Ossett - the history of a Yorkshire town


Domesday and Beyond

William the Conqueror landed unopposed at Pevensey Bay on the 28th September 1066 A.D. and later won the Battle of Hastings against King Harold at nearby Senlac (later renamed Battle) on the 14th October 1066. William the Conqueror was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.
William soon acquired control of the south of England, but the distant parts of the country at first continued their more or less independent existence and did not unite against him. Then, in 1068 A.D. led by Eadgar the Atheling, a nephew of Edward the Confessor, Northumbria and Mercia rebelled. They were easily beaten by William's forces, who then took over the city of York, where William established a castle, actually laying the foundation stone himself. The invasion of a foreign force, the confiscation of estates and the oppressive Norman rule greatly upset the inhabitants of Yorkshire. In 1068, Sweyn, King of Denmark sent a flotilla of 240 boats up Humber loaded with 10,000 Viking soldiers. As the flotilla travelled up the Ouse, the whole of Yorkshire rushed to meet it. It was said that " a multitude of Yorkshiremen riding and marching, gladly joined the Danes." They then all marched for the Norman stronghold at York without encountering any resistance. The Norman garrison at York numbered 3,000 men, which William left behind him, fled to the inner castle, setting fire to the houses in the precincts. The flames spread until York was a mass of blazing ruins. Even York Minster was badly damaged in the fighting. The Norman garrison was overwhelmed and massacred by the allied forces of Vikings and Yorkshiremen. Then the Danes went off with their booty to their ships, and the Yorkshiremen returned to their homes.

Not surprisingly, William was very annoyed about the events in Yorkshire, and the Norman escapees from York, who had brought him the bad news, had their noses and right arms cut off! William vowed "by God's splendour" not to leave one of his enemies alive and his response was the terrible "Harrying of the North". The Harrying (or Harrowing) of the North was a series of campaigns waged in the winter of 1069-1070 in order to subjugate the north. The north at the time was a land of many free farmers and Scandinavians, and the Harrying suppressed their independent way of life. The death toll is believed to be 150,000, with substantial social, cultural, and economic damage. Due to the scorched earth policy, much of the land was laid waste and depopulated, a fact to which Domesday Book, written almost two decades later, readily attests.

William's soldiers began to kill and burn in Lincolnshire, moving steadily northward, taking death and destruction wherever they went. When the Conqueror and his soldiers reached Yorkshire, his path was blocked by the waters of the Aire, swollen by violent rainstorms, and with every bridge and ford guarded by hostile Yorkshiremen. Eventually, William and his forces found undefended shallow waters at Castleford, but had to wait three weeks for the water of the river to subside enough for him to cross. Eventually, by a long and circuitous route through the West Riding, he reached York, but every town, village or homestead on the way was destroyed. Men, women and children were massacred with ruthless barbarity, the stored crops, the ploughs, the carts, the oxen and sheep were burned. So thorough was the devastation that the land around Wakefield lay untilled for nine years. From the Humber to the Tees, the destruction continued. Anyone surviving the initial massacre would soon succumb to starvation over the winter. The survivors were reduced to cannibalism, with one report stating that the skulls of the dead were cracked open so that the brains could be eaten. Bodies were left to rot as there was no-one left to bury them and this eventually lead to a plague.

To the east of Ossett, virtually everything was destroyed: York was burned and it was said that from there to Durham William's horsemen left no human beings alive and no house was left standing. Many of the villages around Ossett were laid to waste - 'wasta est', as Domesday says!

Domesday BookWilliam needed to know exactly what taxes were due to him and what military strength he could muster by the obligations due to him from his feudal vassals (those below him in the Feudal system). In December 1085, in order to find out this information he ordered a great survey or census of all the land holdings in England. This survey was called The Domesday Book and the first draft of the survey was finished in a remarkably short time and presented to William in August 1086. From it we can learn that the population of England was about 1.5 million and that all positions of power in the country were in the hands of the Normans.

Ossett or Osleset was referenced in Domesday and had 3.5 carucates of arable land, four villeins, i.e. villagers, and three bordars, i.e. smallholders, a total of only seven men in all. With their families, there would be perhaps 25 or 35 people in total, a number so small that it is doubtful that the settlement would be capable of independent existence. Their position must have been extremely difficult and they were not in any way an ordinary small farming community - they were survivors of a massacre!

