed it away for future reference assuming we ever got to a point in our civilisation where the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride forth. 

My first disappointment was the title. It is called the “Domesday Book” and not “Doomsday” as I always thought it was. In fact you can also buy it on Amazon, and in English too!  However, for those who were affected by the book and it’s contents it really was a disaster because from what I have read; once recorded in the book you were really up the creak sans paddle!

The book that I started to explore has its own webpage, quaintly referred to as “The first free online copy of Domesday Book”

To know what the book is about you really need to first read the appropriate Wikipedia page. and there you will find the answer to why it was literally doomsday for the people affected by its compilation. “The assessors’ reckoning of a man’s holdings and their values, as recorded in Domesday Book, was dispositive and without appeal.” By the way dispositive means “relating to or bringing about the settlement of an issue or the disposition of property.”

Now the Domesday Book was not written in English, so it is not the sort of thing you can pick up and read,  as it was written in medieval Latin, and if that is not bad enough extensive use of abbreviations seemed to have been used too. The sheer scale of the compilation was an achievement all of its own. Technically somebody visited everybody and wrote down what they saw, it is literally a record of England at the time and the book’s colophon states that the survey was completed in 1086. Once that data had been compiled it is probable that a medieval bean counter then rubbed his hands together and worked out who owed the king/baron/local lord/boss and then had that cast in stone (or written on parchment). Reading between the lines one person was responsible for writing it in parchment, although others may have been involved in the writing thereof. At any rate they certainly did not use Times Roman size 10px as their font.

The nitty gritty.

Naturally I was curious to read what it said about the town where I live, and lo and behold there is an entry for it. I copied this “verbatim” from the Opendomesday website. 

11 female slaves?  It is an interesting question because slavery back then was “normal” but who they were is a mystery; captives from a war perhaps? or children sold to landowners? the local debtor? somebody that angered the church?  We will never really know.  Actually slavery still exists, the only difference is that it is much more hidden and does involve a people trafficking, drugs and all manner of exploitation. Technically all of those people are buried somewhere around here. 

The page looks like this… 

Tewkesbury is the listing on the bottom right hand side. The line through a name may be a way to mark a reference, I do not know if was like that originally, or whether it was added by the Open Domesday project. 

It is heavy reading, especially if you cannot read medieval Latin (or modern Latin). I suspect if you handed that page to your local pharmacist you could come away with a box of extra strength laxatives, 66000 large yellow pills and a bottle of something green. 

For me the fascination is having this glimpse into an era that we cannot even conceive. Conditions were primitive, people worked hard, children died young, men and women were always at the beck and call of those lording it in their expensive estates. As a peasant/working man you were considered to be property rather than humanity. The role of the church was large, and any person who lived in his wattle and daub hut next to his small field would always be in awe of the grand buildings that they would encounter on their visits to the local market/ale house.

In 1087, William the Conqueror gave the manor of Tewkesbury to his cousin, Robert Fitzhamon, who, with Giraldus, Abbot of Cranborne, founded the present abbey in 1092. Building of the present Abbey church did not start until 1102. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tewkesbury_Abbey), That shows the great age of the Abbey and its surrounding settlements too. Vasco Da Gama rounded the Cape in 1497 and by then the Domesday Book was probably no longer in use, but strangely enough it still existed, and is usually housed in the  National Archives in Kew. (It may be in at  Lincoln Castle. at the moment). 

It may be viewed as the oldest ‘public record’ in England. 

I am glad I dabbled so briefly in the book because the weight of ages hangs heavily over its pages. It weighed heavily on those who it affected, and of course the fact that it still exists today makes it an immeasurable historical document. I often think that when the monks had completed their task they looked at it with pride, and never considered that many centuries down the line their work would still fascinate us, even though we do not know anything about who they were. Sadly they never signed their name at the end, although I suspect that somewhere in those ancient pages you will find a personal mark left behind; kind of like a medieval easter egg on a DVD or popular game.

I have to admit my curiosity may extend to me buying one of those copies just to have that tangible link to a world that has long gone, and to be able to look back and say “What an amazing book!”  

Of course credit is due too, and  The Open Domesday Project and the associated  images are kindly made available by Professor J.J.N. Palmer. Images may be reused under a Creative Commons BY-SA licence.  

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 15/08/2017. Image by Professor J.J.N. Palmer and George Slater

Updated: 18/03/2018 — 16:07
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