The sort of history which many people think they remember from their school text books forty years before and which, unfortunately, is propagated so often by journalists who do not check their sources. A few examples:-
So often stated to be a Druid temple of the 'Ancient Britons'. It is true that the wise men of the Celtic peoples were Druids but it is also true that when they arrived in Britain in the first Millenium B.C. the henges in Britain, including Stonehenge, had been there for a thousand years, possibly two. This century, of course, archaeology has revealed many things, not least that Stonehenge is neolithic and bronze age: but it takes a long time for the truth to establish itself.
American films do not help.' They show him in a golden crown, living in a mighty stone castle, surrounded by knights in full heraldic panoply. The legend of Arthur speaks of a warrior chieftain in the years following the removal of Roman forces in the fifth century. About him, practically nothing is known but he crops up in south-west England, in Wales and in the north: there are also legends about him on the Continent. The details surrounding him in popular history (legend) are way off the mark - heraldic devices were not used for another 600 years, mediaeval castles also had to wait for the Normans. There probably was a chieftain who tried to re-establish Roman ways and subdue the Anglo-Saxons; there were probably three or four of them in different areas and whose exploits were rolled into one story over the centuries.
This was put together in 1086, by command of William 1. His commissioners went to individual manors to report on their state and their vague. How much land under the plough, how many ploughs how much meadow and woodland; how many villeins, how many surfs. Occasionally, other details - was there a priest, did the lord have interest in salt pans. What Domesday Book does not tell us about are the local buildings, except sometimes the mill. Nothing about the church or the manor house or the farm-workers'cottages. And yet, we a village, pointing to the manor house, ancient; it was in the Domesday Book get T.V. presenters arriving at with the words,
"This is very ancient it was in the Doomsday book of 1086".
The manor was there in 1086 but a manor was an area of land".
Here is a typical entry in Domesday Book for one of our local manors, translated from the original Latin
Manor of Coughton.
Tenant in chief: Turchil of Warwick.
William holds 4 hides in Coughton: There is land for six ploughs:There are two freemen and 7 borders and 4 slaves: with 3 ploughs:a mill worth 32 pence: in Warwick 1 house paying 8 pence:there are 10 acres of meadow: woodland 6 furlongs long and 3 furlongs wide: pasture land; 50 pigs: it was worth 40 shillings, afterwards 20 shillings9 now 50 shillings: Untan used to hold it freely.
Particularly in the Midlands, in recent years, historians have identified the sites of hundreds of D.M.V.s (Deserted Mediaeval Villages) and it has become clear that many of them ceased to exist between the 15th and 18th centuries; the reasons varied but one of the main ones was the decision by manorial lords to turn their estates into sheep farms from the original agricultural economy. One or two shepherds now took the place of dozens of ploughmen, so villagers left their homes to seek work elsewhere.
Some young Journalists and immature local historians find a deserted village and write it up as a victim of the Black Death -occasionally they are right but as often as not they are wrong.
Sweeping statements without proof should always be taken with a grain of salt.
Autumn 1995 Index