To get a clearer view of this very tenuous situation, it is worth considering the neighbouring villages and towns. Nearby Crigglestone had ten bovates of land and Horbury had two carucates and seven bovates. The two villages combined had a total population of four sokemen, one villein and three bordars with two ploughs.

The three villages - Ossett, Horbury and Crigglestone had thus, all told, a total of nearly 8 carucates of arable land, a total of fifteen men and since Ossett had two ploughs, a total of four ploughs. But Domesday gives further particulars. The three villages were part of an area of thirty carucates, which Domesday states "twenty ploughs may till". The other villages in the area were: West Bretton, Earlsheaton, Shepley, Shelley, Upper Cumberworth and North Crossland. No person lived in any of them. Domesday says "Now they are waste". Clearly, Ossett and Horbury suffered badly but just survived the terrible fate that met the people of the surrounding villages.

Brief details of neighbouring places might help give a clearer idea of what it was like in the Ossett district. The Manor of Wakefield as a whole had more than sixty carucates of land, requiring thirty ploughs and in the time of Edward (III) the Confessor (reigned 1042-1066) was worth £60. At Domesday it had four villeins, seven sokemen, sixteen bordars, three priests and two churches. Together they had seven ploughs and the total worth was £15.

Dewsbury had three carucates, needing two ploughs. It had six villeins and two bordars with four ploughs with one priest and a church. The value was unchanged at ten shillings, suggesting that little damage was sustained but confirming that Dewsbury was a small village at the time of Domesday.

Further afield, the Bridlington manor, comprising seventeen named villages with fifty eight and a half carucates requiring thirty ploughs, had three villeins and one sokeman with one plough and a half. Its value, formerly £32 was now only eight shillings. The Pickering area, formerly valued at £88 was now valued at twenty shillings and fourpence. The value of the land is ultimately dependent on the people who live there and there were large areas completely uninhabited. In the Preston area of Lancashire sixty two villages are named but only sixteen of them were inhabited by "a few people". The rest were waste. Similar conditions existed over large areas.

These examples indicate the thoroughness and efficiency with which William accomplished his policy of killing everyone and destroying everything over a wide area of hundreds of square miles. It certainly ensured that there was no further rebellion, but the cruelty, barbarity and ruthless wickedness of it and its planned and deliberate character have made it outstanding amongst all the sufferings which for hundreds of years afflicted the North. It was not one of the great killings of history but it was probably the worst to ever have occurred in this country. Within a generation, William's men, who were deeply religious, began to build Durham Cathedral. It is also said that the Conqueror on his death-bed was haunted by the memory of his savagery:

Norman soldiers"I caused the death of thousands by starvation and war, especially in Yorkshire. In a mad fury I descended on the English of the North like a raging lion, and ordered that their homes and crops and all their equipment and furnishings should be burnt at once and their great flocks and herds of sheep and cattle slaughtered everywhere. So I chastised a great multitude of men and women with the lash of starvation and, alas! was the cruel murderer of many thousands, both young and old."

So, what happened to Ossett? The answer is that there is no direct evidence of any kind other than Domesday, but the course of events is all too clear. Ossett was on the edge of an area that was being systematically devastated and whether or not its buildings were burned, all its inhabitants who could do so would seek refuge in the woods and whatever inaccessible places they could find. Those who were seen by William's horsemen would die at once and those who got away would be homeless, short of food, exposed to the cold winter weather and continuously in fear. Only a small number would escape William's murdering soldiers and a much smaller number would survive the hardships of winter in the forest. Eventually, and fearfully, some of them would dare return to what was left of their homes. For a very long time, the approach of any horseman would bring fear into their hearts and cause a frantic flight into the woods. In time, they would become more settled and their presence would become known. Even so, their existence would be very troubled. They would often be hungry, cold and frightened. They would never know any comfort and further, they would all be young. In those days, only the rich had much chance of living beyond the age of thirty.

