5th March 2014: AGM / The Domesday Book

The first part of the Society's March meeting took the form of the Annual General Meeting. Reports were accepted from the Secretary and the Treasurer and a resolution to change the Society's financial year so that it runs from 1 January to 31 December was approved. David de Saxe, Cristina Nance and Jenny Oram were elected as Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary respectively. Jill Wyld, Maureen de Saxe and Celia Roberts were re-elected to the executive committee. Revd John Makey was elected as the Society's Vice President. Members were reminded that the first excursion this summer is on Wednesday 7 May to Bayham Abbey and to Battle Abbey. Anyone interested should contact Celia Roberts.

Following the AGM Richard Eales, a medieval historian and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Kent, gave a talk covering the Norman conquest and settlement of England, the unique evidence of Domesday book and its use as a source of information about regional and local society in Kent. The first part of the talk was illustrated with scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry depicting different events immediately preceding and during the invasion of 1066. After the battle the Normans travelled east along the coast to Canterbury and thereafter to London and further north where their opponents capitulated. It took, however, twenty years for the Normans to settle England in the face of unsuccessful revolts by Saxon leaders, the fear of further Viking invasions and threats to Normandy where William spent most of the last ten years of his life fighting.

Fearing that England might be invaded William needed to find out what resources he had and this inspired the collection of evidence that is found in Domesday Book. This evidence needs to be interpreted with care and Mr Eales demonstrated how maps of Kent can be constructed, showing, for example, the distribution of estates and opulation in the late 1080s. But these are are not to be taken at face value and require subtle interpretation.

In Domesday Book in the section on Kent Wye is listed as a manor under the Land of the Church of Battle. Among its attributes Wye had land for 52 ploughs, a church, 7 slaves, 4 mills, 133 acres of meadow, and woodland for 300 pigs. From being a royal estate in Saxon times it became a valuable asset for Battle Abbey and worth half of all the Abbey lands. However, the Abbey was unable to build Wye up, instead concentrating on developing the area round the Abbey itself. Ending on this local note, Mr Eales was thanked for providing such an enthusiastic and scholarly presentation.

Jenny Oram