The Doomsday Book

The introduction to this is a little long perhaps, but hopefully you’ll enjoy this anyway. Bear with me as I introduced the topic and come back soon to see the spiritual application.

Recently I mentioned to some friends something in British history called the Doomsday Book or Domesday Book (It has it’s own site here, I want to share a little about it.

Mass immigration is not a modern issue only. In 1066 William the Conqueror invaded England. William was one of three men fighting for the throne of England at that time. All three men had some more or less valid reason to lay claim. Edward the Confessor had died and it seemed to be commonly believed he had named William as his successor.

However, another main competitor for the throne was Harold Godwinson, or Harold II. He was the last Anglo-Saxon king before the Norman invasion in 1066.

Edgar Ætheling was the third contender but was of much less consequence than the other two. The family relations between them all are a little complex, but suffice to say that William the “Conqueror” won (hence the conqueror bit). The Normans then entered the mix of peoples that already existed. According to one site even in Roman days the population was made up of

red-headed people in Scotland, small, dark-haired folk in Wales and lanky blondes in southern England (source).

But by 1000 AD you had those classified as Britons made up of the ancient tribes as well as Anglo-Saxons, Germanic tribes, and Picts. . Interestingly the name “Celts” is thought to be something of a modern invention. See the source I listed above. Another interesting fact, the Picts were the original peoples of modern day Scotland, the Scottish were foriegn invaders from Ireland.

domesday_bookSo, all that to say that when William the Conqueror invaded Britain in 1066 he needed a way to know the state of the country. To achieve this he commissioned, in 1086, what we now know as the Doomsday Book. A record of 13,418 settlements covering everything south of the border with Scotland. The book has survived the last 900+ years! A part of the introduction to the Doomsday Book explains its purpose,

After this had the king a large meeting, and very deep consultation with his council, about this land; how it was occupied, and by what sort of men. Then sent he his men over all England into each shire; commissioning them to find out ‘How many hundreds of hides were in the shire, what land the king himself had, and what stock upon the land; or, what dues he ought to have by the year from the shire.’ Also he commissioned them to record in writing, ‘How much land his archbishops had, and his diocesan bishops, and his abbots, and his earls;’ and though I may be prolix and tedious, ‘What, or how much, each man had, who was an occupier of land in England, either in land or in stock, and how much money it were worth.’ So very narrowly, indeed, did he commission them to trace it out, that there was not one single hide, nor a yard of land, nay, moreover (it is shameful to tell, though he thought it no shame to do it), not even an ox, nor a cow, nor a swine was there left, that was not set down in his writ. And all the recorded particulars were afterwards brought to him.

It is known as the Doomsday Book because, according to Richard FitzNigel writing around 1179, the English equated it with the Day of Judgment recorded in the book of Revelation,

“for as the sentence of that strict and terrible last account cannot be evaded by any skilful subterfuge, so when this book is appealed to … its sentence cannot be put quashed or set aside with impunity. That is why we have called the book ‘the Book of Judgement’ … because its decisions, like those of the Last Judgement, are unalterable.”

And, all that to say that the village which we will be going back to work in, the one where my home church is and where I went to school, is listed in the Doomsday Book. The record for Brimpton says,

Brimpton, Brintone: Robert FitzGerald; Ralph de Mortimer. 2 churches, 3 mills, dairy.The Knight’s Templar once held the chapel.

These days it hasn’t changed much I guess. What has all of this got to do with my ministry, this blog, you, or the price of tea in China? Well, for one thing it reveals a little more about British culture and history and it shares a little about the place to which we are going. domesday_book01

But as well, it is an interesting illustration which reminds me of another ancient record. Check back soon to see to which record I am referring.

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