Then, seventeen years after the departure of William's soldiers, the Domesday survey was made. It gave William information he needed for taxation and other purposes. To us, it supplies information of many kinds, but among other things, it tells of the degree of recovery of various areas from the terrible events of 1069 A.D. It records that in the whole of the area of the towns or villages of Ossett, Stanley, Horbury, Crigglestone, West Bretton, Shitlington, Emley, Cartworth, Kirkburton, Shepley, Shelley, Upper Cumberworth, North Crosland and Earlsheaton, in the whole of this area there were fifteen men in all, of whom seven lived in Ossett and the remaining eight in Horbury and Crigglestone. In the other villages there would only be the charred remains of the former dwellings. For example the townships of Almondbury, Bradford, Bramley, Elland, Flockton, Huddersfield, Kirkheaton, Morley, Pudsey, Tong, Shipley and Southowram are all described as 'waste'.

Ossett, Horbury and Crigglestone were thus places where resettlement was being attempted; places where a small group of men were trying to bring back into cultivation land that had been derelict for years. And then, sometime about the time of Domesday, a fresh, stern discipline would enter their lives. This was the establishment of the Norman power based on Sandal and the ongoing enforcement of Norman ideals.

There is no direct record of the impact of these changes on Ossett, but indirectly much is known about them. It might be helpful to look at the earlier development of the area.

Rule by Sandal Castle and the de Warrens

Sandal CastleThe manor of Wakefield, which included Ossett, was given to William de Warren II by King Henry 1st , the fourth son of William the Conqueror in 1107. William de Warrene, 2nd Earl of Warren and Surrey, the putative grandson of the Conqueror, was the son and heir of William de Warren I who had fought at the Battle of Hastings and had been given the title of Earl of Surrey in 1088 by King William (Rufus) II.

Whether William de Warren ever spent time in the manor of Wakefield is not known. However, in order to maintain his inherited lands, it was necessary to fortify the area.

Between 1110 and 1138, a motte-and-bailey timber castle and earthworks were constructed at Sandal by the de Warren family. Between 1180 and 1280, Sandal Castle was rebuilt in stone and the descendants of William de Warren II ultimately made Sandal Castle into a large military fortress covering six acres and with walls six to ten feet thick. The circular Keep had walls fourteen feet thick. From the castle the de Warrens controlled the area around Wakefield for three hundred years, but then the dynasty finally came to end for the lack of an heir. The manor of Wakefield reverted to the crown in 1348 when John de Warrene died without legitimate issue although he did have two illegitimate sons who pre-deceased him!

In 1361, the manor was given by Edward III to his six-year old son Edmund Langley, Duke of York,and thus to the Yorkist house. At the same time Edmund also received Conisbrough Castle near Doncaster, which was where Richard of York’s father was born. Sandal Castle was Richard of York’s main base in Yorkshire, and later when Richard III came to the throne, he used Sandal for his Council of the North. When Elizabeth of York married Henry Tudor, Sandal was annexed to the Crown and gradually fell into decay. Surveys during the sixteenth century indicate that some floors and roofs were already missing, and the evidence shows that the only parts of the castle which were occupied were the buildings by the main drawbridge.

The Manor of Wakefield was more than thirty miles in length and in Domesday times, contained 118 towns, villages and hamlets, yet it formed only a small portion of the vast estates owned by William de Warrene. Ossett's fortunes were linked with what occurred at Wakefield and Sandal. The aim here is to try and give some indication of what life was like in Ossett and district under the rule of the Norman feudal system. Recovery from the harrying of the North probably took about 100 years and during this time, the De Warrens built Sandal Castle and organised control of their estates.

SefThe Norman feudal system had many features that were common to virtually all areas. The serf or villein was tied to the land. He could not allow his daughter to marry without the Lord's consent and the payment of a heavy fee. When he died, his best beast, however few he had, was seized by the Lord as heriot, an early form of death duty. He could not migrate nor strike, but must work for the Lord for a certain number of days in the year, bringing his own team of oxen. He had his share of the village meadow or pasture; the village woodland or waste, where pigs and geese were turned loose. He could also be called upon to bear arms and fight at the command of his Lord. All these requirements and many more were usual but there was no general law. In 1215, King John signed the Magna Carta, which limited the power of the King, but each Lord continued to be ruler of his own estates with power of life and death over virtually everyone except priests. The Common Law was slow to come into existence, and the ordinary man had many responsibilities, few rights and no defence against an unjust Lord.

