1066-1540AD - The Medieval period

  • The Lord of the Manor and his men return from a day’s hunting and hawking.

What changed when the Normans took over?

In 1066, the Anglo-Saxon English were conquered by the French Normans. Historians call this time the Medieval period which means ‘Middle Ages’. But many of the changes had actually started years before. When William the Conqueror became king, one of the first things he did was to organise a survey (called the Domesday Survey) to list all the manor estates he now owned in England. Most of the Quantock farms, villages and hamlets that exist today are listed, and some that have disappeared.

King William gave land to his loyal Norman (French) followers. These new ruling families became very powerful. They built castles on their new estates to remind the defeated Saxons that they were now in charge.

The king and his nobles were in control of England, with power and land. The monasteries also grew very powerful in the Middle Ages, as they were granted more and more land. They too owned many manor estates.

The peasants (called serfs) were still at the very bottom. They didn’t own any land. They had to work for the Lord of the Manor, or pay him money, and in return they could grow crops, gather wood and graze animals on his land. If their local Lord was a fair man and cared about his tenants, the system worked well. But if he was a bad landlord, or if harvests were poor, or if the king or the nobles demanded even more money to pay for wars, it was always the peasants who suffered the most. Life didn’t change much for them.

More about the Medieval Quantocks