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Norman Walkern

by janet on 15 January 2012 · 0 comments

From Walkern Local History Notes by H&M Venster

Although the Norman invasion, led by William the Conqueror, bought about many changes in England, the life of the common people altered little. Their master’s overlord would now speak French instead of Old English but the commoner or peasant seldom came into contact with the overlord. The peasant’s way of life had been established by the Saxons. Most of our villages were named by the Saxons and that rigid division between those who owned land and those who did not was brought about in Saxon times. In those days people would often speak of the ‘manor’ of Walkern rather than of the village. The manor consisted of two parts. First there was the manor house and much land on which the peasants had to work when required, their only reward was being allowed to cultivate strips of land for themselves. These strips made up the other part of the manor and were called common land. We know that, in Walkern, about half of the land was cultivated for the manor which is a larger share than on most other manors. It might mean that the peasants in Walkern were poorer than the average.

The situation of the manor house cannot be definitely placed. It was almost certainly on the left bank of the river. The common land we do know was on the right bank for the fields into which it has been enclosed still bear the name, ‘common. Dovehouse Lane would have been used by the village people to gain access to their strips of land. This old lane led directly to the common fields.

The Tithe Map of just over a hundred years ago still shows the strips, even though strip farming had long since ceased. For two or three days each week work had to be done for the lord on manor lands at the other side of the river. On the remaining days the peasants could work for themselves using oxen to pull their ploughs.

Later, when records were kept, it can readily be seen, from complaints of the lord’s bailiffs, on which days the peasants worked hardest. Boxwood and St. John’s Wood were, as now, on the boundary of the manor, and were used to feed swine.

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