The privilege of Infangthief  was exercised by the Earls Warrene in Wakefield. This was the right to execute in a summary manner all thieves who were taken with the stolen goods in their hands. Starting in the Anglo-Saxon times this was retained in Wakefield until the 1650’s and was the decision of a jury of 12 tenants of the manor. and the death sentence depended upon the coroner being present. In 1275 Jack of Ireland was prosecuted for stealing a robe of burrell ( a coarse woollen cloth of a reddish hue). The verdict of the jury was that he should hang.

In 1314 John de Blackhowmore was brought up for breaking into the house of Roger Walgar and stealing goods valued at 10 shillings and he was executed.

In 1332 Richard de Rode was prosecuted for breaking into the house of Johanna de Tothill’s father and stealing her  clasps and jewellery to the value of 20 shillings. He was hanged.

Also in 1332 John Race was beheaded for robbery and his house and lands of 25 acres were confiscated.

All women were "spinsters" and cloth was made locally, but it was poor and coarse and roughly prepared animal skins were often used for clothing. No woman was safe in her husband's absence. Murder, torture, robbery and cruelty of every kind were ordinary features of life, but there was some commerce. Before his death in 1135, King Henry I had given the Nostell Priory a Royal Charter for fairs at Woodkirk, though some may have been held earlier in about 1110.

The building of York MInster was begun and we are told that eleven great oakes were taken from the Wakefield area for use in the roof. But in 1227 AD money was short and the Archbishop, Walter de Gray, wanting to complete the south part of the cross aisle, offered 40 days of "relaxation" to those that would subscribe liberally to the work. The sale of "indulgencies" had diminished, but this dreadful slackening of the rules by the Church in exchange for money was slow to cease.

The first written records concerning folk in Ossett are transcripts of the records of the court of Wakefield manor, which start in October 1274. From these transcripts, it is possible to get an idea about the lives of ordinary men in and around Ossett.

At Ossete (note the spelling!), Nelle at Wood had to pay 6d for the escape of four beasts and there were ten cases of men having to pay 6d because they had each taken a load of brushwood. Another man had to pay 12d for concealing pigs in the Earl's woodland and Richard Modisaule complains of William the Clerk of Dewesbiry, for "drawing blood".

At Ossete, Thomas de Bouderode gives 4s for license to take 9 acres of land in Dewysbiry from Margery de Dewysbiry, for ever, doing service etc. and Hanne de Goukethorp (Gawthorpe) gives 2s for license to take a bovate of land in Sothyll from the Earl, which belonged to Henry de Chydeshyll (Chidswell).

Also, Richard del Rodes is a clerk, and the Earls villein, inasmuch as his father, Serlo de Ossete by name was the Earl's native yet he holds himself for a free man because he took free land with his wife in marriage and with a part of that land he has now endowed his daughter. He has a day at the next Court to answer this or to make fine.

At Ossete, Adam son of Richard arrested on suspicion of a trespass in the forest gives 2s to be under the surety of Adam de Heton, John son of Henry de Heton and Gerbot until the next Court that he will put himself on an inquisition whether he be good or not.

Ossete - They say also that Adam Mal servant of the late Parson of Dewy[s]byry stole 3 bushels of oats in a sack from the barn of the said Parson in the winter and Waiter Garaches servant of the said parson perceiving this came and found him with the stolen goods upon him and struck him and beat him and Adam fearing to receive further punishment for the same afterwards took his clothes and fled the country Therefore nothing is done.

Elias le Chaumpion of Ossete, is in mercy for chattering in open Court. Fine, 12d.

Ossete - Henry son of Matthew the Grave of Sothill (Soothill) attached on suspicion and report of a trespass in the forest still remains under same surety as before until the next Court that he will put on an inquisition in the matter and he finds these pledges de Heley John son of William Sping and Matthew his father.

The following two court entries demonstrate that some brave souls from Ossett have attempted to break free from their serfdom by moving away from their homes. It appears that the Earl de Warrene took a dim view of this and the instruction is for them to be arrested and no doubt returned to a life of semi-slavery.

