Bexhill in 1066

The 1066 invasion was due to a disagreement over who would succeed Edward the Confessor as King of England, the Kingdom was given to Harold Godwinson by the Saxon nobles although William of Normandy claimed to have been promised the crown. The invasion fleet landed on the coast around Pevensey. William defeated King Harold on the 14th October, 1066 at the Battle of Hastings and was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey on the 25th December, 1066.

In 1085, William ordered the Domesday Survey of England which was completed in 1086. This recorded the value of manors within England and Bexhill is described thus:

“In Bexhill Hundred Osbern holds Bexhill from the Count [of Eu]. Before 1066 Bishop Alric held it because it is the bishopric’s; he held it later until King William gave the castelry of Hastings to the Count. Before 1066 and now it answered for 20 hides. Land for 26 ploughs. The Count [of Eu] holds 3 hides of the land of this manor himself in lordship. He has 1 plough; 7 villagers with 4 ploughs. Osbern has 10 hides of this land; Venning 1 hide; William of Sept-Meules less ½ virgate; Robert St. Leger 1 hide and ½ virgate; Reinbert ½ hide; Ansketel ½ hide; Robert of Criel ½ hide; the clerics Geoffrey and Roger 1 hide in prebend; 2 churches. In lordship 4 ploughs; 46 villagers and 27 cottagers with 29 ploughs. In the whole manor, meadow, 6 acres. Value of the whole manor before 1066 £20; later it was waste; now £18 10s; the Count’s part 40s thereof.

Osbern holds 2 virgates of land from the Count [of Eu] in this Hundred. It always answered for 2 virgates. He has 5 oxen in a plough. The value was 8s; now 16s.”

The knights in William’s army were rewarded with land in England and so replaced the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy. Bexhill manor was owned by the bishops of Chichester but William took it away and gave it to Robert Count of Eu.

The phrase ‘later it was waste’ may suggest that Bexhill was destroyed during the Norman Conquest. This may have been while William was moving his army between Pevensey and Hastings, possibly going through Bexhill and destroying it in the process. Another, probably more likely, explanation was that the Norman army raided the surrounding countryside after taking over Hastings, this would have prevented a local up-rising and also force Harold to move his army South, to fight a battle on William’s terms, rather than taking a defensive position further up-country, which would be harder for the Normans to take.

There is also mention of two churches in Bexhill, one is certainly St. Peter’s Church but it is not known where the second one was. A Norman tower was added to St. Peter’s after the Invasion.

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