Ossete - They say that Jordan son of Robert de Goukethorpe (Gawthorpe) and Robert his brother are the Earl's natives and that they live in Roudeclif and Snayth Therefore let them be arrested if found. Also that Henry de Ossete and Eugina and Juliana his sisters are the Earl natives and live at Pontefract. Let them be arrested.

In November 1274, the forester, the man whose duty it was to ensure that nobody took a stag (hart) was found dead. Of course, stags were often taken and the offenders were brought up in court, but now the forester had been found dead and there had to be an inquiry. The Earl should have received a share of the dead forester's goods and none had been received! The question wasn't who had killed the man; what mattered was - where had his goods gone? And so, twenty four men were questioned, including Alcock the carpenter, John Pollard and Henry son of Robert. "They all say upon oath that they know nothing of the goods and chattels of John the Forester of Soureby who was killed, and they do not know who has them, nor what has been done with them, therefore nothing is done in the matter." But then the twenty four men replied and they say themselves "were good and true" but that the forester was guilty of "allowing wood to be taken, pigs to be grazed, hunting to be done, all for money, which the Earl gets no part. But what and how much the moneys were, they know not, by their oath."

Easier to sort out was the case of John de Miggeley who had complained earlier about being called a usurer. he was charged with taking four cart loads of boards from the Earl's wood without buying it or having a licence for it. He was equal to the charge and managed to get away with it by claiming that the tree was dead and was blown down by the wind and in any case it had been given to him!

Elias de Skircote was less skilful in making excuses for having assaulted Adam Slaybrand, who was a fisherman for the Earl de Warren. We are accustomed to the pollution in our rivers so it is surprising to hear that this was a time when there were full-time fishermen in the Calder.

There was more trouble at Soureby about the use of a horse to fetch salt from Manchester. We can forget the quarrel, but the fact that Manchester and presumably Nantwich was supplying salt to the Calder valley seven hundred years ago is of real interest. Think of a journey over the Pennines when there were no roads! Yet salt has always been vital.

The Court of the Manor of Wakefield sometimes had more serious business and there was a campaign against Scotland between 1295-97 led by John de Warren, the 7th Earl of Surrey. On August 22, 1296 the King appointed de Warren "warden of the kingdom and land of Scotland". However, he returned to England a few months later claiming that the Scottish climate was "bad for his health". The following spring saw the rebellion of William Wallace and after much delay, de Warren led an army northward. This culminated in the disastrous defeat of the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in September 1897. Three of de Warren's men - Richard de Bothe of Stanley, Thomas de Holgate and John, his brother, both of Sandal came back without permission. They were arrested and heavily fines so conscript service in the Army is not a modern idea.

From 1311, the Northern counties were greatly harassed by Scottish incursions, wars, and plagues. All the immediate neighbourhood from Skipton to Bradford was ransacked in 1316 by bands of red-shanked robbers from Scotland, who not content with robbing and murdering the inhabitants, maliciously burnt what they could not carry away. In 1316, a soldier had to be provided by each township or village to join the army against Scotland and this must have included Ossett. The failure of the English forces at Bannockburn was only the beginning of further distress. Repeated depredations were followed by a great famine, when children were kidnapped and eaten.

Sandal Magna castle was rebuilt, probably by the earl of Lancaster in about 1320 to secure the district. In 1332 one of the most disastrous Scottish incursions to this district took place, and the shortage of labourers added to the scarcity of money, led to a general depreciation in land. Labourers were not available, so wages became higher; and not surprisingly, serfs absconded to become free men.

In February 1275, Jack de Ireland confessed at a court held by John de Horbury that during the night he had stolen a robe of burrell trimmed with black lambskin. The decision was brief ".... therefore let him be hanged".

Another familiar offence was by William Scutard who, while he was the keeper of a windmill, dealt falsely with the grinding stones in order to steal the flour of the customary tenants "But he lives out of the fee so nothing is done."

Very many people were in trouble at different times for brewing without a licence. It is impressive to find that the area was so well organised and supervised that brewing had been brought under control. There were ale tasters to judge the quality and the brewing of bad ale led to fines. In 1316, sixteen ale tasters were sworn in. The Ossett man was named Swayn; the Horbury taster was Richard, son of the Grave, but in Normanton they had two - Ralph Shepherd and Thomas the Leper. Leprosy was never the scourge of the country that it had been in the East, but it did occur occasionally a few centuries ago. In 1297, there was a leper in Alverthorpe named William who was charged with assaulting a man and his sister. Evidently, his leprosy did not greatly incapacitate him or he could not have fought a man and woman at the same time.

Medieval miningOne item in 1274 A.D. which is of special interest is the application to the court by Richard de Neyler for permission to dig "sea coal" for use in his smithy. It was granted on payment of 6d. Coal had been in use for a long time before that, but this was the first we know of it being used in the Ossett area. In later years, there were cases of other men being fined for getting coal without permission and in 1366 A.D. there was an accident at Gawthorpe when Adam Adamson fell down a mine and broke his neck. Evidence exists of bell pits (primitive shallow mines) at Roundwood and near the top of Queen Street in Ossett. It is well known that coal was carried in panniers on pack animals to Low Moor. It was then used in working iron ore obtained from the Middlestown and Netherton area.

It appears that coal was mined continuously in Ossett from these early days until the closure of the Old Roundwood Colliery in 1966, a total period of about seven hundred years.

One activity which has usually been both necessary and pleasurable has been the need to go to market and during this early period in the development of the area, there was a flourishing market in Wakefield. But even in those hard days, men found ways of mixing some pleasure with business and in June 1275 at Wakefield Market "many were playing at throwing the stone". Unfortunately, a quarrel arose among them and a knife was drawn culminating in someone being stabbed in the head. The affair cost 13s 4d in fines, which was more than the cost of three cows!

The impressions made by a study of the business coming before the court is of a farming community actively engaged in all types of work needed to make it self sufficient. They had water wheels and windmills, made cloth, ground corn, tanned hides, dug coal, worked metals, reared sheep, pigs, cattle and horse. To see to their needs were William the mason, Thomas the carpenter, John the cobbler, Alan the smith, Philip the tailor and a variety of others. Just how Robert the Goldsmith fitted into the pattern of local life is not clear, but there he was apparently living in Wakefield. There is mention also of Robert the Cokewald, an obscure description, which may have meant that he was a charcoal burner. And there was henry the Pynder who lived at Hipperholme. The existence of a pinder, a man whose duty was to round up animals, is evidence of a very well organised community. It may have had little democracy about it, although the twelve-man jury system was in use, but it appears to have worked.

William de Ossete
Occasionally, the court had other business. Men would ask for permission for daughters to marry and in 1297, William de Ossete applied for a licence to marry Ibbota de Overhalle of Sandal at a cost of 12d. This is the earliest record I have found of anyone called William in the town of Ossett - not of interest to most folks, but of great interest to me. I have been able to trace my Wilson roots in Ossett back to about 1620 and it is entirely possible that the surname "Wilson", as far as my Ossett family is concerned, originates from this same William de Ossete.

In 1275, a John Pollard died and in obedience to the stern demands of an exacting Church, his body would have to be buried in consecrated ground. Failure to do so would have meant his descent into a fiery hell with the Devil and a multitude of demons and evil spirits to ensure his everlasting torment. But, burial in consecrated ground was not by itself sufficient. However good a man had been, said the Church, he might at some time have forgotten, or omitted, to pay the tithe and if a payment was not made to cover this possibility, then everlasting torment definitely awaited him. This led to the custom, dating back to Saxon times, of the "Mortuary".

The Mortuary was a gift left by a man at his death by way of a recompense for any failures in the payment of tithes and oblations. It was called a "corpse present" because it was offered on behalf of the corpse or person deceased, and the manner of paying was to lead, drive, or carry the best horse, cow, lamb or other creature before the corpse of the deceased at his funeral for handing over to the priest!

At a funeral, then, it was customary for the Mortuary animal to lead the procession and to be followed by the coffin, which had to be carried by hand to the consecrated ground, however many miles away that might be. At the church, the grave had to be paid for and the Mortuary animal had to be given to the priest. After the Norman Conquest, the Lord of the Manor claimed the best beast as heriot, a sort of medieval death duty, and the priest got the second best animal. No wonder people were poor.

A few weeks after the funeral of John Pollard, which would be carried out in the way described above, his son, also John Pollard, appeared in court and was granted possession of his father's lands on payment of another fee, this time2 shillings. This was about half the value of a cow, so the young man would be feeling rather poor. But more was to come. Ossett was in the parish of Dewsbury and the adjoining parish was that of Halifax. Anything occurring in one parish would affect the other. In those days, few people could count and only priest could read. The Vicar of Halifax appears to have been an astute man. For long it had been his custom to take as tithe, one calf in seven and he now changed it to one in six. Similarly with lambs. No doubt, John Pollard and every other man in the district had strong feelings, and they approached the Earl's bailiffs saying they could get no remedy. No help for them was reported.

The Harrying of the North: Orderic Vitalis, a contemporary chronicler, wrote of the year 1069:

"Nowhere else had William shown so much cruelty. Shamefully he succumbed to this vice, for he made no effort to restrain his fury and punished the innocent with the guilty. In his anger he commanded that all crops and herds, chattels and food of every kind should be brought together and burned to ashes with consuming fire, so that the whole region north of the Humber might be stripped of all means of sustenance. In consequence so serious a scarcity was felt in England, and so terrible a famine fell upon the humble and defenceless populace, that more than 100,000 Christian folk of both sexes, young and old alike, perished of hunger."

Another contemporary chronicler, Symeon of Durham, paints a picture as bleak as any modern day Cambodia or Yugoslavia:

"Throughout the winter they slaughtered the people - it was horrible to observe in houses, streets and roads human corpses rotting, for no one survived to cover them with earth, all having perished by the sword and starvation, or left the land of their fathers because of hunger. Between York and Durham no village was inhabited."

Penance: After the Battle of Hastings, each Norman soldier was told to do 120 days penance for every man he had killed. William the Conqueror, with overall responsibility for 10,000 deaths, needed about 1100 years of serious religious effort by way of penance. However, he would not have finished until they year 2162. But of course, the Church was ever willing to subcontract the work - at a price! If William's penance was split between a couple of hundred monks, his soul could be cleansed in less than six years. With this in mind, he founded an abbey at the site of the battle. He founded another in Barking in Essex; and another one at Selby in Yorkshire (he had to kill a lot of people in Yorkshire). And, he and his wife, perhaps feeling insecure, gave a great deal more money and land to many other churches and abbeys. In fact, by the time William the Conqueror died, 26 per cent of all the land in England belonged to the Church.

Carucate: The word derives from caruca, Latin for a plough. In the Domesday Book the carucate was a nominal 120 acres (490,000 m²), based on the area a plough team could till in a year.

Bovate was a measure of land which could be ploughed in one year by one eighth of a plough team with eight oxen, or in other words the measure of land representing one eighth of a carucate. The word is derived from the Latin word bos, meaning ox.

Villein: At the time of the Domesday Book, the villeins were the most numerous element in the English population, providing the labour force for the manors. Villeins or villagers formed the largest group among the peasantry, over 40% of the recorded population. In economic terms, the villagers were distinguishable from Freemen or freemen. They were the most substantial group among the unfree peasantry, possessing on average 30 acres of land and two plough oxen.

Bordar: Smallholders formed the second largest group among the peasantry and on average they had a holding of just enough land to feed a family (about 5 acres) and were required to provide labour on the demesne on specified days of the week. In some cases they might have a share in the villagers' plough teams, though often their holdings could be more meagre. In some counties, they are difficult to distinguish from Cottagers or cottars, who normally possessed no more than a garden.

Sokemen belonged to a class of tenants, found chiefly in the eastern counties, occupying an intermediate position between the free tenants and the bond tenants or villeins. As a general rule they had personal freedom, but performed many of the agricultural services of the villeins. Historians generally suppose they bore the rank of "sokemen" because they belonged within a lord's soke or jurisdiction. Ballard, however, held that a sokeman was merely a man who rendered services, and that a sokeland was land from which services were rendered, and was not necessarily under the jurisdiction of a manor.

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After the Norman invasion, the local inhabitants found that in addition to the relatively easy-going Saxon customs observed on them there were now added the strict obligations of the Norman system.

The changes were varied and very far reaching, with many new duties and many new restrictions. For example, any man who killed a deer was liable to have his hand cut off, and hares were protected too.

Priests, hitherto living, sheltered, comfortable lives with wives and children without interference by Rome, were suddenly ordered to become celibate and the order came from the Conqueror. Life became much more difficult for all ordinary men.

William de Warren II (1075-1138), who had also inherited nearby Conisborough Castle, held Sandal Castle until his death in 1138. On his death his son:

William de Warren III (1110-1148), inherited the castle. In 1146 he suffered disgrace by fleeing from the Battle of Lincoln during the chaos of the Civil War between King Stephen and Empress Matilda when Stephen was captured.

William left England to join the Second Crusade to the Holy Land and never returned, dying in 1148.

Isabel de Warren (1137-1199) His estates were inherited by his daughter Isabel, who in 1149 was married to the son of King Stephen, Prince William de Blois, Count of Mortain and Boulogne, Earl of Surrey. At the time of his marriage to Isabel, William was only nine years old, and was nineteen on his death in 1159, when he died without heir.

On the death of William de Blois, both his estates in Normandy and the estates belonging to the Earls of Sussex were now the possessions of Isabel. As these estates were quite extensive, Isabel became a ward of King Henry II, son of Empress Matilda. As Isabel's lands were very extensive and not wishing to enhance the power of any of England's powerful families, Henry married Isabel to his half-brother Hamelin Plantagenet, a bastard son of Geoffrey Plantagenet, in 1165.

Hameline adopted Isabel's coat of arms and it is believed that he was responsible for beginning the construction of the stone castle at Sandal. Hameline outlived his brother Henry II and was present at Richard The Lionheart's coronation. He also contributed generously to the fund for his ransom. Hameline died in 1201.

de Warren coat of arms

de Warren Coat of Arms

William de Warren (1166-1240) In 1201 Hameline's son, William de Warenne, inherited the castle and it is believed that he was responsible for the construction of the curtain walls.

William died in 1240 and his son, John de Warren - 7th Earl of Surrey (1231-1305), inherited the castle at the age of five. The castle was lived in and looked after by his mother, Maud. When he was 12 he married Alice de Lusignan, Henry III's half-sister. He fought at the Battle of Lewes in May 1264 where Henry was captured by Simon de Montfort.

John fled to France after the defeat, but returned to fight in the Battle of Evesham, after which his estates were restored. In 1296 John  joined Edward I's invasion of Scotland where he took Dunbar Castle in April 1296. From 1296-7 he was Warden for Scotland but lost disastrously at the Battle of Stirling Bridge to William Wallace in 1297.

John's son died before him, dying in a tournament in Croydon, and on John's death in 1305 the castle was inherited by his grandson, John.

Battle of Stirling Bridge

Battle of Stirling Bridge - The Aftermath:

The Battle of Stirling Bridge was a shattering defeat for the English: it showed that under certain circumstances, where the conditions were right, infantry could be superior to cavalry. It was to be some time, though, before this lesson was fully absorbed.

Scots casualties in the battle appear to have been light but Andrew de Moray was severely wounded. He continued to exercise joint leadership with Wallace for a number of weeks after the battle, though perhaps in name only, finally dying some time in November. Wallace went on to lead a destructive raid into northern England, which did little to advance the Scots war, whatever effect it had on the morale in his army. By March 1298 he had emerged as Guardian of Scotland. His glory was brief: for Edward, the old lion, was coming north from Flanders. The two men finally met up on the field of Falkirk in the summer of 1298, where Wallace was defeated.

John de Warren (1286-1347) John de Warenne was a warlike man who had fought well in Scotland. However, his arranged marriage to Joan of Bar, the ten-year-old granddaughter to the King, was not a success and his attempts at a divorce were thwarted by Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. In 1317 one of his squires abducted Alice de Lacy, the wife of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster from Canford Manor in 1317 and fled with her to Reigate Castle in Surrey. Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, was one of the most powerful men in the country and was grandson of Henry III and King Edward II's cousin.

Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, in revenge divorced Alice and then besieged John's castles at Sandal and Conisborough. Although Edward II ordered Thomas to end this private war he captured and retained Conisborough and Sandal Castle until his death in 1322. Sandal Castle was damaged during the siege. In 1326 John de Warrene regained his castles at Conisbrough and Sandal. Although John had two illegitimate sons, on his death in June 1347 the castle became a royal possession once more.